South Africa is a country that is known for its rich heritage in arts and culture with jazz being a huge part of that. There is always a belief that jazz is not given the recognition it truly deserves.  Such concerns may have led to the formation of Mzantsi Jazz Awards this year.  The official website of Mzantsi Jazz Awards reads as follows: “We love music and we love Mzantsi.  We recognize the role of Jazz music as a genre that deserves a special attention in the evolving South African Music Industry”.

Artists and albums nominated were based on the following five criteria. These are creativity, technical competence, contribution to the industry with something new, popularity within the segment/fan base, and longevity.  “In addition to that, the nominated albums must have been released between the 1st of April last year and March this year and classified as jazz”, Dr Mongezi Makhalima who took the initiative for the formation of the awards told Marabi Jazz Lounge.

Something Dr Makhalima is extremely proud of is that, “80% of the artists nominated for the inaugural Mzantsi Jazz Awards were under the age of 40”.  Artists had to get eight nominations and there we twenty nominations in total.  He did not divulge the names of the panel members for the awards as they have commitments with their full-time employers.  Them serving on the panel is purely on voluntary basis.

With the exception of Spar who sponsored the accommodation of artists and Africa Centre for Work Based Learning, Dr Makhalima paid everything from his own pocket.  Recipients of awards simply walked away with trophies which had no financial reward. Some of the other obstacles he encountered included reluctance from some artists to get involved because they thought the whole idea of Mantis Jazz Awards was a scam.

He praises individuals like the late Johnny Mekoa for getting young musicians to record jazz a music genre and other development programmes in the country as the reason jazz is growing bigger and better in South Africa. He adds that: “Winning awards does not translate into growth in sales”.  However, he is quick to single out Nduduzo Makhathini who walked away with Best Male Jazz Artist and Best Traditional Jazz Album awards as one jazz artist who excels in promoting and selling his music.  He strongly believes ‘there is competition among musicians’.

Dr Makhalima believes that the Department of Arts and Culture needs to support Mzantsi Jazz Awards in growing them bigger and better.  He believes that in years to come the awards will be more prominent compared to humble beginnings they were started.  Still on the selling of South African jazz, he believes some jazz musicians are their own worst enemies in terms of selling their music. He tells Marabi Jazz Lounge that Branford Marsalis once said “jazz musicians don’t know that their music is commercial and should sell”.

He concluded by saying that he strongly believes that ‘commercial radio stations want to play South African music but the artists are not playing their part’.  Besides his involvement is the Mzantsi Jazz Awards, Dr Makhalima spends a lot of time invoking excellent in other people.  He trains people through coaching which is something he believes make leaders become better.

Mzantsi Jazz Awards website is www.zajazzawards.co.za You can reach them on the following social media sites: South African Jazz Awards on Facebook and @ZaJazzAwards on Twitter