I really enjoy making my living as a jazz musician in Cape Town. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Cape Town is a small city, so if you have a car or a motorbike, getting around is very quick and easy. Sometimes musicians have between two to four gigs a day in the height of season. My personal record is seven gigs in a waking day, although not all of them were jazz gigs.
2. The market is not saturated with musicians, so I believe that finding or creating work is easier than in places like Europe, Australasia or North America. If you can play at a reasonably good level, are a pleasant enough person with whom to work and have your admin together, there is plenty of work available.
3. Several restaurants and venues seem to view live jazz as added value to the diner’s experience. There are many venues that host regular duo, trio and quartet gigs, largely free of charge to the public. These are great avenues to keep your chops up, learn new Standards and try out new compositions or original material. The food one gets to sample as a musician is normally top draw as well!
4. The Cape has it’s own unique style of jazz, called Cape-Jazz. Musicians such as Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Hotep Galeta and Robbie Jansen forged this style. Several of the leading components, such as Alvin and Errol Dyers, Darryl Andrews, Joe Scaffers and Mike Campbell (to name a few) can still be found performing regularly around Cape Town.
5. There is a very healthy jazz scene amongst younger musicians, aged between 17 – 30. This is largely due to the healthy high school programmes led by passionate teachers, many of them professional musicians themselves. The South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town (UCT) also churns out wonderfully talented musicians annually.
6. Musicians in Cape Town are open to collaborations and it’s relatively easy to get a band of great musicians to perform your original material, often with little or no financial gain – purely for art’s sake.
7. Although the corporate music scene is not what it once was in Cape Town pre-global credit crunch, there is a healthy wedding industry here. This is due to the good climate, the favourable exchange rate from Pound Sterling/US Dollar/Euro, etc. to the South African Rand, the great food, hospitality and friendliness of South Africans in general. The Cape Wineland region is only 30-45 mins from the city centre and this is a very popular area for destination weddings for people from all of the world.
8. Because South Africa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, many great musicians visit Cape Town. Over the years we have hosted some great players from Scandinavia, Europe, Australasia and North America. This breathes new life into the scene and builds international relationships and connections so vital for artists’ creativity and collaborations.
9. Although there could be more designated jazz clubs, Cape Town does have at least two permanent jazz venues which allow musicians to perform their original music and new projects.
10. There are a few annual jazz festivals in Cape Town, such as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the South African Jazz Educators Conference (S.A.J.E.). These festivals attract top quality artists from all over the world and create a platform for local musicians to collaborate with visiting musicians.
11. There is a high standard of musicianship amongst professional musicians. Many are versatile, have good reading skills, improvise well, compose and arrange interesting music and have a good understanding of harmony and time.
12. There are great musicians from our neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Congo, Angola and Namibia. These musicians bring different harmonies, rhythms, culture and humour into the Cape jazz scene.
by Dan Shout.