WBGO Blog
  • Women in Jazz (and Beyond) at Cape Town Jazz Fest

    April 3, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    A close associate to this year's Cape Town International Jazz Festival says this year's concert programming had a strong focus on women in music.

    Abigail Kubeka and Dorothy Masuka
    Abigail Kubeka and Dorothy Masuka

    No one would argue that the two most "Legendary Ladies In Song" at this year's festival (as they are also co-billed), are Dorothy Masuka and Abigail Kubeka.

    Dorothy Masuka
    Dorothy Masuka

    Like South African jazz mega-stars Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim these two singers should also be commonly known among jazz appreciators in America. But that never happened. One theory, I suppose, is that neither left Africa in exile during apartheid. Thus, their artistry was never recognized internationally like their male counterparts. Nevertheless, their mark on South African music history should be noted. Masuka penned “Pata-Pata” – yes, that “Pata-Pata,” made famous by Miriam Makeba, whom she was close with.

    Abigail Kubeka
    Abigail Kubeka

    Abigail Kubeka played in some of her country’s most historic jazz ensembles – the Malombo Jazz Makers, the Elite Swingers, and the Jazz Dazzlers. Kubeka even shared the stage with Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) and Kippie Moeketsi, known as the “Charlie Parker” of South Africa. Stay tuned for our upcoming feature with both “legendary ladies” on WBGO’s The Checkout.

    Nhlanhla Nciza
    Nhlanhla Nciza

    Many of today’s South African women in music are less informed by jazz but embrace a more pro-Africa sound like Nhlanhla Nciza, the other half of Zulu-influenced pop duo Mafikizolo. Her music fits her like a glove, or, perhaps more accurately, her own clothing line: sleek, modern, and as vibrant as her rainbow nation.

    Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni
    Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni

    Singer/songwriter/songbird Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni, born near Kruger National Park, is new voice in South Africa’s soundscape. Don’t let her tiny body fool you. Her booming voice advocates for the preservation of Africa’s endangered environment. And, bird-watching is one of her hobbies.

    Lizz Wright
    Lizz Wright

    And then there were the many American female vocalists who appeared this year –- Cassandra Wilson, Angie Stone, Sheila E., and SWV. Look out for The Checkout’s ongoing coverage of this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival with our exclusive interviews with Lizz Wright, and the brilliant Meshell N’dgeocello.

    Meshell N’dgeocello
    Meshell N’dgeocello
  • A "Born-Free" Jazz Singer: Vuyo Sotashe

    April 2, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Vuyo Sotashe
    Vuyo Sotashe

    The South African born, Manhattan-based Vuyo Sotashe placed second place in last year's Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. For our continued coverage of the 17th Cape Town International Jazz Festival this week, we speak to the jazz singer/songwriter from the Cape Flats about the complexities of being a "Born-Free," part of the generation born in South Africa after the era of apartheid. He also shares an original song written in his native Xhosa language dedicated to his mother.

  • WBGO JAM 2016: Rutgers Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble Performs Live

    April 1, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Rutgers Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble kicks off WBGO's Jazz Appreciation Month celebration. Hear their live in-studio performance and interview with Nicole Sweeney and tune in to 88.3 FM to hear them and other student ensembles featured throughout April.

    Keep watching our blog all month long for more complete JAM sessions showcasing the next generation of jazz stars.

    RU JAM2016

    Rutgers Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble, directed by Bill O’Connell

    1) Hot Jambalaya (composed by Bill O'Connell)
    2) Picadillo (composed by Tito Puente, arranged by Bill O'Connell)

    Yunior Terry Cabrera, Bass
    James Nascimento, Bass
    Dom Palombi, Drums/Percussion
    Benjamin Cureton, Drums/Percussion
    Greg Riss, Percussion
    Michael Berry, Piano
    John Donathan,Tenor Sax
    Mike Benson, Tenor Sax
    Stephen Justice, Trombone
    Anthony Fazio, Trumpet

  • Setting The Stage: The Cape Town International Jazz Festival

    April 1, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Welcome to the 17th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa.

    Table Mountain
    Table Mountain

    From all the places that WBGO and The Checkout takes you, there isn’t a destination more scenic -- and perhaps as breathtaking -- than Cape Town, one of Africa’s oldest port cities. It exists with the backdrop of Table Mountain, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. These towering rocks rise from beautiful white sand beaches next to the Atlantic Ocean.

    Lion Head
    Lion Head

    The sense of excitement among festival ticket holders is palpable. Event though the festival is only a two-night engagement, they call it “Africa’s Grandest Gathering” for a reason. Every year it sells out many months in advance. Those that aren’t fortunate to lock down a ticket can at least enjoy its annual free concert at Greenmarket Square. Laëtitia Dana from France kicked off the festivities this year.

    Dr. Victor & The Rasta Rebels
    Dr. Victor & The Rasta Rebels
    Laëtitia Dana
    Laëtitia Dana

    Dr. Victor & The Rasta Rebels are a favorite band among the locals. They mostly sing Bob Marley covers. The 90’s soul band SWV also performed Wednesday night with hundreds of South Africans singing along.

    Derek Gripper
    Derek Gripper

    One local artist who I’m especially enthusiastic about seeing is the classically-trained guitarist who's gone griot: Derek Gripper. He specializes in adapting ancient music from Mali in his latest recording Libraries on Fire, where he takes on tunes composed by his hero: the legendary kora master Toumani Diabaté. Stay tuned for my exclusive interview with Gripper on The Checkout plus his upcoming concert at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall in New York this November.

    Bokani Dyer
    Bokani Dyer with Simon Rentner

    And another rising star (and future guest on The Checkout) is pianist and producer Bokani Dyer, who's studied in New York City with pianist Jason Moran. The Botswana-born musician was raised by his South African parents in exile during the era of apartheid. He now resides in the country’s cultural capital of Johannesburg.

    Camps Bay

    Return to this blog for my daily updates from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Soon there will be an interview with the extremely talented vocalist and songwriter from the Cape Flats Vuyo Sotashe. He finished second in this year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. See the full festival lineup here.

  • Ibrahim Maalouf Plays Umm Kulthum

    March 31, 2016

    The trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf was born in Lebanon and grew up in France; like his father, he studied Western classical music, but also microtonal Arabic music using a custom-built instrument. His latest project in a career full of cross-pollinating ventures was inspired by the late Umm Kulthum, the Arab world's greatest vocalist. With the arranging help of pianist Frank Woeste and some major American talent, he constructed a jazz take on one of her greatest suites, "Alf Leila Wa Leila" ("1001 Nights") and recorded it on an album called Kalthoum.

    On the radio, Jazz Night In America features a performance of this music from Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola inside Jazz at Lincoln Center, and takes a closer look into the intersecting worlds of Kulthum and Maalouf. This video short explores just how he was able to do all of this on a trumpet.

    Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.