A sombre mood before Joy of Jazz

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The Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, started on a sombre note last week. On Thursday August, 22, Abdullah Ibrahim and his back-up band, Ekaya Ensemble, all wearing black, quietly walked to Dinaledi Stage, 45 minutes late. Ibrahim, having had to bury his wife and jazz singer, Sathima Bea Benjamin on Tuesday, still made it to the festival.

But the joy came when the legendary composer and pianist sat down and started 'tickling the ivories' marking the opening of the 15th Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Newtown, Johannesburg.  Ibrahim sat silently during most part of the act, watching his six-member band with haunting concentration.It certainly takes a strong heart for an artist to entertain people two days after losing a wife but Ibrahim seemed to have surrendered his sorrows to the music.  An hour later, after some heartfelt performance his group bowed to the crowd and left quietly without any word from the Cape Town pianist, formerly known as the Dollar Brand.

Another pianist, Amina Figurova who was standing in for yet another legendary pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal was next on stage. The 83-year-old Jamal could not make the trip from USA to Johannesburg for unexplained reasons.On Tuesday last week, the festival orgnisers had announced on Twitter saying, "Due to unforeseen circumstances Ahmad Jamal will not be joining us at #JoyofJazz but he will be replaced by Pianist Amina Figarova".  Even though Figurova could not fill the great legend's boots, the show went on.  American trumpeter, Terence Blanchard together with his five-piece band closed the festival's opening night with some great sounds.The highlight of the second night was South Africa's singing sensation, Zonke who has created waves with her latest album, Ina Ethe.  Clad in sensual flowing white blouse and black and white leggings, the crowd loved her and sang along to her crossover sweet melodies like Feelings and Ngomso.  When she got off the Mbira Stage, The Temptations took over. The crowd was taken down memory lane to the golden harmonies of yesteryears.

Editor's Comment
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