At the launch of the Nelson Mandela Bay International Music Festival, the organisers of the event made three promises – to stage a world-class act with international headliners; to showcase the towns of Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Despatch, Colchester and surrounds as areas of immense musical talent and to present a show that reflects the city’s diverse musical tastes. Looking at the lineup, the organisers have kept their word. Not only have they secured guitarist/singer George Benson and trumpeter Hugh Masekela as the two headline acts, three out of eight additional bands that will perform on Saturday 14 May at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium come from areas that make up the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolis.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s Executive Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile said that he is satisfied with the progress made with the organization of the event and the fact that several local acts will get the opportunity to perform alongside big names on the international and national music scene.
“This event will go a long way towards bringing more people to our shores and is indicative of the municipality’s commitment to deliver on its promise to create more signature events that will ultimately benefit its residents,” Mayor Wayile added.
The programme is bound to appeal to people with diverse musical tastes as the 42 000-seat multi-purpose Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium which is the venue of the festival, reverberates to sounds of jazz, rock, R&B and pop. “Our aim is to give the festival a distinct feel; a feel that defies genres and artificial categorisation that we find in many concerts”, says festival and espAfrika CEO Rashid Lombard. “The Port Elizabeth area is known for its musical diversity. This is what we looked for when we contracted musicians for the event”.
No musicians other than Benson and Masekela are better qualified to give the festival “the genre- breaking feel” that organisers require. The two are known for their versatility. Comfortable with varied musical styles and with a vast reservoir of international hits, Benson and Masekela will surely make the Nelson Mandela Bay International Music Festival the most memorable musical event of the year. But a definite attraction for those with strong rock inclinations will be the South African band, Prime Circle. Formed in 2000, the five-piece group is one of the biggest selling rock acts in the country presently. The group’s July 2002 debut album ‘Hello Crazy World’ quickly reached platinum status while its second recording ‘Live this Life’ turned gold in a year. The release of the band’s third CD marked the group’s entry into rock’s international music scene with escapades to India.
Prime Circle comes to Port Elizabeth months after the release in September 2010 of the group’s fourth project, ‘Jekyll & Hyde’. The CD that turned gold when it sold 20 000 copies in two weeks after its launch, has garnered four nominations in this year’s South African Music Awards; Best Producer, Best English Rock album, Best Album Packaging and Duo/Group of the Year categories.
The first local band that will perform on the day is New Afro Teens. The Port Elizabeth-based jazz outfit will open the stage of what promises to be an afternoon and evening of exquisite sounds. Afro-pop group Fohloza will follow. From Uitenhage’s township of Kwa-Nobuhle, Fohloza is led by the vivacious Tobi sisters; saxophonist Wendy and Nondumiso. Introduced to the national music scene through an appearance in 2000 on a video by kwaito group Trompies, Fohloza are back in the Nelson Mandela Bay area after a stint in Johannesburg.
The third local group to take the stage will be the Nelson Mandela Bay Big Band. Made up of the city’s veteran jazz musicians as well as up-and-coming artists, the band features internationally acclaimed trumpeter Feya Faku. Although he now resides in Johannesburg, Faku learnt his trade in the city’s township of New Brighton. He is regarded as one of the Friendly City’s musical ambassadors.
As if this was not enough, the last two bands on the list feature musicians from Nelson Mandela Bay. Appearing as a special guest on Jamali’s performance at the festival is the metro’s multi- award winning son, Loyiso Bala. Bala, who originally hails from Uitenhage, will join Jamali on stage. The all-female group is known for belting out sensational ballads and uniquely South African rendition of international cover tunes. The group’s third album ‘3rd Base’ won the trio a 2009 South African Music Award (SAMA) in Best South African Pop category. Picking the group’s name by using first two letters of their first names – Jacqui Carpede, Mariechan Luiters and Liezl Penniken – the three vocalist burst onto the scene when they took part in the 2003/4 Popstar reality TV show. With their flawless choreography and harmonic vocals, the three will unquestionably bring down the house at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. They will perform songs from their previous recordings and their latest, Toxic Candy.
To complete the homecoming and close the show is the appearance by Freshlyground. The diminutive but dynamic Zolani Mahola who fronts Freshlyground and is the seven-piece band’s lead vocalist was born and grew up in Port Elizabeth before she moved to Cape Town. In the nine years that the band has been in existence, it has emerged as one of the country’s most successful crossover outfits. The group is also fast becoming an invaluable cultural export as it tours and performs across the globe. In 2009, Freshlyground did four sold-out tours in Europe.
They also toured for the first time in China, the United States (US) and Canada, making the band one of a handful of South African acts to have a successful and sustainable career both internationally and at home.
To keep things moving seamlessly during changeovers, festival-goers will hear live, the globe-trotting South African duo Goldfish whose platinum sales cement their status as one of SA’s biggest acts. Their single “This is how it goes” holds the title of most played song on national radio. Audiences will also enjoy the distinctive electro-swing of GoodLuck as they perform one of their 2010/2011 summer hits “Taking it Easy”. The two groups have mastered the skill to combine live instruments with samplers, synthesizers and other sound effects to produce infectious dance music. DJs and MCs from radio stations around Port Elizabeth will also entertain revelers between sets.
An array of workshops presented prior to the festival will offer something from everyone. School Music Workshops aims to stimulate creative and sustainable development to the youth and takes place from 9.30 to 13h00 on Thursday 12 May at the City Hall. MasterClasses, an interactive specialized workshop is aimed at established musicians’ takes place from 13h00 to 16h00 at the City Hall. A workshop aimed at musicians and representatives is the Music Business course and will be focusing on current and emerging trends in the music industry and takes place at Friday also at the City Hall.
As a build-up to the festival and as way of saying thank you to Nelson Mandela Bay residents, organisers of the event – Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and espAfrika – host a Free Community Concert on the eve of the main festival. The free concert which will feature Port Elizabeth based artists includes Down by Law, Mojazz, and Belinda Davids and ends the evening with South Africa’s own internationally acclaimed Goldfish and Hugh Masekela. This exciting free concert takes place at the Vuyisile Mini Square (Market Square) on Friday 13 May from 17h00. Tickets for the next day (Saturday 14 May) are available from Computicket and range from R50 to R400 for the limited platinum circle. The doors at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will open at 14h00.
For further information, visit www.nelsonmandelabayfest.com or call the hotline on +21 21 422 5653.