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About This Festival

Proud South Africa

Affectionately referred to as “Africa’s Grandest Gathering,” the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is one of the largest jazz-oriented events in the world and the single largest music event on the continent. It’s the flagship event for espAfrika, a global event company, and the celebrated, annual music festival appeals to devotees of jazz in a traditional sense and mainstream audiences alike. Crucially, for a proudly South African event, the festival highlights native South African artists and international marquee stars in equal measure.

A Cultural Emissary

In 2000, in conjunction with espAfrika, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival was launched, and from the beginning, a spirit of activism has colored the enterprise. One fixture of the annual event is a photojournalism workshop, which provides aspirant photographers with training in the tradition of artist portraiture and concert documentation. It is always preceded by a free event, intended as a gift to the local community of Cape Town and surrounding areas. Today, espAfrika and its Chief Operating Officer (and Festival Director) Billy Domingo continues to position Cape Town International Jazz Festival as a cultural emissary for South Africa, explicitly aiming to elevate native artists.

Free Fixture and A Colossal Main Event

The pre-festival Free Community Concert is a permanent feature, anticipating the main event every year since its inception. Hosted in Green Market Square — the undisputed heart of Cape Town — it draws thousands of attendees with a roster of world-class performers. And yet, the main event is bigger. Now hosted in Cape Town’s very largest venue, the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the festival attracts upwards of 37,000 attendees, essentially tripling in size since the beginning. Over forty performers — composed of a fifty-fifty split between South African and international artists—play on five different stages within the colossal events multiplex.

History and Past Lineups

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has swelled in size and reputation since the beginning. Originally, it was at the Good Hope Centre. That proved insufficient, necessitating a move to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, which accommodated an attendance spike from 14,000 attendees in 2000 to 34,000 concertgoers in 2013. Soon, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival looks to find an even bigger venue, in no small part due to the popular demand of its consistently excellent performers. Some lineup highlights include:

  • 2016: Sheila E, Afrika Mkhize, Eddie Parker, Amadou & Mariam, Angie Stone, BadBadNotGood, Benjamin Jephta Quintet, Jazz Attack, Peter White, Rick Braun, Euge Groove, Lizz Wright, Mafikizolo, Tsepo Tshola, Mark Turner, and Meshell Ndegeocello.
  • 2015: Al Jarreau, Andrea Motis & Joan Chamarro, Cannibal Ox, Dee Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Donald, Gavin Minter Septet, Hugh Masekela & Oliver Mtukudzi, Thundercat, and Pacific Express.
  • 2014: Jonas Gwangwa, The Soil, Jimmy Nevis, Shane Cooper Quintet, Carmen Lundy, Tasha’s World, Frank Paco Art Ensemble, Mathew Gold, Reason, Erykah Badu, The Blue Note Tribute Orkestra, The Shape of Strings to Come, Kenny Garrett Quintet, and Snarky Puppy.
  • 2013: Ravi Coltrane, Steve Turre, Mafikizolo, Robert Glasper, Matt Garrison, and Buena Vista Social Club
  • 2012: Lauryn Hill, Mike Stern, James Ingram, Zahara, Dave Koz, Jean Grae, GoodLuck, Lenny White, Donald Harrison, and Ron Carter
  • 2011: Al Di Meola, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Herbie Hancock, and Erykah Badu
  • 2010: BLK JKS, Rick Braun, Vusi Mahlasela, TKZee, Richard Elliot, and Rachelle Ferrell

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