Jazzed UP Thursday: Hatfield comes alive to the sounds of jazz

Posted on August 04, 2019

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Jazz Ensemble and the DiTeboho Quartet blew some heat into the Hatfield Precinct at the first instalment of Jazzed UP Thursday evenings at News Café recently.

This is a partnership between the UP Department of Performing Arts, UP Special Projects and the Hatfield City Improvement District (CID) and News Café. The event was attended by Lucas Luckhoff, CEO of Hatfield CID; Professor Mageshen Naidoo of the Department of Performing Arts; Professor Susan Adendorff, UP Director of Facilities Management; Bernard Hanekom of the City Manager’s office; and Professor Denver Hendricks, UP’s Head of Government Relations and Special Projects; and Chairman of the Board of Hatfield CID, among others.

The DiTeboho Quartet

Prof Hendricks said: “Our interest lies in the revival of the Hatfield precinct. What we would like to see is for the Hatfield ‘soul’ to be revived.” Luckhoff said the event was “just the first step in bringing back some much-needed life into Hatfield”. UP and the Hatfield CID hope “to create a vibrant Hatfield that… helps to provide students with a holistic experience during this exciting phase of their lives, and also helps to make the University an attractive option for prospective students and staff”.

Having played the electric bass deftly and with gusto as part of the ensemble at the event, Prof Naidoo, Associate Professor and coordinator of Jazz Studies, expressed excitement about the project and the partnership with the Hatfield CID.

“We want Hatfield to be a ‘living laboratory’ for UP – a place where students can gain experience while they are preparing for their future careers as part of the University’s ‘Ready for Work’ initiative. For UP music students in the Jazz Studies Programme, this opportunity fills a void for places to perform in Pretoria; where students can ply their musical craft and develop their art. Jazz is known to thrive in urban spaces and public performance spaces are integral to how jazz music impacts the community,” he said.

He explained there “is a symbiotic relationship between jazz musicians and the audience. Jazz musicians feed off the energy that audiences reciprocate in order to reach greater levels of creativity. We see the opportunity for jazz students to perform in News Café Hatfield as a learning opportunity where the venue becomes a ‘lab’ for exploration of the art form.”

Singer Megan Marks, a third-year Bachelor of Music student majoring in Jazz Voice and Classical Piano, performed with the ensemble. “First and foremost, we are all musicians who love to work on our crafts. I think I speak for everybody in saying that we like to make music for everyone to enjoy.”

The evening and venue would certainly have been a learning experience for her and the rest of the ensemble. She said, “When we perform, we want to do it as best we can, which is sometimes difficult…taking into consideration the setting and circumstances of the performance.”

For new part-time saxophone lecturer Abraham Mennen, a Graduate of the Royal College of Music, London, who has been playing jazz live in New York for the last three years, “It’s good that there’s a thing happening in Hatfield that is live music, where people can come and play – because that’s what you need for a scene to flourish, an anchor. You need a home in a city – even in New York where there are 15 jazz clubs on one street, you need a ‘hang’ or home to keep it all going. It’s fostering a culture, a scene.”

Part-time saxophone lecturer, Abraham Mennen

Mennen said: “If you want to play music one day these small gigs are where you build your reputation, which is your currency. As for the venue, you want a crowd to be able to speak, and listen and be appreciative. And we need to play the jazz that will keep them here.”

The DiTeboho Quartet, led by music honours student Teboho Kobedi and which, in addition to being conduits of virtuosity on the evening by showcasing some of their own compositions, played contemporary classics from world-renowned artists such as Gregory Porter and interpretations of crowd favourites like Selaelo Selota’s “Thrrr…Phaaa!”

The Quartet called to stage unsuspecting audience members to perform the vocals of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, giving each person the opportunity to surpass pentatonic scat-master Bobby McFerrin.

The Jazz Evening will be held at News Café on the corner of Burnett and Grosvenor streets, Hatfield, on the last Thursday of every month. The hope is that more restaurants in Hatfield will partner to offer more live music, allowing a jazz scene to flourish and bring more feet back to Hatfield.

- Author Jonathan Tager

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