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Artists ready to set Grahamstown on fire

Written by Thomas Thale

Sport, arts and culture

It’s all systems go for the 2013 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, which takes place in the Eastern Cape town from 27 June to 7 July.

Photo caption: Mbongeni Ngema (left) returns to the stage at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown with his new show, The Zulu.Over 50 000 people from across the country are expected to descend on the quiet university town to enjoy the festivities, which include street performances, music, dance, theatre, stand up comedy, arts and crafts.

Now in its 39th year, the festival has become the biggest attraction on South Africa’s cultural calendar.

The festival’s publicist Gilly Himphell said there would be something for everyone at this year’s festival.

“We don’t have any one main attraction, it’s varied and riveting.”

The festival is sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape government, Standard Bank, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, National Arts Council, City Press and M-Net.

Organised by the Grahamstown Foundation, the festival’s programme is divided between the main and fringe performances, with the fringe representing the independent and upcoming artists and performers.

A special guest from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, renowned trombonist and shells specialist Steve Turre, will headline the mainstream performances.

He promises to add zest to the Awesome Big Band and his solo show will be supported by a strong line-up comprising Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Bokani Dyer (piano), Hein van de Geyn (bass) and Kevin Gibson (drums).

Himphell says that jazz will be a major attraction at the festival.
Photo caption: Mncedisi Shabangu and Hamilton Dlamini in Percy Mtwa's internationally acclaimed Woza Albert.

“We have a strong jazz programme. There’ll be musicians from the United States, Norway, Sweden, Holland and other parts of the world.”

Jonas Gwangwa, Gloria Bosman, Vusi Mahlasela and Karen Zoid promise to liven up the Afro-jazz programme. The Soweto String Quartet will be making their first appearance at the Grahamstown jazz stage.

According to Himphell, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band will present a selection of the top young jazz musicians in the country between the ages of 19 and 25, under the musical direction of South African jazz legend, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt.

“The Standard Bank National Schools’ Big Band consists of the top young jazz musicians in the country and performs material worked on over the five days of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival,” he added.

The festival also has a teaching component, which will see established musicians conducting workshops for youngsters from local communities.

Theatre will also be a major draw card, with some old hands returning to the stage. Among the seasoned performers making their comeback to the stage will be satirist Pieter Dirk Uys with two plays Adapt or Fly and An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH and Mbongeni Ngema with the premier of The Zulu.

The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State will present Madonna of Excelsior - adapted by Kobus Moolman from the novel by Zakes Mda, which explores sex between during the apartheid era.

The Market Theatre will also have a strong presence at the festival, featuring classical works such as Woza Albert (directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Prince Lamla), Cadre (directed by Omphilo Molusi), The Island (directed by John Kani), The Line (directed by Gina Shmukler).

Spokesman for the State Theatre Lindelwa Mahlabe says the theatre will be strongly represented with Silent Voice (Aubrey Sekhabi), Rhetorical (Paul Grootboom) and Vampire (Junior Mathibela).

A variety of local and international films, accompanied by seminars, will also be shown. Among films to look out for are Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Bail Out: The Age Of Greed, Meat, The Marat/ Sade, The Magus, Beware of Mr Baker, The War Around Us and The Naked Prey.