On Human Rights Day, 2018, an ambitious event launched at the Windmill Casino lawns. Clouds heavily pregnant with rain threatened the inaugural event, but organisers were quick to allay any fears of a cancellation. The show would go on, contingencies were in place.
Local musicians Levante Music, Naledi & Friends, and The Andile Q Trio, with Motheo FM’s jazz presenter Thabiso Sekhokho manning the decks in between the acts, set the tone for what has now become Mangaung’s mainstay last Sunday event. It was indeed a ‘unique jazz experience’ as promised; with Jess Moonchild joining Levante for some sultry soul sounds, and Naledi reimagining 50 Cent in jazz before sending the audience to heaven with his scatting on Autumn Leaves.
The next two events brought to town big hitters in the venerated jazz bassist Mlu Gegana and top funk band The Muffinz, in April and May respectively.
Jazz On The Lawn – a brainchild of jazz saxophonist and event organiser Lesley Jennings – was on already meteoric rise when it took a winter break. A time organisers used to restrategize and pivot the gig to accommodate its growing audience and their diverse palates.
“The biggest challenge was probably curating an event that caters to such a wide audience. The introduction of a DJ assisted in maintaining an atmosphere of good, non-commercial music between sets, keeping our audience vibing without compromising on the purpose of the event.” Lesley recollects.
Add to that scores of local musicians outside of the jazz fold who slid into Lesley’s DMs hankering for a spot on the stage. None of this, however, was a task too tall for the mastermind behind the event:
“When the event returned in Spring of 2018, we launched the new event format; showcasing local upcoming talent, followed by a more established local band and headlining with a visiting jazz act.” This was done to introduce audiences to local talent and expose them to artists they wouldn’t get a chance to see in Bloemfontein.
“Jazz On The Lawn is more than just another gig, it is a platform and opportunity for artists to network and work together – the chats backstage are the absolute best! We have seen new connections and working relationships develop over the past 12 months between visiting artists and local artists.”
Visiting artists includes the legends Pops Mohammed, Dave Reynolds and Bhudaza Mapefane, with local acts such as Colourful Souls, John Paka and Atheha London also gracing the stage.
“We are having important conversations, and seeing a synergy and camaraderie amongst musicians.”
As a free event, Lesley believes Jazz On The Lawn helps develop audiences and tap into a new market. “The event is presented as a ‘Lifestyle Event’, it is bringing a new demographic out to experience live music, allowing us to build relationships with new audiences, grow our following and engagement and have a community that values and consumes live music, especially jazz. I commend the Windmill Casino for pro-actively creating this type of event in Bloemfontein.”
Jazz On The Lawn is a full day family friendly event, with a play area for the young ones, a cash bar and plenty of food options.
The next event takes place on 31 March 2019, and features Kenny Hughes, Miss Noxy, Sakhile Nkosi.