Cape Town jazz festival is art at work

If you are going to be packing for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF), you may want to include into your leisure kit, a bit of your analytical skills to appreciate the phenomenal business model unfolding behind the mentally soothing sounds of jazz.

While mellowing from productions of some of the world’s greatest artists, the likes of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, you might learn a thing or two about Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) taking shape in the heart of the Cape.Cape Town Jazz Festival 1

CTIJF organizer, espAfrika, the subsidiary of a proudly BEE tag wearer Sekunjalo Investments seems to have monetized the Cape Town cultural event. Make no mistake this is a complicated process whose essence is perhaps best captured by Iqbal Surve, Sekunjalo executive chairperson. In his 2012 chairperson’s statement Surve cites a quote saying “‘In the knowledge economy, those who best understand today’s economic, political and social challenges are the ones who succeed. They are also the ones who can discern the true value of intellectual capital’”.

In front of this quote, the CTIJF becomes a near perfect statement of Amen. Near perfect because the operation has a fair share of challenges. One key challenge is in the area of sponsorship. A note from the MD, Khalid Abdulla, in the 2012 financials will leave hawkish readers with goose bumps. “The Sekunjalo media division [espAfrika] has experienced a loss mainly due to an impairment from a sponsorship debtor”.

Nevertheless, espAfrika declares that the festival has grown in leaps and bounds to become the fourth largest of its kind in the world. The 12th annual festival attracted in excess of 35 000 visitors, and more than 40 international and local artists participated thus outshining events such as Switzerland’s Montreaux Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland. In its 13th edition last year the festival is said to have made a contribution of R457m to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Western Cape and R860m to the national GDP.CTIJF Presser with Paul Mashatile

This success, says espAfrika is born out by the fact that all events are conceived and executed by a small core group of specialist individuals, each with their own expanded team. The core of espAfrika team is made of 14 full time employees under the direct leadership of Rashid Lombard, CTIJF Director and espAfrika CEO. The team multiplies at each event contributing to job creations.

Despite harsh economic conditions, the 2013 CTIJF promises to be a bumper edition with the group pulling out all stops to attract music lovers. Lombard says “Jazz and popular music luminaries from every continent will be represented at this year’s event in keeping with the CTIJF’s ever-growing standing as one of the world’s major music gatherings, and Africa’s premier lifestyle event. We are also extremely proud that this year half our line-up hails from Africa.”

The lineup of artists is impressive. On the international front it had last year already confirmed Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Brand New Heavies, Chano Domínguez, Gregory Porter, Jack DeJohnette Trio featuring Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison and the Robert Glasper Experiment.  The groups added a long list of confirmations this week including Jill Scott, Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Jean-Luc Ponty and CéU.

A critical factor to espAfrika business model is sponsorship. In its 2012 annual report Sekunjalo identifies sponsorship as a key challenge “The raising of sponsorship income is critical to the success of espAfrika, given the current economic climate and companies reviewing their sponsorship strategy after the FIFA World Cup. espAfrika has developed an integrated sponsorship proposal plan with the aim of retaining current sponsors and attracting new ones”.

For the 2013 CTIJF, the official sponsorship gap was closed by public institutions. You could read something in this sponsorship pattern.  The official sponsors are the Department of Arts and Culture and the SABC (as the broadcast sponsor).Cape Town Jazz Festival

Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile said “The Cape Town International Jazz Festival continues to provide audiences with an array of the best international and local music, which helps give our artists expose and unlock further opportunities for them. The CTIJF also contributes to providing a larger skills base in the creative sector which helps strengthen our sector’s contribution to the economy, by creating much needed work opportunities and the building of sustainable livelihoods for our artists.”

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said “The SABC acknowledges with a deep sense of appreciation the immense value the Cape Town International Jazz Festival has added to the development of the industry – not only over the festival weekend, but also by means of the master classes and workshops in the week leading up to the festival. The SABC has been instrumental in the success of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival since its inception in 2000, and has therefore committed to deepen its partnership with this sought-after industry event”.

espAfrika has opened a path to replicate the CTIJF across the African continent. The company has already planted seeds in Maputo and Luanda and they are blossoming. The company says “In a quest to prove that Cape Town and other cities around the African continent have the capability to deliver quality events on such an enormous scale. espAfrika proudly delivered international festivals in both Maputo and Luanda and are currently looking towards Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal in the future”

It hosted the second Mozambique International Jazz Festival last year at the centre of Maputo at the Parque Dos Continuadores. The festival is said to have been attended by more than 8000. It featured Grammy Award winners Spyro Gyra and Norman Brown and local musicians Stewart Sukuma, Wazimbo, Bande Nondje, vocalist Hermimio, guitar legend Jorge Domingo, Nanando and Satellite Matola Jazz.

In Angola, Luanda, espAfrika delivered the country’s first international jazz festival over three days (31 July – 2 August) at Cine Atlantico. Artists at this festival included McCoy Tyner feat Gary Bartz,  Vanessa Da Mata, Freshlyground, The Yellowjackets, Lira, Marcus Wyatt and Language 12 as well as Jimmy Dludu. Angolan artist included Paulo Flores, Afrikkanitha, Sandra Corderio, Dodo Miranda and Toto.

espAfrika has been a forerunner in the implementation of technology not only in its application systems that craft the festivals, but also in the IT which forms the front-end to these festival websites. Huge strides have been taken in webcasting as well as interactivity with a large and ever-growing corporate and individual database, this trend will soon be extended to future clients on the continent.

As such if you find yourself at the Cape, take a moment of pause, get a fine local wine and says chess to art at work.

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