Cape Town is a music-lover’s paradise, and no matter the genre that moves you, you’ll be able to find a venue for it. But there’s a special place for jazz here at the southern tip of Africa. The complex collision of cultures here provided the perfect setting for the genre’s development from this city’s very beginnings. By the 1960’s Cape Town was home to some world-famous jazz big wigs, including Basil Coetzee, Winston Mankunku, and Abdullah Ibrahim (known then as Dollar Brand). It was Abdullah Ibrahim who composed Mannenberg, the seminal and influential Cape jazz tune, recorded in a studio here in Cape Town on one of his brief visits to South Africa from exile.
Jazz in Cape Town is more than music. It is the story of slavery, and the struggle against apartheid. It’s about history and salvation and exile and freedom. Explore the jazz scene and you’ll peer into Cape Town’s past, with groovy riffs telling it like it is. Here is where you’ll find jazz in the Mother City.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival takes place in late March or early April each year at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. “Africa’s grandest gathering” brings together artists and jazz lovers from all over the world. This is the largest jazz festival in sub-Saharan Africa, and it doesn’t disappoint. The line-up is usually a great mix of hot up-and-coming musicians, local flavour, and big international names. Of course, it only happens once a year, but don’t fret if you’re going to miss it. There are a few fantastic venues where you’ll be able to listen to jazz year-round.
The Crypt Restaurant has to be one of the coolest venues in Cape Town. It’s located beneath St George’s Cathedral, and the underground setting gives it an alluring ambience that’s hard to beat. Tables are set around the stage, which features a century-old white baby grand piano. The menu is as eclectic as the performers—enjoy a cheese platter with some light piano tunes, a burger with some funky Afro-jazz, a steak over some sultry vocal jazz, or just order a bottle of wine and dance the night away to Dixieland swing. There’s something happening here almost every night, so you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.
The Piano Bar
Harvey’s at Winchester Mansion overlooks the promenade in Sea Point, and they do a jazz brunch every Sunday. Book for the brunch and you’ll arrive to a glass of bubbly, the Sunday paper, a live jazz band, and an amazing brunch spread. There’s everything from baked goods and fried eggs to sushi! Settle in with a drink and enjoy the music in one of the best brunch spots in Cape Town.
Coffeebeans Routes is a tour company with a difference. They offer contemporary, urban, African experience and the guides don’t shy away from the complex and nuanced history and culture of Cape Town. Their Jazz Safari is a tour for those who like their jazz served fresh and hot. It takes visitors into the homes of local jazz musicians, to enjoy some local cuisine and the most intimate jazz performance you’ll ever come across. After dinner with a local musician, the tour takes you to either a jazz venue or another musician’s home for more music and a nightcap. Discover the roots of Cape jazz and get under the skin of the city on this amazing, meaningful experience.
Kaleidoscope Café is located in the Kaleidoscope Church in Claremont, and every Friday night the venue hosts live jazz bands. You can enjoy a really affordable meal and a wholesome evening of fun for the whole family. The pastor who runs the Church is also a lover of jazz, and his band is you can catch his band as a supporting act. This is where you’ll find new artists and ensembles, and it’s home to the African Musicians Trust, so you know you’re supporting the local arts scene!