As jazz venues continue to close shop, N2 Lounge explores options 

Published: January 23rd, 2019

Wandisile's Plett

Wandisile’s Plett

A blog by Wandisile Sebezo 

As jazz venues continue to close shop, N2 Lounge explores options

If you’ve frequented N2 Lounge as much as I have since it opened its doors about 7 months ago, you’d know that it’s a haven for the jazzy types, you know, the kind that prefers nothing but good value for their money well spent, fraternising over cognacs and the likes.

Naturally, the assumption is that us jazz people are a complicated bunch; not true – we simply enjoy the simple pleasures that life offers. This is as true in music as it is in food or fashion. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” best describes this lot.

But as jazz clubs continue to close shop, where will we go? And what drives jazz to its deathbed?

Jazz illustration by Peter Donnelly

A disclaimer though, that N2 Lounge is not a jazz venue, nor is it trying to be one, but it’s mostly frequented by jazz lovers.

In a time where jazz spots are closing by their numbers, perhaps a different approach to jazz clubs, and music places generally, is that multi-culturalism of fusing and allowing various genres will save a lot of these spaces we hold dear.

A perfect example of this approach is perhaps Surf Café down at the Beacon Island Centre, where over the years they’ve entertained us with live music from across all genres, and it continues to work.

While Skhuluz Lounge in Kwano doesn’t play live music, they’ve moved away from strictly playing jazz music for their patrons, and are now in between deep house, RnB and Hip Hop. It’s working well for them as their clientele is much younger.

Popular jazz spot, The Orbit Live Music and Bistro in Braamfontein, announced early this year that it plans to shut its doors due to financial difficulties that it found itself in. The venue cited in a statement that it was not “able to overcome the financial constraints that we have found with running a live music venue like The Orbit”.

The Orbit, a space once celebrated but now mourned by musicians and fans alike, serves a terrible blow to those of us who would make the necessary trouble of visiting De Korte Street in Braam every time we visit Jozi.

Zanzibar in Port Elizabeth’s Parliament Street hosted live jazz and poetry sessions every week up until four years ago. I remember back during student days, we would spend much of our study nights jamming to jazz melodies as opposed to being locked at varsity libraries. It’s no longer there and the place has become a shadow of its former self.

The whole of last year, N2 Lounge has hosted a series of jazz bands, from The Sequence Band from Knysna to United Music Ambassadors from Kwano, all strictly jazz and soul.

Moving towards a more multidimensional stance, recently the lounge hosted a multi-talented music group that calls itself “Welcome to the US” – a two member band that mixes jazz and dubstep. The lounge also at the beginning of the year hosted Marblos, a Zimbabwean born artist who has been living in SA for the last 15 years or so. He sings Hip Hop and RnB.

This coming weekend, on the 26th January, the lounge will host house and hip hop DJ’s. Headlining acts are DJ Abo from Knysna and Plett’s own Young Tifu, in an event themed “A celebration of eKasi living”.

But beyond the politics of deciding which genre to play, there has been a concerted effort for some time now, especially by whiskey companies sponsoring gigs, using jazz to meet the bottom line, in the process making jazz an elitist project.

This is in direct contradiction to the history and values of this genre that is rooted in deep social democratic movements the world over. Performed and enjoyed in fleeting spaces, in the betweens and on the fringes of the inner (and colonial) cities, always, carrying that radical impulse.

The reality is that the audiences are overwhelmingly young, and prefer informal (real) and cheaper spaces as opposed to the norm “traditional” jazz venues. Kudos to those spaces adjusting to the sands of time, in a bid to save the music.

 

 

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