Zimbabwe: Back 2 Jazzics' Spirited Fight to Revive Jazz

28 January 2020

In the past few years, local jazz music had been under threat, with some revellers even declaring the genre as dead.

The annual Winter Jazz Festival has long since collapsed, while venues such as Jazz 105, Jazz 24/7 and Book Café, which were flag bearers of the genre, shut down over the years.

This is what drove the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust (ZJCT) to create a performance platform Back 2 Jazzics (B2J) back in 2016 with a sole aim to revive a 'dying' genre.

"Back 2 Jazzics is an initiative whose purpose is to cultivate talents of interested jazz aspirants, as well as to be a major contributor to the revival of jazz music in Zimbabwe," said ZJCT founding member Filbert Marova.

Marova has an enduring legacy in Zimbabwean music, having been part of yesteryear bands, Frontline Kids and Rusike Brothers.

The first B2J show was held on May 1 2016 at Theatre in the Park before the platform moved to its current home, Chez Zandi Restaurant, a month later.

B2J curates quality jazz shows staged every Sunday evening.

Since inception, the platform has hosted over 40 jazz bands and solo musicians from across the country, including The Travellers Band, Cool Crooners, Ngoma Ingoma, Owen Chimuka, Prudence Katomeni Mbofana, Tanga wekwa Sando, Jazz Invitaion, Vee Mukarati, and Bob Nyabinde.

Marova said before their platform was introduced, many undeserving musicians were being labelled as playing jazz, when actually they were not.

"Jazz music in Zimbabwe was dying a natural death," he said. "Anybody who played anything that was not gospel, sungura or dancehall called themselves jazz musicians.

"Music events were staged in the name of jazz and yet the music performed there wouldn't be jazz at all. "There was, therefore, a need to educate and influence musicians, music venue owners, music promoters, music schools and colleges to promote and preserve the jazz culture in its universally understood definitions."

Besides B2J, ZJCT has also hosted two Zimbabwe Jazz Festivals in 2017 and 2019 at Alliance Francaise in partnership with the French Embassy.

They convene workshops targeted at musicians and music teachers, with the aim of defining what jazz music is.

Marova said they needed support to safeguard the genre.

"We need to partner with supportive organisations and networks, as well as to advocate and campaign for the proliferation of jazz in schools and other institutions," he said.

"We are seeking visible growth of the B2J brand to the levels of the coveted Cape Town Jazz Festival. To this end, we are seeking the support of corporates that want to be associated with the innovation of jazz to partner the brand that has stood the test of time for the past four years."

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