KOMANI jazz artist Sipho Lisa says the demise of jazz music in the town could be attributed to the lack of funding and musicians who have left for greener pastures. Lisa was speaking to The Rep about challenges faced by jazz artists in Komani, a town which was known nationally as the country’s ‘jazz capital.’
Lisa is one of the pioneers of the genre in Mlungisi and said in earlier years even high school pupils were into jazz before hip hop and other popular genres dominated the airwaves. “We were the first group to record in Komani, we were still in high school and we used to rehearse under a tree.”
Jazz legend Monwabisi Yekeni took note of the youngsters and later formed the Shockwave band which performed across the country with the late Stompie Mavi. “A taxi from Gallo Music came and we were told that they were here to fetch us and that’s how we left for Johannesburg.”
He said the dearth of development in the field of jazz music in Komani was caused by ”a lack of progress” which was forcing artists to move to other parts of the country.”
He believes the town would have still been a popular jazz destination if artists received the support they needed. “The problem started when musicians started to leave Komani. There was no one who was encouraging musicians and making sure talent was being preserved at home.”
There were some individuals who used to dig deep in their pockets to buy instruments because of the talent that was evident here. There is frustration from musicians today and that makes everyone who is into music think that their careers will not materialise.”
Education had also become a stumbling block for many artists.“International artists used their educational knowledge to compose songs but many of our guys just played from the heart.”
The documentary ‘Life Sentenced to Jazz’ , which featured Lisa as a researcher, had been completed two years ago but it was not known when it would be released.