Jazz festival’s most enthusiastic fan…
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Every music festival has its diehard fans and Ronnie Green from Silvertown, Athlone, has not missed a single edition of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival over the last 15 years.
The 76-year-old has even interviewed a number of the festival’s performers over the years when he presented a jazz music show on community station Bush Radio.
Green’s passion for jazz started when he was a child growing up in Williams Street in Woodstock.
“It all started with Dollar Brand (jazz great Abdullah Ibrahim). When I was 12 years old that was the first time that I heard him play,” said Green.
“I saw him perform in Woodstock. I immediately took to what he was doing. He was the first guy of colour that I saw play with a music sheet. In the old days, most of the musicians played by ear. They could write beautiful songs but could not read music.”
“He studied and could read music. That separated him from many. I can sit for days listening to Abdullah playing solo piano.”
In later years Green also listened to music from abroad when sailors returned with the latest albums.
“Sailors who worked on ships used to bring albums from America. That’s how we heard our first album cuts. Foremost were the Nat King Cole albums. He was a big hit in America at the time,” said Green.
He then started the monthly Ronnie Green’s Jazz Scene where he would play jazz music to initially raise funds for the local baseball club.
“I had a house with hardly any furniture and thought this was a good way to make some bucks. I printed some tickets and sold it for 50 Cents to enter. It boomeranged,” said Green.
“I had four children and saw it as a way of making money.”
Through these sessions, Green met jazz festival founder Rashid Lombard.
“Rashid and his girlfriend heard about this and they came to sit on my lounge floor to listen to the music. Rashid brought a couple of buddies with,” said Lombard.
By the time Lombard started the festival, he invited Green to be his guest.
“I heard about the festival and couldn’t afford a ticket. Then I got a phone call from Rashid. He told me I started this thing year ago and he wanted me to come and chill out at the festival,” said Green.
“When I came to the festival, for that first one at the Good Hope Centre, it was a reunion of all the people that I met since the 1960s.”
Green said the festival became an annual reunion for friends from all corners of South Africa. The two-night event was also a chance to see some of his most favourite artists live, but there was never enough time to see it all.
“When you are at the festival, you can never see everything. There are different music genres as well. It has mostly jazz but also rock ‘n roll and underground music,” said Green.
“You have a certain amount of hours for the two nights. You have to choose. Sometimes your favourite artists are performing at the same time. Then you can listen only to the one for 15 minutes and then skip to the next stage.
“I mainly go for the artists who play in Rosie’s. this is the main jazz stage. It is the stage for the top jazz artists at the festival. Because of my love of what I grew up with, I go there to listen.”
Green added: “Jazz music attracts a special type of person. It’s not an ordinary run of the mill person. Intellect has a lot to do with the loving of jazz. It’s an art form.
“You have to be interested in the arts to become interested in jazz. Once you get into this thing and the music, it’s a bug. You begin to love it and you being to know what the artists are doing.”