Jazz festival’s legacy lives on in Cape Town

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

If one were to divide the price of a ticket for next week’s two-day Cape Town International Jazz Festival by the amount of artists on the line-up it costs R12 per show.

Close on 40,000 tickets are usually sold for this annual event, now in its 17th year, and its director Billy Domingo says this income “does not even touch our cost”.

“The budget on this festival is insane,” says Domingo.

“People talk about, why don’t you just make the tickets more expensive. But the more expensive it is then the less people from the Cape Flats we will have,” he adds in reference to where Cape Town’s sizeable jazz following is found.


FESTIVAL FRIEND: Billy Domingo is festival director of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which he wants to keep accessible to most people by ensuring ticket prices do not soar too high. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien


“It makes business sense (to raise ticket prices) and we need to get dividends for our shareholders. But we just get more sponsors to keep ticket prices low.”

Domingo says they want to keep the festival and its artists accessible to all kinds of people.

One of the ways they do this is via a free concert on Greenmarket Square in central Cape Town, usually on a Thursday night, before the main event unfolds.

“It costs us nearly R1-million just to do that. But it’s worth a trillion rand to see people relax and enjoy the concert,” says Domingo.

“It is about sharing this with people. This is how we tell Cape Town thank you for hosting us. Even if you are homeless, you get in to the concert. There’s no ticket, privilege or class.”

Domingo has been in show business for the last 50 years, including running the entertainment division at Sun City hotel in the North West province.

Domingo took over from previous festival director Rashid Lombard last year.

At the festival’s offices next to Access Park in Kenilworth, he feels “in limbo”.

“It’s surreal. I’m sort of relaxed because the team is incredible. They are all out and running and doing things. Everything is going well,” he says.

“We are sold out every year. People see it as more of a lifestyle festival than a jazz event. Some people come for the fashion and others come even just because they want to be in Cape Town.”

Domingo says their photography and journalism workshops are ready to roll as well as a host of other events, including a fashion show and photo exhibition.

“We have the training element because we want to have a legacy,” he says.

“No financial reward can equate to the outcome of the legacy programme. Out of the 18 people working at our company, eight of them came out of the training and development programme of this festival.”

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival runs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on April 1 and 2. The Duotone photo exhibition runs at Artscape Theatre in central Cape Town from March 29 to April 2.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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