SABC News - Standard Bank Joy of Jazz honours legends of Jazz:Sunday 11 August 2013

Standard Bank Joy of Jazz honours legends of Jazz

Sunday 11 August 2013 07:38

Noma Bolani

Jazz legends Dorothy Masuka, Abigail Kubheka and Thandi Klaasen have been honoured at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.(SABC)

As part of the Women's Month celebrations Standard Bank Joy of Jazz has honoured five of the country's Jazz icons with lifetime achievement awards.

Abigail Kubheka, Thandi Klaasen, Dorothy Masuka, Sathima Benjamin and Sylvia Mdunyelwa have been lauded for their contribution to South Africa's rich musical history.

Benjamin says when she started singing; it was never about waiting for awards and honours. By the early 1960's she was already touring the world as a talented jazz singer. Settling in New York where she established herself as an icon in her industry, Benjamin used her music to fight against the oppressive regime by raising funds for the African National Congress (ANC) through concerts.

She says her love for music, especially Jazz, became her entire life.

“First of all, I didn't do the music to be honoured and it is the second time in this country because a couple of years ago, former President Thabo Mbeki gave me the Ikhamanga. Like a singer who's been doing music for 40 years, I didn't even realise that I did it for 40 years. I will call myself a jazz singer because I am a jazz singer and because I can't sing pop and rock. I can't sing any of that music,” says Benjamin.

As a young Zimbabwean girl, armed with courage and ambition, Masuka came to Johannesburg in the 1950's to become a singer. By the time, Masuka was 16; she was already touring South Africa with the likes of the late musical icon Dolly Rathebe.

Masuka says the reason why her career has been so successful is because she's always stayed true to herself and the music.

“I write songs but the only thing is you have to look after yourself because music is godly. When you are a musician like we are, you are 2-in-1 or 3-in-1. You are a housewife, a mother; and then you are a singer on stage. That's what makes it different and then you're umfazi and that's it.”

Appreciating the honours bestowed to her, Mdunyelwa says it's the other four women who opened doors for her. She says she grew up listening to Masuka and Kubheka.

“For me, it is an honour to be with these ladies because these ladies paved the way for me. These are the people who I need to say thanks to. It's a great thing when someone says to you "Thank you", it is the best. As a Xhosa woman, we say it is very important to say 'Thank you' and we quite appreciate it. Singing is my life. If I want to talk, I sing. If I want to say 'Molo', I can say 'Moooolllllooooo'.”

Previous recipients of these honours include trombonist, Jonas Gwangwa and the Grammy award winning Hugh Masekela.

Kubheka, who began singing with Miriam Makeba's Skylarks in the 1960's, thanked her fans for continuously supporting her throughout her career. “You the people, you've been the wind beneath my wings and thank you for that.”

Animated as always, Klaasen thanked the organisers for not only honouring them with the usual plaques and awards but also with a cheque of R10 000.  

“I'm known because of these young kids. I thank you all as you are seated here or standing up not thinking - saying that "ek is a nca ousie."”

Joy of Jazz's Peter Tlali says it's important to preserve and celebrate the music of these legends. Tlali says this is how great music lives on for generations.

“There's nothing for me to say anymore but to call on young South Africans to keep our music alive. And the only people who can keep our music alive are those young people. There's a song by Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way." How many Americans have sung that song? Thousands and thousands. Even us here, we sang it. That is keeping the music heritage - the living music heritage alive. I hear very little of our music being sung by today's musicians. I'm calling on them to do that. Music is our living heritage and sing it today while the owners of that music are still here,” adds Tlali.

Previous recipients of these honours include trombonist, Jonas Gwangwa and the Grammy award winning Hugh Masekela.

This year's Joy of Jazz festival will be held from the 22nd to the 24th of August in Newtown, Johannesburg.

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