The UKZN Youth Music Festival, presented by the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music (CJPM), was held on the Howard College campus recently.

The festival kicked off with an electrifying concert featuring high school bands Toxic Candy and The Sunshine Band.

Joining them were young solo artists from local schools in and around Durban, a UKZN student ensemble comprising students from the Music School’s Foundation Programme and local band Sounds Good.

However, headliner for the evening, the Durban-based eclectic band Gangs of Ballet, got the crowd rocking.

The purpose of this festival is to promote a lifelong engagement with music through a structured programme of performances and educational opportunities for UKZN students, the broader community and young musicians at local schools,’ said Ms Debbie Mari, Music Lecturer in  the University’s Discipline  of Music.

She said the festival aimed to encourage an appreciation for and the study of jazz and popular music in KwaZulu-Natal with the festival providing an opportunity for sharing musical knowledge and skills in a variety of collaborative music-making activities. The festival also aimed to highlight the need to advocate broader music education in schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

A music workshop, facilitated by UKZN Music Lecturers Mr Neil Gonsalves and Ms Debbie Mari, proved successful as many young musicians from Umlazi Comprehensive Technical School, Hilton College and Eden College attended to learn more about the idea of improvisation and accompaniment/ensemble playing through exploring one, two and three-chord song forms.

Another captivating concert was presented in the evening, starting with a delicate duo performance of Indian Classical compositions of sitar and tabla.  Moving from one extreme to another, the concert continued with performances by the UKZN Big Band directed by George Mari, UKZN Voices (close-harmony jazz vocal group), UKZN Jazz & Popular Music Ensembles and the Umlazi-based UC Jazz Ensemble.  An energetic, youthful four-piece instrumental outfit The Sir Walrus Band brought the evening to a close.

There was an international element to the festival with a concert featuring Paraguay Primeval led by Canadian-based pianist and composer Ms Carol Ann Weaver, and featuring acclaimed vocalist Ms Rebecca Campbell and Ms Meaghan McCracken (flute).

The original composition chronicled the experiences of Paraguay's Chaco and Germanic Mennonite immigrants. The evening opened with Demi Fernandez’ student Ensemble who performed a selection of original compositions and arrangements written by Composition students in the University’s Jazz Studies Programme.

The UKZN Youth Music Festival’s final concert featured Music Lecturer Susan Barry’s Student Ensemble.

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