Komani jazz legend Mlungisi Gegana, who performed for the first-ever “virtual” Grahamstown National Arts Festival (Naf) shared his experience and sentiments about his online show.
Gegana’s pre-recorded show aired on Saturday, which was the last weekend of the festival that started on June 25.
“It was strange in a good way because a virtual festival is something new to us. We basically performed for ourselves because there was no audience. This, however, was an amazing experience for us because it is normal for jazz artists to get lost in the music and even forget that there is an audience under normal circumstances.”
The jazz maestro told of how he was called by a representative from the Grahamstown-based Dakawa Arts Centre, which is usually used as a venue for a jazz festival during Naf, to perform in this year’s festival.
“He said I was recommended by the Chris Hani District Municipality which made me assume that municipalities were probably requested to make recommendations of their artists. As an acoustic bassist, I approached two young men who I have worked with before, one from Port Elizabeth and another from East London, who play the piano and drums respectively, to assist me with my show.”
Gegana said he had sent them his music before when they worked together, and they had to practise individually because they could not travel and get together for practice due to the Covid-19 regulations.
“However, we put on an amazing show and Naf had organised a cameraman and a sound engineer to assist us. We had to travel to East London to shoot our one hour show and we did our best, hoping that all who had tuned in would enjoy our offering.
“With this Covid-19 one has to be flexible and get on with times because now we find ourselves performing in virtual festivals, something we have never thought of before. Obviously the national lockdown has been strenuous for the majority of artists and the festival was one way for some artists who have not had shows for months to make some money.”
Gegana is the founder of the Mlungisi Music Academy that was founded two years ago and teaches music to township youth.
The academy continues to seek assistance from local businesses and institutions to buy musical instruments for its more than 50 registered students.