The Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival – Africa’s Greatest Gathering

The Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival – Africa’s Greatest GatheringOnce a year the city of Cape Town, in South Africa, hosts the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. It is associated with the North Sea Jazz Festival held in the Netherlands, and so was first called the Cape Town North Sea Jazz Festival until 2005.

The first festival was held in 2000 and has since grown to become the fourth largest jazz festival in the world surpassing even the Montreaux Festival in Switzerland and even The Netherland’s North Sea Jazz Festival. It is also the biggest jazz festival in Africa.

In 2014 the festival will be in its 15th year. The festival is held over two days on 5 different stages.


In its first year it attracted 2,,000 attendees but has since grown to 34,000 in 2013. For this reason it has also come to be known as Africa’s Grandest Gathering. It has almost become a pilgrimage for jazz lovers around the world. It is held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The festival has also grown to become an important part of the city of Cape Town’s economy. In 2010 it directly contributed R740 million (approximately $70 000 000).

The festival always kicks off by providing a free of charge open air concert for the people of the city. This open concert is held at Greenmarket Square.

Performers come from all over the African continent and the world. Previous years’ performers include; Youssou N’Dour, Hugh Masekela, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Ravi Coltrane, India Arie, Floetry, Miriam Makeba, Stanley Clarke, Buena Vista Social Club, Jill Scott, and Courtney Pine. Although the festival has a distinctly South African stamp on it, it’s not inaccurate to say an ecclectic mix of global cultures and musical influences are showcased here.

Musical Genres

While it is mostly a jazz festival, the event offers something for every musical taste. There are performances by contemporary artists in genres such as rock and electro. There are also art exhibitions as well as various workshops on offer. The full programme is usually posted on the event’s website a few months before the event. However, due to the short duration and sheer scale of the festival many people have complained of too many scheduling clashes between popular acts, and thus being forced to miss some performances in favour of others. Hopefully in future years the event will be spread out over a few more days.

Buying Tickets

In South Africa tickets can be purchased from Shoprite Checker’s outlets, Computicket outlets and from the Computicket website. Outside of South Africa tickets can be purchased on the Computicket website. Because of the size and popularity of the event it is advised to buy tickets as soon as possible (even before flight tickets) as they can sell out quickly. The ticket prices are based on day passes which allow entry to all of the events. There are also Rosies tickets which are for specific performances. Ticket prices are reasonable. For example, in 2014 a day pass is R490 (approximately $49) and a Rosie ticket is R30 (approximately $2). ATMs as well as foreign exchange are available on the premises. The festival is normally held during South Africa’s late summer/ early autumn months. This time of the year is usually still warm and sunny in Cape Town, but it is advisable to pack some sweaters for the cool mornings and evenings as well as some rain gear as this is the start of Cape Town’s rainy season.

Getting Around

For transport around the city there is car hire available. There are also many shuttle service companies available for those who do not wish to do their own driving. Traffic to the venue can be severe so many prefer to hire shuttles to ensure a stress-free time.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre, where the event is held, is located on Long Street. Long Street is a famous street in Cape Town because of its many bars, restaurants, hookah bars and the great shopping. It can best be described as a bohemian hang out area in the heart of Cape Town. So one can take a break from the music (or just extend your stay) to walk the street and purchase some mementos and sample the different restaurants. Memorabilia from the event are also sold at the concert venue.

There are many hotels and guesthouses in Cape Town. However, it is also advisable to make these bookings as soon as possible as they can fill up with festival-goers.

Editorial Team
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