REVIEW: Tucking into apple crumble and muso Bokani Dyer

2016-10-23 17:00

Cape Town - We all hope to leave a lasting legacy one day, and part of everyone’s favourite chief operating officer’s legacy will surely be the 90% South African music initiative. 

In his own way, renowned jazz pianist Bokani Dyer emphasised the importance of South African music as the world tends to default to American standards, even in jazz. At the monthly Jazz Afrika sessions at The Orbit club in Braamfontein, Dyer and his band (Sisonke Xonti on the sax; bassist Amaeshi Ikechi and Lee-Ann Fortuin as guest vocalist) paid homage to local jazz composers who not only influenced him, but a number of other artists as well.

Dyer started off the night with a light opener by Paul Hammer titled The Way The Wind Blew, before he narrated just how important national identity through music really is. This was followed by the magical We All Love The Sun by Buddy Wells. It’s as if Dyer knew that the audience was still having starters from The Orbit’s menu while they performed the first two tracks, but as soon as the mains were ordered, he kicked it up a gear. The Botswana-born musician took Thmeba Mkhize’s Inner Peace (featuring Sibongile Khumalo) and turned it into a classical masterpiece.

If you’ve watched a single episode of SA Idols, you will know that judge Randall Abrahams advises contestants about making well-known songs their own, and this is where Dyer excels. 

Whether he is playing around with Bheki Mseleku’s Through The Years or dissecting Winston Mankunku Ngozi’s Khanya, he always ensures he leaves an indelible mark on the songs. He does this by adding unbelievably musical piano solos and also allowing his band to take over, sometimes even overshadowing him. In some genres such as hip-hop and House, this would have resulted in a few one-armed klaps across the face, but in jazz, it’s totally acceptable. In fact, at one point during Kippie Moeketsi’s Blues For Hughie, Ikeichi could not find his music sheet and Dyer gladly gave him his, going on to play the standard without guidance.

To top it all off, dessert was served in two forms: a choice of delectable meringue roulade, apple crumble, macerated strawberries and chocolate mousse cake, all served with a side of Wits Music School vocalists who happened to be in the audience. Dyer invited them for one song, but they ended up staying for more than that, scatting to South African jazz. What a great time to be South African.

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