Mozambican born drummer Frank Paco has played with everyone from Bono and Queen’s Brian May to Peter Gabriel and the late Miriam Makeba. And now the acclaimed Frank Paco Art Ensemble will be making their debut at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival’s Jazztown at the National Arts Festival from 30 June to 9 July in Grahamstown.
He gives us the lowdown on what to expect and why he’s inspired by the South African music scene.
What Jazztown audiences can expect from your show at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival?
The music can be described as Nu-World Jazz - an amalgamation of jazz tones with its African roots from East to West. The band boasts high calibre musicians who promise to deliver a highly dynamic and entertaining performance. They include Buddy Wells (sax), Zoe Modiga (vocals), Keenan Ahrends (guitar), Blake Hellaby (piano) and Peter Dlala (bass).
Why is Grahamstown so important on a jazz musicians’ calendars?
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, part of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, has provided a platform for interaction between young aspiring musicians and their mentors, an initiative to be applauded! I have also had the opportunity to partake in these mentorship sessions and was impressed by the young musicians’ enthusiasm, drive and hunger to grasp all the info that was thrown at them. The other aspect of the festival is that it exposes youngsters to different genres that aren't necessarily straight ahead jazz but genres with some jazz elements. In my opinion it broadens their musical landscape.
Standard Bank’s commitment to the arts – and jazz in particular – has paid dividends. What do you think of this support of the arts?
I highly commend Standard Bank for the investment in musical development and it has certainly paid dividends. Standard Bank can stand tall knowing that they've been an integral part of young musicians’ success in their careers.
It's really sad that many companies shy away from investing in cultural development activities. I guess it's a lack of knowledge by certain CEOs of the fact that a nation’s identity is based on its culture and that this needs to be cultivated and nurtured for it to blossom and become an export that contributes to the country's GDP.
What are you up to and what are plans for the future?
I'm pleased to say that I'm at the best time of my career as a solo artist. I'm also open to collaborations with artists from various countries and this has helped me to participate in some major festivals around the world. Besides this year's appearance at CTIJF and Total Jazz Fest with an Indian Ocean collaborative project JAV, I've recently participated at Africa Festival in Germany and I'm performing at IOMMA in Reunion to promote my albums. I'll be releasing my forthcoming album a week before the Grahamstown Standard Bank Jazz Festival and I'm also planning a national CD launch tour.
The SABChas committed itself to playing 90% local music across 18 of its radio stations. How do you feel about this?
I'm in awe of Don Laka and everyone else who were at the forefront of this historical realisation.
Ninety percent of local music on our radio stations means a boost for local artists and less of the country's royalty revenues being taken offshore. This will serve as a platform for more quality music to be heard and it will bring pride to the nation as people identify with their own.
Do South African/African musicians get the recognition they deserve in this country?
Every time I perform overseas with other projects, I feel that something is amiss in the way one gets celebrated. Back home most artists fall into oblivion. It is like the expression "no one can be a preacher in his own backyard". I hope that the 90 percent local music drive will change this so local artists get the recognition they deserve.