Historically, jazz began in shebeens, nightclubs, and various spots for popular gatherings. Today clubs such as Kippies, Katzy’s and The Rainbow are some of the finest jazz clubs in South Africa.
Kippies International Jazz Club – Joburg
Kippies International Jazz Club is named after legendary saxophonist and jazz musician Kippie Moeketsi. He was one of SA’s best and a member of one of the first South African jazz bands, Jazz Epistles, launched in the 1950s.
Kippies closed in 2005 due to structural problems; but reopened in 2009.
Kippies was the home of seasoned musicians such as Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse who in an interview about the iconic club with Newtown Heritage Trail described it as is the hub of jazz music in Johannesburg. ”When you walk onto the stage at Kippies for your first set as an aspiring musician, you know you have made it,” he said.
Mabuse’s words sum up how the place managed to stay at the top of its game. It was home to some of the best musicians and the Mecca of jazz in Johannesburg.
The club was declared a heritage site in 2005 for its iconic contribution to jazz music.
Katzy’s – Rosebank
Katyz’s offers jazz audiences a mature blend of great jazz music, good whisky, the most stylish dining and the perfect view of Jozi nightlife.
According to Lebo Ndlovu, Katy’s General Manager, as audiences evolve, venues must also evolve.
He said, “ In order to keep up with our audience needs, five years ago we extended Katzy’s – thereby launching a new Katzy’s from the original venue which was launched in 1994.”
Ndlovu noted that, “Part of what makes a great jazz venue is the ability to evolve as audiences and performances evolve, and in this industry keeping with the time play a big part towards the sustainability of any venue, especially niche venues, such as jazz venues.”
After revamping five years ago, Katzy’s has been able to maintain their role as one of the best locally acclaimed jazz clubs. Ndlovu explained that one of the things that make Katzy’s such a great place for jazz musicians and audiences, is the combination of whisky and jazz music.
“Getting comfortable in this industry has seen a lot of venues go under,” said Ndlovu.
“We’ve made it our mission to give both musicians and audiences a great place to have a good time,” he added.
Katzy’s has hosted some of the greatest South African jazz musicians, such as Lira and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse among others.
With over 20 years in the industry, the venue has a lot to celebrate.
Rainbow – KZN
Rainbow Restaurant in Durban is another jazz venue of distinction. It is one of South Africa’s longest running live music venues. It was launched in 1981 and originally owned by Ben Pretorius and Billy Mthembu, who were involved in South Africa’s political struggle. Its broad approach to music has seen the promotion of a unique genre of music that is an offshoot of Afro Jazz. With performances that include some indigenous sounds such as isicathamiya and mbaqanga, Rainbow has positioned itself as the home for Afro Jazz and Afro sounds in KwaZulu-Natal.
Tips on how to create a great jazz atmosphere
•Don’t allow a performance to be interrupted.
•Give audiences the opportunity to interact with performers and express their appreciation of the music.
•Offer something unique in order to stand out
•Passion is everything.
•Satisfy the needs of both audience and performers.