A Swiss-South African jazz collaboration is set to take local stages by storm in June and July, when Baenz Oester & The Rainmakers perform in Gauteng, Cape Town, Maputo and Grahamstown.
The band is made up of bassist Oester and saxophonist Ganesh Geymeier from Switzerland, and pianist Afrika Mkhize and drummer Ayanda Sikade from South Africa. They will be playing their exuberant “music of intention” throughout Southern Africa from 27 June to 13 July 2014, supported by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss arts council.
The tour kicks off with two dates in Johannesburg on 27 and 28 June (the Orbit jazz club in Braamfontein and the Fête de la Musique street festival in Melville), before they head to Maputo on 1 July to play at the CCFM cultural centre.
On 4 and 5 July, the Rainmakers will make their way to Grahamstown for the Standard Bank Jazz Festival at the National Arts Festival, where they will get the DSG Hall cooking on 4 July and the SB Jazz & Blues Café on 5 July. The quartet will also be presenting jazz workshops at the festival.
Then it’s on to Straight No Chaser (previously known as the Mahogany Room) in Cape Town on 10 July, before they head back up to Gauteng to play at the Pretoria State Theatre on 11 July and Niki’s Oasis and Afrikan Freedom Station in Johannesburg on 12 and 13 July respectively.
The music of Baenz Oester and the Rainmakers has been described by the Swiss media as “full of joy”, “breathtaking”, “brilliant and animated” and “inspir[ing] from beginning to end”.
And it all came about as a result of a chance encounter. Oester, Geymeier, Mkhize and Sikade met at the National Arts Festival in 2011, when the seed was planted to get together and jam on a more regular basis. This camaraderie and shared musical philosophy has since blossomed into a more formal collaboration, with a series of successful concerts in Switzerland and the release of an album, Playing at the Bird’s Eye, recorded live at the Basel jazz club of the same name in 2012.
Now, the four friends are reuniting to bring their languid original jazz compositions to Southern African audiences. Echoing the members’ varying backgrounds and traditions, the band’s style is suitably eclectic – incorporating seductive and funky blues, African rhythms and Swiss folk tunes, all mashed up with a good measure of blinding improvisation.
Mkhize is the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist for jazz, and is known for his distinctive piano playing. He has also worked as a producer for the likes of Themba Mkhize (his father), Sibongile Khumalo and Kabelo, and served as musical director for the late Miriam Makeba for many years. Sikade, a talented drummer, has worked with such luminaries as Feya Faku, Bheki Mseleku, Robbie Jansen, Barney Rachabane, Darius Brubeck and the late Zim Ngqawana.
Oester, on contra bass, is regarded as one of Europe’s leading jazz bassists, and also lectures at the music academies of Basel and Lausanne. Fellow Swiss Geymeier, on tenor saxophone, has a style that pulses with emotional fire while being buoyed by a delicate spaciousness.
The one word that comes up most frequently in descriptions of the band’s music is “joy”. Don’t miss out on this potent cross-cultural, intercontinental music collaboration – visit www.baenzoester.com for more details or book at the respective venues for one of the jazz events of the year.
Tour itinerary: Baenz Oester and the Rainmakers
Friday 27 June The Orbit Johannesburg
Saturday 28 June Fête de la Musique Johannesburg
Tuesday 1 July CCFM Maputo
Friday 4 July DSG Hall Grahamstown
Saturday 5 July SB Jazz & Blues Cafe Grahamstown
Thursday 10 July Straight No Chaser Cape Town
Friday 11 July State Theatre Pretoria
Saturday 12 July Niki’s Oasis Johannesburg
Sunday 13 July Afrikan Freedom Station Johannesburg
What the Swiss press have said about Baenz Oester and the Rainmakers:
- The musicians’ passionate interplay can grow from lyrically rapturous moments to true fireworks. The four rainmakers have chosen their name well – their music is prolific and full of joy, leaving you wanting more. – Basellandschaftliche Zeitung
- What the Rainmakers have to offer is certainly breathtaking: their show is brilliant and animated, lithe and powerful, exuberant and coherent in equal measure. Oscillating between ecstasy and intimacy, the performance of Bernese bassist Bänz Oester’s new quartet inspires from beginning to end. – Der Bund
- From the first note this music draws highly varied grooves, leaving the audience spellbound. Cultural and musical boundaries disintegrate, jazz tradition is respectfully but decisively broken and a new soundscape is slotted together. The whole exudes tremendous energy and a zest for life, inflaming everyone and leaving one powerless to escape its effect. – Donaukurier
- The quartet creates a sparkling sound energy. Intensity and tension are there from the outset. Class! – Jazz Podium
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Issued by JT Communication Solutions on Behalf of Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council – www.prohelvetia.org.za