Journey to Jazz- Dylan Tabisher on bass. Picture Jonathan Rees
Bassist Dylan Tabisher. Picture: Jonathan Rees

The Little Karoo town of Prince Albert has become a haven for jazz music lovers from around the world, solidifying the town’s growing reputation as a cultural destination.

Nestled under the expanse of wide-open skies and the Swartberg mountains, the small town is packing a big punch in the world of jazz music festivals of late. In May this year the second Journey to Jazz (J2J) festival saw the Karoo town roll out the red carpet to welcome jazz fans, curious travellers, and a stellar line-up of local and international artists.

The festival’s multi-venue format, extended event activities programme, unique setting and relaxed charm is clearly already a hit, as evidenced by sold outs shows and the town’s accommodation being at capacity. So much so that next year’s event has been firmed up for on 1 to 4 May, 2025.

Edge of the Karoo

Prince Albert lies some four-and-a-half hours’ drive from Cape Town, on the edge of the Great Karoo. A quick look on the local tourism website notes that the area is “home to artists and crafters, purveyors of fresh produce and good food, as well as the friendliest people in the Karoo”.

Dancers at Journey to Jazz

What is not necessarily known is that until 2023, Karoo blues is more likely to be heard in the area. So, why start a music festival in the middle of practically nowhere?

The festival’s genus lies in its desire to create “sustainable transformation” for the future of the region – its youth. Inspired by a talk given by SA jazz doyenne Brenda Sisane on jazz’s ability to bridge and change narratives, Ingrid Wolfaardt, founder of the NGO Prince Albert Community Trust (PACT), approached Sisane and together they put words into action.

Journey to Jazz’s raison d’etre is finding favour amongst the visiting jazz musicians too, with pianist and composer Kyle Shepherd signing on as the 2024 artistic director. Shepherd’s line-up for this J2J was nothing short of a masterpiece with a tribute to the piano at its core, showcasing artists such as Thandi Ntuli and Afrika Mkhize.

Shepherd had this to say: “I’m so proud of how everything turned out. Everyone worked hard to make this a success, but it can never be ‘work’ when we have also all enjoyed the process so much. J2J is a thing now and I, for one, am looking forward to what 2025 holds.”

What: Journey to Jazz 2025
Where: Prince Albert Karoo