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Nelson  Mandela University students, staff and alumni – along with three top South African musicians – will share a virtual stage with hundreds of international performers participating in UNESCO-backed International Jazz Day on 30 April.

The University’s Digital Isisusa Jazz Fest ‘20 was recorded without an audience in October last year, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions and will be broadcast online as part of the #JazzDay10 edition of International Jazz Day 2021. 

The 60-minute concert features original compositions by vocalist and Mandela University music student Andy Ndlazilwana, a rising star in contemporary Afro-Jazz, Eastern Cape music educator and trombonist Kyle Du Preez and 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner, saxophonist Sisonke Xonti.

Works performed in the concert reflected the diversity and musical hybridity of contemporary South African jazz, said concert director and pianist Ulagh Williams.

“This year, we are able to link our concert to the UNESCO International Jazz Day, a major calendar event in the jazz world,” she said.

The decade-old event is organised and supported by jazz icon Herbie Hancock and each year, the organisation calls on jazz artists and groups worldwide to share their performances on UNESCO’s calendar, which reaches a vast online audience.

Featured performers and groups include Berklee Global Jazz Institute and Terri Lyne Carrington, from the United States, Panama-based Danilo PĂ©rez, Paula Maya of Brazil, the Feya Faku Quintet – a South African-Swiss partnership - and Kenny Garrett and Aaron Myers of the United States.

Links to the various events appear on the UNESCO International Jazz Day website calendar (

“This is the first time that a Mandela University jazz event is being shared with an international audience and on a digital platform.  We join hundreds of acts across all walks of life and from all levels of experience in celebrating jazz as a vehicle to unite, inspire and comfort people after a year of great loss and uncertainty,” said Mandela University Arts, Culture and Heritage deputy director, Ryan Pillay.

Isisusa was founded in 2008 as the University's flagship annual jazz event and provides a platform for both students and community musicians.

“Music is a powerful force, bringing people together, motivating and inspiring them,” said Pillay. “For artists, however, it has meant great challenges – many lost their livelihoods and all lost the opportunity to perform and create alongside others.

“The move to digital is hard and not all musicians have access to the resources to do it.”

A digital Isisusa provided much-needed opportunities for these three young South Africans to showcase their original compositions and was a major step towards documenting and archiving the work of jazz artists in this region, said Williams.

This year, the festival would be expanded to include workshops and skills development events for various communities, including online events.

Watch a snippet of the music of 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner, saxophonist Sisonke Xonti.

The Isisusa concert will be screened on the University’s YouTube channel and on the UNESCO International Jazz Day website ( at 2pm, South African time on Friday, 30 April.

Nelson Mandela Uni music student Andy Ndlazilwana performs with the Isisusa Band.

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