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Change the world


Jazz trumpet legend Louis Armstrong once famously said “music is life itself”, and that makes sense when we are immersed in the joy of a live performance.


Nelson Mandela University Arts, Culture and Heritage Deputy Director Ryan Pillay

Nelson Mandela University hopes that  Isisusa Jazz Fest ’23 on South Campus in Summerstrand, Gqeberha, on Thursday, 30 November, reflected this.

At its core, Isisusa represents the transformative power of collaboration through music. The promotion of Visual and Public Narratives through the Performing Arts allows us to live out that mandate.

South African jazz singer and recording artist Dr Natalie Rungan headlined the main Isisusa Jazz Fest.

An accomplished jazz vocal educator, Natalie completed her doctorate at Rhodes University in Makhanda in October and presented a pre-concert workshop as well. This provided insights into songwriting, music production and the intricate workings of the music business.

Her innovative work was geared to empower students in their journey towards becoming industry professionals.

Music can heal, soothe, rouse, entertain but it also can educate. The University therefore made the concert and workshop free of charge to allow all to engage with the content and to learn from the artists, experience, and activities.

Those who attended the workshop engaged closely with Natalie in an interactive session, enhancing their understanding of jazz performance and learning from her transformative methods.

The University’s Department of Arts and Culture founded Isisusa in 2008, and since then it has been an annual platform to showcase, engage and stimulate artistic activity among the youth.

Apart from the University’s focus on learning and teaching, the celebration of Isisusa is also a way to engage with the community that we serve, which is the public as well as our students and staff.

Isisusa has become an important calendar event for the University, linking as it does to the broader arts community. It provides opportunities for outreach and community engagement through the arts as well as “in-reach” through involving students, staff and alumni.

This year’s Isisusa marked the inception of a three-album series by Rungan and her backing team, a narrative of artistic expression and the power of jazz as a language that transcends boundaries.

It also promotes talented artists from diverse backgrounds. Nelson Mandela Bay is known as the home of South African jazz due to the number of talented musicians emerging from this region. Today, it is still producing sparkling musicians with a diverse range of talents, as we see in our students.

Although Isisusa is primarily known as a jazz concert, artists active in the genres of pop, R&B, reggae, electronic dance music and musical theatre have featured. The most recent instalment included choral music, made by students ushering in a change.

Respected organisations such as NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) and SASMT (South African Society of Music Teachers) have endorsed the event.

Perhaps it might be more apposite to quote Bono’s words here than the late great Louis Armstrong: “Music can change the world because it can change people,” said the Irish rock star.

That is because Nelson Mandela University is a dynamic African university whose motto is “change the world”.

Hence, if you were in the audience in the South Campus Auditorium this week, you are part of a bigger picture, that of bridging communities through music. 

To spread inclusive, transformational and empowering messages through the music of South African artists, Isisusa Jazz Fest ’23 was filmed for broadcast and online release.

This footage will be repackaged and released in April 2024 to form part of the online UNESCO International Jazz Day Celebrations.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057