The inaugural TOPS at SPAR Whiskey & Wine Jazz Festival was a hit with Nelson Mandela Bay residents, as more than 1 500 people turned out for the event on Saturday night.
Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton was transformed into an upmarket urban jazz lounge, with stylishly dressed visitors enjoying the musical line-up and sampling some of the finest wines, whiskeys and finger foods from 60 of the retailer’s biggest suppliers.
SPAR Eastern Cape managing director Conrad Isaac said he was delighted at the success of the debut festival and promised that it would return to the Port Elizabeth township next year.
“Nobody worries about bringing this kind of event to the townships. From a SPAR and TOPS point of view, we were the first into these areas, the first to recognise their potential, while others simply tried to follow suit.”
With 86 outlets across the province, the TOPS at SPAR brand is now the biggest retail liquor group in the Eastern Cape.
“Today is about giving back to the community by bringing some quality wines and whiskeys and giving them the chance to enjoy some top local and national jazz.”
And enjoy the music they did, with PE bands Take Note and Ricochet getting the crowd on their feet with original compositions and reggae and R&B-influenced cover versions respectively.
But the highlight of the evening was when Umhlobo Wenene’s master of ceremonies, DJ Pastor, introduced Johannesburg-based act The Muffinz.
The metro gig was the group’s first stop back on South African soil, after performing at the Apollo Theatre in New York and a two-week whistle-stop tour of Norway.
Lead electric guitarist and vocalist Simphiwe ‘Simz’ Kulla said his five-piece group had literally come straight off the plane, after arriving at OR Tambo earlier that day.
East London-born Kulla said it was great to be back in the Eastern Cape.
“It’s always lovely to come home. I’m Xhosa, so PE is close enough to my hometown, and I loved the fact that the venue was so full.”
Audiences were given a taste of the title track from their latest album, #DoWhatYouLove, which is due for release shortly, as well as familiar tracks such as Soundcheck and Umsebenzi Wendoda.
“I’m personally very passionate about little festivals like this that really focus on the arts,” he said.
“As a working nation, we need to be as diverse as possible and not pander to the mainstream. We’ve got many cultures and we need to preserve that.
“Seeing SPAR invest in this is lovely because it promotes culture on a bigger level.”
Kulla said making a great wine or whiskey was an art form in itself and, much like music, was all about finding the right notes and harmony.
“We call our sound ‘eclectic soul’ because it’s literally five different guys from different backgrounds who all grew up listening to different things like reggae, hip-hop, pop and acapella.
“It’s crazy, we bring that together and make this soul trip music. And it works.”
For more information, find the event on Facebook or follow @topsjazzfest.