On 17 August 2013 I attended Dance for a Cure at The Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City Casino. While the theatre was respectably full it was not a sold out house. The cause? The prevention of cervical cancer by providing vaccinations for young girls who could not otherwise afford this (young women in children’s homes are the beneficiaries). The quality of the entertainment provided by artists donating their time to this excellent cause was good. I was saddened that there were still unsold seats for this event.
Some while back I attended a concert at Wits which was to be given by an Israeli pianist. It was one of those low key events which did not attract a large audience. There was a strong anti-Israel demonstration with the pro-Palestinian crowds criminally breaking-and-entering the building and then the concert hall where they proceeded to attempt to vandalise the piano and bullied the audience. I was at that concert. There was no political aspect to this concert outside of the demonstration. It was simply a performance by a pianist who happened to hail from Israel (he wasn’t even resident in Israel anymore). Apparently the Vice Chancellor wasn’t too happy about this and arrangements were made for Wits to host another Israeli performer, this time with better security.
Thus it came to be that I found myself in the Wits Great Hall last night (28 August 2013) when the Daniel Zamir Jazz Quartet played. Daniel Zamir is an Israeli saxophonist and he was joined by Omri Mor on piano, Gilad Abro (born in South Africa) on contrabass and Amir Bresler on drums. Every seat was sold out. The audience was largely Jewish and there was no doubt in my mind that this was now political. Some of the protesters told my friend that if one was not Jewish one could not get seats. My friend pointed out that he was not Jewish. “Nor”, pointing to a black man entering the Great Hall, “is it likely that he is.”
Two concerts for causes. One for fundraising for life-saving vaccines. One as a very human response to a nationalistic attack on Israel. The Daniel Zamir Jazz Quartet are fabulous. Their music has been termed “Jewish jazz” and one of the works was a jazz version of the Israeli national anthem. Daniel Zamir and his Quartet bring to the world of jazz all the beauty, pathos and joy of typical Jewish music and make it their own. What a pleasure for those of us who enjoy good and unique jazz.
If I was saddened at the empty chairs at Dance for a Cure I was also saddened at the full house for the Daniel Zamir Jazz Quartet. There were (some) people there who were only there for the political statement their presence made. It was clear that they were not enjoying the truly marvellous jazz in the way that the rest of the audience was. I felt curiously insulted by this on behalf of the musicians. They were bringing their best to the audience and all (some) people wanted to do was go home. This was especially true in view of the excellent security Wits arranged. The protesters were only able to very briefly yell at the scurrying audience at the beginning. By the end the protesters had given up and gone home. In view of their hooliganism at the previous concert I was pleased about this, although, of course, I support their right to protest every bit as much as I support the performer’s right to perform and my right to enjoy that concert unhindered. Such ambivalence!
The juxtapositioning of these two concerts for causes in the same month left me with much food for thought and a great deal of disquiet in my soul. Human beings are truly creatures who value human lives less than nationalistic honour. I have enough knowledge of history to know this to be true, but to witness it … there I was still an innocent. That innocence was ripped away from me last night at a truly fabulous jazz concert. I am wiser, but more cynical, today than yesterday. The worst is that I am left feeling unsure and unsettled about the whole thing.