South Africa’s first all-women professional big band is set to launch their debut album at Cape Town’s Star Theatre next month.

The Lady Day Big Band (LDBB) was founded in 2018 as a legacy project aimed at showcasing the talents of professional female musicians while fostering new talent.

After perfecting their sound, they now invite audiences to join them and their special guests as they celebrate the release of their debut album, “Livus’umoya” on Friday 23 February 2024.

Guests to their launch will be able to watch them live up to the legacy of the illustrious Billy “Lady Day” Holiday, one of the most unforgettable pioneers of 20th century Jazz.

“It is an exciting time to spearhead a female-led project like this, in an industry and genre that is still male-dominated. Over the last six years we have seen how this initiative has raised the visibility of women musicians, and our members have benefited from this greatly. Many of our players have been booked to play in all kinds of projects and have grown in skill and confidence as a direct result of their involvement and performances with the band,” says Amanda Tiffin, one of the founding members.

Tiffin spearheads the band with fellow musos and creators of the group: Lana Crowster and Kelly Bell.

The band incorporates contemporary styles with traditional big band sounds, to give audiences an explosive experience of exciting big band music.

“Having my own big band had always been a dream to me, and after many years in the industry it was important to me to create a space, not only where women would feel physically safe but also where they felt comfortable to play their instrument, and explore their musicality and creativity through composition and arrangement,

“Recording an album went hand-in-hand with that purpose. I knew it would create an opportunity for some of our players to record in a professional studio for the first time in their careers, for others, it would give the opportunity to showcase their songwriting, composition and arrangement skills. Through the process of creating the album, we have all cultivated confidence in our skills as musicians,” said Crowster, who is currently residing in New York City.

“Learning, growing and evolving is in our credo, and the album was a perfect vehicle to tick all those boxes. In addition, our incredible performances since our debut in 2018 has always left our audiences wanting more, and now they’ll be able to enjoy our music wherever they are in the world,” she added

Tiffin describes the launch album as a collection of all South African music, across a few genres, but sitting mainly in the South African Jazz arena.

“We chose to feature an all-South African repertoire as we are passionate about showcasing South African works. Six out of the nine compositions have been penned by members of the LDBB, and the other three tracks are big band re-imaginings of some South African classics.”

The album features a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks, with band leader and founder, Lana Crowster lending her voice to a number of pieces, including a heart-wrenching performance of Karen Zoid and Francois Van Cokes’ “Toe Vind Ek Jou”.

The album also features incredible collaborations.

“Gloria Bosman was kind enough to lend us her powerhouse vocal skills while she was living and studying in Cape Town in 2021, on an epic rendition of Busi Mhlongo’s Yehlisan’umoya. This was sadly to be one of her last studio recordings. We will forever be humbled and grateful that we got to include her on our album,” said Tiffin.

The band hopes to convey encouraging and uplifting messages through their album.

“Ayo Ayo (lyrics by Phathiswa Magangane) conveys an uplifting message of hope and encouragement, to remain open hearted, and to embrace the future. We used a lyric from this song as the title for our album, as it embodies the overall theme and ethos of the LDBB. To awaken the spirit,” said Tiffin.

“Elegy for the Forgotten Child was written as a response to the shocking epidemic of child murders that happened and sadly continues to happen in the Western Cape.

“It is a lament for the children whose names appear in the press for a fleeting moment, a news cycle, and are then forgotten, while the violence continues, often unacknowledged. It Is a call to remember their names. The song is written using the voices of three women, three mothers who have each lost a child, and the lyrics are written in Afrikaans, English by Quanita Adams and Xhosa by Nomfundo Xaluva-Dyantyis,” said Tiffin.

“Globally, African creativity is trending and will continue to do so, as the world’s attention brings us into centre focus. I want LDBB to be represented on global stages at festivals and conferences as well as collaborate with women musicians in other territories,” said Crowster.

“In addition, we will be working towards creating visibility on the continent too – hosting free workshops for young musicians all over the continent, the same way we have been doing in Cape Town. It has been proven that representation matters. The more kids see women playing instruments and working together, the more they’d aspire to achieve their musical goals while creating community and support in their own communities.”

The February 23 event will see the full 20-piece Lady Day Big Band performing selected songs from the album, as well as some of their favourite South African and global tunes, with a LDBB twist.

The evening features Lynelle Kenned as guest vocalist and co-MC for the evening along with a selection of other surprise guests.

Tickets are R175 each and are available via Quicket.

Event details:

  • Livus’umoya: The Lady Day Big Band Album Launch Concert
  • Venue: Homecoming Centre, Star Theatre, Buitenkant Street, District Six, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
  • Dates: Friday 23 February 2024
  • Ticket Price: R175
  • Show Time: 8 pm
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