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The Kesivan Naidoo Big Band Experience, South African Tour 2023

“Kesivan Naidoo is unarguably the most eminent South African drummer of his generation. Say, what? Well, this is a cat who honed his sure-fire feel for sonic spectacle with a roll call of SA jazz masters from the iconic Miriam Makeba, pianists, Hotep Galeta and Bheki Mseleku to saxophonist Winston Mankunku to drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and beyond. It is his reverential feel for history, space and place that Naidoo channelled in his seminal 2014 album, Brotherhood. At a sold-out Carnegie Hall premiere, no less. Dig it? Fast forward to 2023 and the Basel-based Naidoo is reimagining Brotherhood as a Big Band experience. Celebrated trombonist Adrian Mears breathes beatific big band arrangements into modal Afro-Indo modulations, shadowy cinematic improvisations and more.”

(Miles Keylock, former editor of Rolling Stone Magazine)

In June/July 2023, Kesivan Naidoo is swinging back from Switzerland to South Africa with his brand-new Big Band Experience.

The Experience: from South Africa (11), Switzerland (5), Germany (2):


Conductor and Arranger: Adrian Mears (CH)

Drums and Composition: Kesivan Naidoo* (SA)

Double Bass: Benjamin Japhta* (SA)

Guitar: Reza Khota (SA)

Piano: Kyle Shepard* (SA)

Trumpet 1: Thabo Sikhakhane (SA)

Trumpet 2: Darren English (SA)

Trumpet 3: Sakhile Simane (SA)

Trumpet 4: Lee Thomson (SA)

Trombone 1: Julia Rueffert (CH)

Trombone 2: Siya Makuzeni* (SA)

Trombone 3: Andreas Tschopp (CH)

Trombone 4: Maxine Troglauer (D)

Alto 1: Justin Bellairs (SA)

Alto 2: Tara Sarter (D)

Tenor 1: Sisonke Xonti* (SA)

Tenor 2: Marc Stucki (CH)

Baritone: Danni McKinnon (SA)

* Standard Bank Young Artists of the Year

Music lovers know: Jazz is the (he)art of improvisation. And the heart of the art doesn’t get much bigger than a full-blown Jazz Big Band.

In 2022, Kesivan and Adrian ran the (he)art of everyone from Duke Elington, Count Basie and god darn Glenn Miller to Louis Moholo-Moholo’s big band Voodoo down. The first big band concerts in Germany and Switzerland were an experience!

A demo-run with the Swiss Jazz Orchestra at the Jazzhaus Freiburg during the German African Studies conference (VAD) in Freiburg in June 2022 and the Bierhübeli in Bern in November 2023, saw Kesivan and Adrian tweaking any ‘boys’ own’ testosterone, massaging the music, making the arrangements more…malleable, where needed.

Kesivan’s opening concert performance with the Swiss Jazz Orchestra in early March 2023 at the Jazzwerkstatt Bern featured a young all-star big band – with an unusually high number of women.  The tactility of the Big Band tunes were met…with standing ovations.

@TheMarketTheatre ·

South Africa Tour 2023

Now Kesivan’s arrangements will be taken on a Grand South African tour. Five big band concerts and 3-4 smaller shows will take place in South Africa in June/July 2023, at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda and in Cape Town. Before returning to Switzerland, the band will perform at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg on July 8. Our aim is to make the tour as sustainable as possible, both in terms of travelling (emissions) as well as future projects. To this end, the band will be in Makhanda for a week. During this time, the band members will not only play the Big Band concerts but also be involved with workshops and collaborations with other musicians. The Cape Town part of the tour features diverse venues to engage different audiences: one Big Band concert at the Star Theatre (Fugard), and 3-4 smaller band performances in various venues in Cape Town (such as the Blue Room, Openwine, The Athletic Club & Social etc). The mission is to make contacts and foster further projects to evolve out of these encounters. Another goal is to guarantee diversity not only in terms of origin (a mix of South African, Swiss, and German musicians), but also in terms of gender. We aimed to allocate a third or more of the positions in the band to women.

Recordings and Documentation

The “Kesivan Naidoo Big Band Experience” adapts original compositions (from the past 20 years) by Kesivan Naidoo for Big Band. The adaptations are performed by various Big Bands in Switzerland, South Africa, the EU, and the USA. The recordings of the live performances will culminate in an album. The entire work in progress, including the concerts at the Jazzhaus Freiburg, the Bierhübeli in Bern, and the Jazzwerkstatt Bern as well as the entire South African tour will be part of a documentary of Naidoo’s musical journey dating back to his SAMRO overseas scholarship in 2000 and his first Pro Helvetia sponsored project in 2004 with Beat Bag Bohemia. The dynamic journey of this music will be told through footage from various different festivals, concerts and recordings starting as early as 2004 – giving depth to the narrative of the documentary capturing the development of this unique Big Band sound. We are currently in conversation with OCHER Moving Pictures (affiliated with Netflix and various other television channels). They have already expressed interest in producing the documentary.

Age: 14 + Language: English with some Zulu.

Featuring Mpume Mthombeni as Zenzile Maseko

Directed by Neil Coppen

Written by Neil Coppen in collaboration with Mpume Mthombeni

Lighting design by Tina Le Roux

Sound design by Tristan Horton

Set Design by Greg King

Additional Set dressing Dylan McGarry, Neil Coppen and Wendy Henstock.

Production Manager Tina Le Roux

Rain SFX by Steven Woodroffe

Poster Design by Dylan McGarry

Stills photography by Val Adamson

Season:                                               Thursday 20 July  – Sunday 6 August 2023  

Venue:                                                 The Mannie Manim Theatre 

To make block bookings and discounts please contact Anthony Ezeoke 011 832 1641ext 203/ 083 246 4950

For further information, interviews and images, contact:

Acting Brand and Communications Manager: Lusanda Zokufa 072 367 7867 or


Empatheatre was founded by Neil Coppen, Mpume Mthombeni and Dylan McGarry in 2014. The company and methodology has been heralded for its unique approach which sees the creative team forging creative responses to complex social concerns while uniting a range of stakeholders including policy-makers, citizens, community based performers, storytellers, artists, musicians, activists, human-rights lawyers and academics. Empatheatre has been responsible for launching several ground-breaking Research-based theatre projects over the last decade in South Africa including Soil & Ash (focusing on rural communities facing pressure from coal-mining companies), Ulwembu (street-level Drug addiction and harm reduction advocacy), The Last Country (female migration stories), Boxes (homelessness and Urban land justice inequalities in the city of Cape Town) and Lalela ulwandle (an international project supporting sustainable transformative governance of our oceans). The company’s work has toured internationally to Egypt, Rome, New York and Geneva. Empatheatre was recently nominated as The Daily Maverick’s 2022 artists of the year and awarded the Bertha Artivism Award for their theater and social-justice work as well as the 2023 Fleur Du Cap award for innovation in South African Theatre.


Planned/confirmed concerts:

Planned/confirmed concerts:

National Arts Festival Makhanda
30 June 2023concert 1
01 July 2023concert 2
Cape Town
03/04 July 2023several smaller concerts in Cape Town
07 July 20231 concert at Star Theatre (Fugard)
08 July 20231 concert Market Theatre

A second leg of the tour is planned in Europe. One option is the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra to which Kesivan has close relationships (band members of Kesivan’s original sextet Kesivan and The Lights from 2009 are part of this orchestra). Another option is to take a Swiss big band to the North-Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam.