Without a doubt, Duma's Falling Leaves Jazz Rendezvous is one of the best places in Cape Town to listen to jazz, have a drink, and hang out with some terrific people.
Located in Gugulethu (a suburb that was referred to as an "African township," during the bad old days of apartheid), it's off the radar screen of most Capetonians, let alone tourists. It shouldn't be. It's a friendly place and a truly great shebeen.
Gus (Duma) Ntlokwana is your genial host. During the '50s and '60s, he was widely regarded as one of South Africa's finest jazz bassists, playing with top bands in Cape Town and Johannesburg and eventually touring southern Africa with the African Jazz and Variety Revue, the one-time musical home of stars such as Miriam Makeba.
As was the case with many African, coloured, and Indian musicians, apartheid, South Africa's old system of white supremacy and racial oppression, brought his career to an end. Laws that restricted entertainers to performing before audiences of their own racial category made it almost impossible for musicians who weren't white to earn a living. Some went into exile; others sought other lines of work. To support his family, Gus turned to driving a bus, among other things. As Gus once told me, the situation was like this: "If you want to stay in music, you’ve got to leave the country."
Gus opened the Jazz Rendezvous over a decade ago as a hang out for music lovers. (By the way, that Gus's old bass over the bar.) Usually the music you'll hear -- classic and contemporary jazz from South Africa and the United States, plus marabi and mbaqanga (both sometimes called "township jazz') -- is being played over the sound system. If you're lucky, however, you'll hear live performances from some of Cape Town's best musicians.
The walls are covered with history. Look closely, and you'll see photos of South African legends such as Louis Moholo, Hugh Masekela, and the late, great Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi. (Click directly on any of these photos to see larger versions.)
The Jazz Rendezvous is a pretty laid-back place, during the day and early evening. Things pick up at night, especially on weekends. As you can see, in Africa, music -- even jazz -- is for dancing.
The proud owner, outside of Cape Town's number one shebeen.