Getting to know you: George Mari

The Denis Hurley Centre: Saturday 29 April, morning
The Jazzy Rainbow: Saturday 29 April, evening
George Mari is a respected and experienced Durban as trumpeter, pianist and singer; and music educator. He is part of the UKZN Big Band who will be performing a free concert on Saturday 29 April at Denis Hurley Centre in the city, outside the Denis Hurley Street, at 10.30am, as part of the city’s celebration of International Jazz Day celebrated next weekend.
The Jazzy Rainbow performance by the George Mari Band at The Jazzy Rainbow on Saturday evening, 29 April is part of the Concerts SA Venue Circuit which aims to foster a love and support for live music in our communities, as well as anchor small and medium sized venues in urban and rural Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape.
Q: Tell us about International Jazz Day
A: UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music in collaboration with Ethekwini Jazz Appreciation Society and Jazz Xpression will host a series of events across the city in celebration of International Jazz Day on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April featuring live performances by UKZN Music students, young performers from local high schools and professional musicians, jazz enthusiasts should not miss this jam-packed weekend featuring an array of Durban-based artists! Join us for any or all of these events across the city: I will be at Denis Hurley Centre (Denis Hurley Street, CBD) – with UKZN Big Band playing outdoors on Saturday at 10.30am.
Each year on April 30, Jazz is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue, diversity and respect for human rights; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.
Q: What can people expect who come to your gig at the Jazzy Rainbow on 29 April?
A: Essentially it’s a Jazz gig – we’ll be playing some standards and also some original compositions. There’s a very nice combination playing for this concert, myself on trumpet with Burton Naidoo (piano), Philani Ngidi (bass), Sbu Zondi (drums) and Debbie Mari (vocals). Good friends celebrating International Jazz Day should make for a pleasant evening!
Q: Concerts SA supports live music in SA. How important are structures like CSA in keeping live music alive
A: Very important! This creates a wonderful opportunity for musicians to tour or to collaborate and to initiate new projects with just a little ease of mind because we know part of the effort will be sponsored. So, yes, CSA is providing much needed support to venues and also to artists through the Mobility Fund. There are so few live music venues in Durban – actually around the country, there is a huge need for more support.
Q: You are a jazz educator. What does that involve?
A: I teach part-time at UKZN, DHS and Marigold Music School. I studied jazz at university and have spent my whole life playing music. Teaching is a great way to stay in shape musically and also to keep a finger on the pulse of the next generation. There is so much talent out there, it’s just a shame that so few young kids have the opportunity to pursue music as hobby, a school subject or a career. You know, it is possible even in Durban, to survive as a musician if you know how to find the balance between performing, teaching and making money in ways other than stepping into a 9-5 job! This is where education is so important because we have to teach young people that a career in the arts is possible, not easy, but possible.
Q: You have a musical family: your wife Debbie is a singer and educator, your girls are singers and performers – tell us more, how does that work, and what are the dynamics at home?
A: Home is always busy, always noisy, but its busy, happy noise! Debbie and I have always been musicians and teachers and so I think when our kids came along that was their normal. Of course we encouraged them to participate in the arts, but it also came easily to them. From a very young age they were exposed to our gigs, our rehearsals, our musician friends and so I suppose by osmosis they learned to value the arts and to connect with it as a means of expression. Both our daughters are very musical, great dancers and actors. Leah (15) is also exploring composition – she launched her debut EP last year and Ella (18) is an excellent dancer. Debbie and I have been gigging together for over 20 years, so while four artistic temperaments can sometimes be a challenge, by now, we also get each other!
Q: What are your thoughts on the live music scene in greater Durban currently, and what works and what needs improving?
A: There are always many exciting projects coming out of Durban but it mostly seems to happen in fits and spurts. There are so few live music venues that it’s sometimes impossible to find live music in the city. Other times we are spoilt for choice – it would be great if we could find a happy medium with venues that offer regular live music all year round. There are some, but not enough. A lot of money is spent on big events around the country – and there is a place for those – but government departments could do way to encourage venues to host live music if more support was given to smaller, reputable venues or local artists to create regular events. Live music doesn’t always have to take the form of a festival, it’s the smaller venues and regular concerts that keep the industry evolving.
Q:What concerts which you have performed in stand out for you and why
A: So many, but it’s usually the ones where the band clicks and the music just happens for itself.
Q: In a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, socially divided country, what role can music play in bringing people together and finding common threads and what more could be done in this regard?
A: Music brings people together and it’s always great when artists also use the platform as an opportunity to speak to a specific cause, idea or opinion. Look at jazz for example, the music draws people from all corners of the globe.
• Saturday 29April – 7pm – entrance fee 70 Rand including a free drink (T&C)
Bookings: phone 031-3038398 or email
The Jazzy Rainbow 93 Smiso Nkwanyana Road 4001 Morningside

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