MELANIE SCHOLTZ, one of Cape Town’s perennial jazz darlings, is readying herself to leave our shores for good to pursue new opportunities overseas.
PETER TROMP caught up with the musician before she gets on a jet plane and flies away – just another among our artists who has felt the need to pursue her career elsewhere, because there’s such scant support in our country.
You’re leaving SA for Europe. What prompted such a monumental decision?
I have been touring in Europe, specifically Czech Republic and Slovakia for the past five years and have an agent and a fan base there. I have also worked in Norway, Sweden, France and Germany for the past five years. People are very willing to work with you more often if you live closer to, or in Europe, where everything is a hop, skip, plane or train away, so this felt like the next logical step.
Tell us about the opportunities that await you.
I already have some shows and festival concerts booked in Slovakia for the end of June and a classical festival on July 8, as well a tour in Italy with Emilio Marinelli, an Italian pianist I recorded with earlier this year, from July 22. I am also involved as a teacher in a summer jazz programme in Prague called Czech Jazz Workshop, commencing on August 1. Later on in the year, I have a Swedish tour with Peter Asplund, renowned Swedish trumpeter, from October 7. And then from November 21, I have a Czech and Slovakian Christmas tour.
How would you sum up your musical career in SA?
I think I have really enjoyed a successful career as a jazz artist in South Africa. There have been lots of support from fans and amazing accolades from very prestigious organisations. This will definitely stand me in good stead internationally.
What circumstances would have to be in place for you to return to SA to be a fulltime musician here?
I think more governmental support for art and artists is required in SA for us to be able to produce art easily and to make art accessible once we have produced it. Also, for us to be able to pass down the art we have learnt to younger generations. There needs to be more support so that these basic processes become easier. It’s such an important need for an artist to produce art – it’s like oxygen, but without an infrastructure, this is not possible, unfortunately. Or it is, but with a great deal of difficulty.
Some people might say you’re cutting and running from SA, joining the hordes of expats to have done so in the past…
Well, I believe you have to go where you are able to make a comfortable living doing what you love. I live my life for myself and not for anyone else. It’s important to grow, evolve and never stop learning. This is not to say that you must forget your roots. It’s always important to remember where you come from.
What do you know about how Europeans consume jazz?
I think the culture is very different in Europe, as jazz is seen as one of the many genres of music and art. So people go and appreciate jazz as they would any other art form. Culture is more a part of their everyday lives than ours and because their governments support it, it is more accessible and easier for people to relate to.
What are your immediate and longer term plans for your sound?
I have never been one for labels and boxes. I write music as a way to heal myself and others. I love the new modern jazz that is emerging in New York and Europe. It is drawing from straight ahead jazz, but making it more current and relevant to an audience today. I hope to be part of this contribution and somehow sound wise in the process.
“Last night an album changed my life.” Which album?
Wow, this is a tough one. So many albums have changed my life. I will name a few, if I can:
‘Kind Of Blue’ – Miles Davis
Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown
Erykah Badu – ‘Baduism’
Kimbra – ‘Vows’
Which song(s) would you say you’re most proud of so far in your career, and that you hope people remember you by?
I am extremely proud of the album/collection of songs that I wrote using James Matthews’ poetry called ‘Freedom’s Child’. Writing and recording these songs healed and grew me.
How can your local fans follow your international adventure?
Local fans can follow me on both my Facebook pages, Reverb Nation, iTunes, on my website melaniescholtz.com, Twitter and Instagram.
Any “final words” for your fans?
Thank you for all your love and support. You know who you are. There’s no me without you.