The beginning of spring in Johannesburg usually means the beginning of the arts calendar for revellers, but things will be different this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The 28th edition of the Arts Alive Festival officially kicked off this week, and because of restrictions on gatherings, many digital platforms will carry the productions.

On Sunday, Jazz on the Lake will be held virtually. The concert will feature performances from award-winning South Africa artists Zoe Modiga, Shekhinah, Andile Yenana, Blaq Diamond, Thandi Ntulu, Ami Faku and others.

Modiga has been using the past few months to reflect and write music on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and other social ills across the globe.

“Initially it was a very devastating time because there was a lot of plans and hard work that was put into the year. It seems like all that hard work was for nothing. But it started being a time to reflect as well and to improve. It’s also been a great time to release my album Inganekwane, which is a love letter to Black bodies around the world.”

Although she draws her energy from live audiences — Zoe says she slowly adjusting to the new norm and excited to perform for a virtual audience.

“I consider myself to be an empath and it is very much a power that I use when there is a live audience. When I’m in a space with people, I really feel everyone’s spirit and emotion and I really feel. I can connect with an audience a lot better with live interaction. I definitely do miss that. But in these times I’m trying to perform in good faith knowing that people that are watching the show are excited to experience something and excited to be watching. So I will definitely have that at the back of my mind.”

Anxiety

Teacher and pianist, Andile Yenana, says the lockdown created a lot of anxiety for him.

“I remember from lockdown stage 5 will I ever come out of this, alive? Will the music industry still be there? We are waiting for 1 and what happens after 1 will it ever be normal?”

However, Level 2 has awarded Yenana the opportunity to travel from KZN and be part of the Arts Alive festival.

“I come from a generation where things were done differently. So live for me will always be live. I’m slowly getting into this digital sphere; it’s the real industrial revolution coming so I can’t be left outside. Preparing for the Sunday show was a bit of a challenge I live outside of Gauteng. I’m in KZN so I had to travel. The last time I was in a plane was in January so you can imagine what kind of anxiety I had.”

Vocalist and composer Thandi Ntuli is still trying to wrap her head around the virtual space. She says preparing for the show and performing with a band is something she has been longing for.

“It’s the first show that I really played at this year. And I look forward to how we are going to be making art going forward. The live space really makes it wonderful to interact with the audience. And I feel like the audience is part of the band because the energy that people bring to the show is part of the music. Working on a virtual space is a very beautiful space in terms of, it gives people who are not in the city or in the country to watch what it is that is being streamed.”

Arts Alive events will be recorded at the Joburg Theatre and in other regions of the City. The festival will showcase visual arts, educational workshops and master classes, music, theatre, poetry, dance within the month of September as well stretching through until December.