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There’s a music venue in Cape Town set in the basement of an iconic church, and though a little rough around the edges, it’s still one of the best, and most unique, places in the city to watch live jazz.
Cape Town was once a city packed full of celebrated music venues. But these days there appears to be a limited number of spots where you can go to watch a good live performance. Be it fickle audiences, bad venue management, or a dearth of suitable performers, locations and opportunities to witness high quality live performances have dwindled in recent years.
There’s one venue, however, that appears to have stood the test of time. Set in the basement of the iconic St George’s Cathedral, designed by celebrated architect Herbert Baker and built in the early 1900s, you’ll find The Crypt.
With vaulted ceilings, gothic windows and antique stone pillars, there can be few more authentically atmospheric venues in the city for live performances. And given the history of the church beneath which The Crypt rests – South Africa’s first black archbishop Desmond Tutu lead many marches against apartheid from these very steps – it appears fitting that the location lives on in a musical form.
History and important heritage aside, The Crypt is now most proud about its contribution to the local jazz scene. “The Crypt is the only jazz venue in the Cape that provide live jazz five evenings every week,” says co-owner and musician Derk Blaisse. “There is a professional jazz band every night, and on the Tuesday there is a Jam Session with a Trio (guitar, bass, drums) and a young guest player.”
Over the years, the Crypt has built strong connections with local jazz musicians. “We need the musicians and the musicians need The Crypt. Through the years we have invited local bands, some of them we knew through musicians who played with my band Cape Dutch Connection. Many players come from Gugulethu, and to a lesser extent from Kayelitsha and Langa.”
The owners have also developed a good relationship with music schools at local universities, and they make an effort to support young and undiscovered talent.
According to Blaisse, jazz still forms a small part of the local music scene. “Classical music, pop music, and gospel singing is much bigger than the sort of ‘elite’ jazz,” he says. And yet in spite of this, The Crypt has managed to keep its head above water on the local scene since 2013.
Though it’s not without some criticism, usually relating to food and service, the recipe of fine musicians in a truly unique inner city location makes this Cape Town’s ultimate venue for jazz lovers. The Crypt is closed on Sunday and Monday, and you can reserve a table by texting 079 683 4658 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.