Tshepo Maseko is an activist who uses jazz to deliver a powerful message to today’s young South Africans. “I started It Has To Be Jazz (IHTBJ) to show the youth that there is a bright future for them. This was after I had a tough time myself in 2016, when I quit my job and decided to fulfil my dream of helping unrecorded artists establish their careers. I insisted on just one thing: it had to be jazz,” says Tshepo, who focuses on artists aged 18-35.

“I met many talented young people who were so discouraged that they were considering dropping their music to pursue other careers,” he says.

Thanks to Tshepo’s efforts, 10 albums have been recorded for artists from Malawi, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The initiative stretches beyond music and includes shaping well-rounded young entrepreneurs. IHTBJ has published inspirational books and created a documentary about its work and impact on young lives.

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“We also host workshops and discussions called Know Your Change, where we have frank discussions about the challenges young people face, such as financial problems, peer pressure and establishing career goals, and assist where we can.”

Sebaga Rabantheng (19) is a saxophonist who has been given countless opportunities thanks to IHTBJ. “In this line of work, it’s all about the number of doors that lead to opportunities,” she says.

Drummer Dylan Lebekwe (20) continues to benefit from the project. He says: “I never used to take my music seriously until I got involved with IHTBJ and Know Your Change. It was a wake-up call.”

To find out more, visit: @ithastobejazz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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