Forest Jam

No Generation Gap


For five years Forest Jam, an international non-profit organization, brought together musicians from different generations, backgrounds & cultures and let them create as a single team. Forest Jam offered an alternative opportunity for young & aspiring artists to gain an experience beyond their usual musical education.

The initial concept of Forest Jam came from a Afro/Swiss gathering in the mountains of Central Switzerland. The goal was to unite experienced- and teach the inexperienced musicians and artists from different generations, backgrounds & cultures and let them work together in local teams across Southern Africa. Forest Jam offered an opportunity for young artists (both local and international) to experience art and music on a One2One basis. The organization was based on a holistic experience, which means they not only exchanged creative ideas and made music together but to overcome cultural differences and age-related reservations. The cultural exchange is as important as the musical exchange which made Forest Jam an outstanding experience for young artists. Participants gained insight to the traditions of the respective region where some of the finest Legends were teaching or participate in tours and events of traditional- and contemporary music.

Throughout its 5 years of existence the Forest Jam Experiment was supported by national and international cultural organizations like the South African, Swiss (Pro Helvetia), German (Goethe Institut) Arts Councils, private individuals, parents and operated out of Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.



During a prolonged stay in his home country Switzerland, Robert Trunz (founder of music label Melt 2000) came into contact with various young Swiss musicians who complained about the overly academic methods of teaching music. It motivated him to not only offer his network and contacts in the music business but to give them access to mainly Southern African artists. The original FOREST JAM Club was founded 2014 in Switzerland after a week long international gathering in Melchtal with students and professionals from South Africa, Madagascar, Holland and Brasil.


After months of preparation and research Forest Jam gathered mid March 2015 in Antananarivo for 6 weeks of workshops, rehearsals, Radio & TV appearances topped by several gigs in the capital and in Diego Suarez. 6 musicians from Madagascar worked closely with artists from South Africa, Senegal and Switzerland. Forest Jam Madagascar is continued by local Acapella group Sa-Roy - a team of three young musicians from Tuliar.
The project was supported by the local Goethe-Zentrum Antananarivo / Cercle Germano-Malaga and Pro Helvetia.


Two of the South African non-profit organization Forest Jam are luminaries of the local music scene, Madala Kunene (Zulu) and Mabi Gabriel Thobejane (Pedi). The two legends have been part of the national and international music scene for more than 5 decades thus bring a correspondingly rich experience with them. They represent two of the very influential and diversified ethnic- and rich traditional music groups of South Africa. Forest Jam Southern Africa operate out of Durban (KwaZulu-Natal). In the background are young local musicians, students and an administrative team from South Africa and Switzerland which enables the practical implementation of ongoing educational projects. In 2015/16 Forest Jam worked on a project to project basis with the kind support of Concerts SA for national tours but also with volunteers from the music industry who are supporting the cause of the cultural musician exchange organization. The international aspect of projects were generously supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia (Johannesburg), the Goethe Institute (Johannesburg) and the Goethe Centre CGM (Antananarivo). FOREST JAM’s educational goal is to encourage our veteran artists and masters to pass on their precious knowledge to selected young musicians who can join the organization’s programs from different countries in Southern Africa (SADC) and Europe. Forest Jam gatherings emphasis on team spirit of living and working together making music beyond conventional borders of style and age and convey awareness of the African musical heritage.


Forest Jam Senegal is the youngest member and has two pillars. On the one hand the acquaintance with some members of the Griot family Cissokho, whose family home or training facility is located in the capital Dakar. The contact provides an insight into a centuries-old musical tradition that has spread throughout West Africa during the period of the Kingdom of Mali. On the other hand, the Swiss- Senegalese trio Siselabonga that attempts to fuse elements of traditional with western music.


Madagascar based Acapella Trio Sa Roy toured their collaborative album PELAKOLO in the Southern region of Africa with musicians from South Africa, Nigeria and Switzerland. They were joined by Legend Madala Kunene. The album and tour are a result of FOREST JAM helping young artists to realize the dream to take their tradition beyond their region or national borders.
PELAKOLO tells the story of 3 young men who grew up together in the Androy region on the Southern tip of the island of Madagascar. Sa Roy;s musical style is influenced by thier vocal training which includers Acapella, mandolin-, acoustic guitar and traditional percussion and Tandroy dance.
The exchange, sharing and experience they gained during a collaboration project with FOREST JAM in 2015 gave them the opportunity to improve their musical style. The album was produced and engineered in Madagascar and South Africa by Swiss Producer and musician Matthias Abaecherli. The album features Lerato Lichaba on electric guitar, Zoe Molelekwa on keyboards, Gontse Makhene & Mabi Thobejane on percussion, Matthias on bass and violin and Madala Kunene on vocals. Executive Producer Robert Trunz.




"Thobejane describes their playing style is a catch-up conversation between friends, with traits of overfamiliarity and traces of how seriously and intuitively they approach music."
From Kwanele Sosibo’s article in Mail & Guardian 14th December 2018

2018 has been 50 years since the two South African Legends Madala Kunene and Mabi Gabriel Thobejane first shared a stage. Both have since followed a path of collaborations with many local and international musicians showing the true spirit of social cohesion on their travel always teaching and preaching the youth their cultures and heritage.



THEMBA MOKOENA has been playing the guitar for more than 40 years, backing artists such as Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, Mpharanyana, Simphiwe Dana, Gibson Kente and others. He also mentored Ray Phiri and Jimmy Dludlu. While he continues to play after reirement, Mokoena believes “its time to pass on the baton”, and his greatest wish is to pass on his legacy to the younger generation by establishing a school of music.

“I have traveled around the world, made my mark and believe now it is time to go back home to pass on the knowledge I acquired over the years, to the younger generation. I would know that I have done my job if there could be a school where I can nurture young talent, but without funding it remains a dream.”

Both MADALA KUNENE and THEMBA MOKOENA belong to a group of the finest guitarist out of the province of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Both are retired but carry on playing and give small classes and lectures mostly for free but need a small hut or class room to nurture young talent.



This group was born out of a 2015 gathering with local and international musicians in Madagascar. For their 2017 tour SA ROY collaborated with South African/Swiss Forest Jam Band featuring Matthias Abaecherli, Fabio Meier, Gontse Makhene and for some concerts with Madala Kunene.

SA ROY’s debut album PELAKOLO tells the story of 3 young men who grew up together in the Androy region on the Southern part of the island of Madagascar. SaRoy’s musical style is influenced by their vocal training which includes Acapella, mandolin, acoustic guitar, traditional percussion playing and tradtional Tandroy dance.

The exchange, sharing and experience they gained during a collabortion project with FOREST JAM in 2015 gave them the opportunity to improve their musical style. Soaraza Patrick Thomas, the songwriter talks about friendship and hardship, addresses corruption and exploitation of their natural resources. He sings about the crime of having their livestock stolen, climatic changes resulting in famine. Soaraza’s song about his anscestor shows deep respect and his love songs are beautiful in their simplicity.


Herrliche Songs, verpackt in eine ungewöhnliche Instrumentierung – kluge Arrangements, die aufhorchen lassen. Siselabonga entstanden aus einer Begegnung über die Kulturen hinweg, nicht aus einem Konzept. Die so gewachsene Freundschaft und Dringlichkeit beseelt ihre Debut-CD „Binta“ und unterscheidet sich wohltuend von vielen schöngeistigen Produktionen über kulturelle Grenzen hinweg. Das Trio mit dem senegalesischen Griot Tarang Cissokho, dem schweizerisch-süditalienischen Sänger/Gitarristen Glauco Cataldo und dem Schweizer Perkussionisten Fabio Meier umschifft stilsicher weltmusikalische Klischees und entführt lustvoll in unbekannte Gefilde. Die jungen Musiker kennen weder Scheuklappen noch Berührungsängste und erschaffen ein melodiöses Klanguniversum, in dem sich Mandingo-Tradition, Singer-Songwriter, Pop und improvisierte Musik begegnen und in einen berührenden Dialog treten. Da begleitet Fabios virtuos reduziertes Spiel auf der Kalebasse wie ein Herzschlag das Zwiegespräch von Glaucos geheimnisvoll lautmalender Stimme mit der gelassen dahinperlenden Kora von Tarang. Dann wieder betten sich wunderbare mehrstimmige Gesänge auf die mäandernden, dicht verwobenen Riffs der Saiteninstrumente. Die Grenzen zwischen traditionellen und modernen Klängen aus Afrika und Europa lösen sich auf, ohne aber die Wurzeln zu verleugnen. Siselabonga laden ein zu einer hoffnungsvoll schönen Entdeckungstour, die der Seele wohltut.


For a month, seven instrumentalists from two continents meet and try to create a common musical language beyond their linguistic and cultural boundaries. Together they tour their music across Switzerland and play concerts.

Kalifa Diabaté, Moumouni Sanou, Eliace Sanou and André Ouattara are four young, traditional musicians from Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, forming the Yekognouma formation. Jul Dillier, Pascal Eugster and Samuel Messerli are three young Swiss Jazzmusikers from Obwalden, Neuchâtel and Zurich formed the Trio Naamu. Together they are FRÈRES DE SON – BROTHERS IN SOUND.

The repertoire of “Frères de Son” consists mainly of traditional Burkina pieces, as well as of jointly developed compositions. The pieces, however, are not rehearsed for month . They were created during four days of rehearsals at the beginning of the tour and are then sent on the journey as they were. They grow, change and develop with and through the band’s shared experiences, and may sound completely different at the last concert compared to the first.

Music is a language that is understood worldwide. The “Frères de Son” project aims to open up a direct dialogue with other cultures in order to inspire people to think about their linguistic and cultural boundaries, to look and to listen.


Back to top