JOHANNESBURG — Jazz musician Roy Ayers on Friday offered some rhythmic advice for youths in Johannesburg’s Soweto area: Get serious, be inspired, rap on, keep on and “eventually you’ll get it.”

Ayers, who is in South Africa for a music festival, radiated enthusiasm while urging a couple of dozen people at an arts center to “vibe on” role models even if they don’t always meet expectations. His audience responded with nods and applause, and the composer of the 1976 hit “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” had his chance to clap when performers took the microphone to sing, rap, play drums and recite poetry.

“You guys, you have to pick your plateau. Get serious about everything,” said Ayers, a Los Angeles-born vocalist and vibraphone player who has delved into a range of musical genres, including funk and rhythm and blues.

“All these people that you admire in life, these people, whoever they are, they are people that inspired you. Sometimes you don’t really concentrate on it, but you have to get to that point,” said Ayers, who has performed at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival in Johannesburg that ends Saturday.

Ayers named a few musicians who have inspired him: Nigerian Fela Kuti (“he was really like a genius”), Herbie Mann (“he taught me the business”) and Miles Davis (“He was the coolest. He was the grandmaster. He was out of sight”).

The American musician stood in front of a painting that included images of Nelson Mandela and former archbishop Desmond Tutu, towering figures in the history of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.

Rapula Pelle, an audience member, told Ayers that he was inspiring.

“Seeing you here, you’re giving us strength and that power and wisdom to continue. I bless you, my father,” Pelle said.

Ayers, who turned 77 this month, said he has been working hard and suggested he was on the cusp of something new.

“I’m just making it now,” he said.


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CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
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