About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

18 February 2012

Abdullah Ibrahim and the New South African Orchestra

A legend in the South African music scene, this was the first time I actually had the opportunity to attend a live performance. Playing with an 18 piece big band/orchestra, the concert featured a lot of his own compositions and some tributes to jazz legends. I say legends due to the reaction of a full house at the Linder Auditorium, since my own knowledge of Jazz is quite limited.

The contrast between jazz performances and classical performances I usually attend at the Linder is quite stark. For starters, applause and audience appreciation is not constrained by etiquette of waiting for the end of the piece. The performers also acknowledged a hearty applause with a short bow, while the rest of the band members carried on! The dress code of the performers is also relaxed - no tuxedos and ties to be seen, although most of the audience was a lot more dressed up!

The performance was mostly very lively and enjoyable. Abdullah Ibrahim was the MC, but he did tend to mumble a bit. The project, if I understood correctly was about making musical performances more accessible. In that sense, I don't think it was a great success. At R220 a ticket, it is far outside the reach of most people. Without a program an more information on the pieces themselves it is not easy to follow for non jazz followers.

It was still a great experience, and though I don't follow jazz a very enjoyable evening.

15 February 2012

Presenting the Buskaid Academy

Another addition to the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival this year was the Buskaid Ensemble, playing a concert in the wonderful Villa Arcadia. The mansion was once the home of a mining magnate (in the early 1900's), and then an orphanage (probably the most scenic orphanage around) and now part of Hollard's corporate campus (the story can be found here). The views are absolutely stunning, and the gardens have been well maintained - we even spotted an owl in the gardens!

But the highlight was the Buskaid. Once again, they played a brilliant mix of classical, contemporary and the traditional; and once again their choice of classical music makes them stand out from other classical ensembles. The entire classical set was the music of Le Chevalier de Saint-George - the black Mozart (and a contemporary of Mozart).

The evening started off with a movement from his Symphony No 2, followed by a selection of musical pieces from his ballet, L’amant anonyme. One of the great things about Rosemary Nalden, the Buskaid founder, is her passion to talk about the music instead of just performing it. So, after the ballet piece, we got a short talk on the different styles of performing string music (and how it has changed over the course of time) including the influence of equipment (such as the bows) and also how different the sound is from the different playing styles.

An alumnus, Kabelo Motlhomi (who went on to study music in the UK) was the soloist, in Chevalier de Saint-George's first violin concerto. Chevalier de Saint-George was himself a flamboyant violin player; and Kabelo's performance was brilliant; thoroughly deserving the rousing applause at the end of his performance.

In "celebration" of Valentine's Day, the rest of the concert was lighter, romantic songs with some Buskaid members singing. Before the start of the lighter stuff, Rosemary made the comment that it has been 15 years since the Buskaid formally started as a music school in Soweto. The 15 years has been remarkably successful, in producing great musicians. So, she feels that the Buskaid should no longer be a project - but an academy for string music and performance art. It is the closest thing South Africa has to the El Sistema - and I wish the Buskaid Academy all the best! And I will continue to go to Buskaid concerts whenever I can ... they are truly one of the best musical ensembles in South Africa.