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MUSIC AT NAF (article first published : 2008-05-30)

Massed ensembles of big names, big voices and fabulous instruments are a strong feature of the main music and jazz programmes for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown

An extravagant fanfare of talent salutes the Standard Bank’s 25-year partnership with the National Arts Festival: An African Celebration brings together on stage two 2008 Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winners – soprano Zanne Stapelberg and jazzman extraordinaire Mark Fransman – as well as established stars Sibongile Khumalo, Themba Mkhize, Sibongile Mngoma, the Bala Brothers, Nicholas Nicolaidis, Concorde Nkabinde, Shannon Mowday and Debbie Rakusin’s dance company. Direction is by Janice Honeyman with music direction by Janine Neethling.

The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra is set to make the most of the glorious acoustics in the Guy Butler Auditorium during an Orchestral Concert featuring Zanne Stapelberg as soloist under the baton of Peter Valentovic. They also present a Proms-style Gala Concert with the ebullient Richard Cock at the helm and the orchestra accompanies the South African Ballet Theatre production of Don Quixote.

As always the Jazz programme offers fans a feast of big band sound with the Festival Big Band, the National Schools’ Big Band and a new Youth Jazz Choir.

Mokale Koapeng conducts the powerful Cantus Africana chamber choir in two programmes – one dedicated to top composer Joseph Pulumo Mohapeloa, and a second the music of other African composers including Mnomiya and Volans. Sharpening the focus on the African singing voice, For Letta, Sound of a Rainbow celebrates Letta Mbulu’s life in music. The performers include Sibongile Khumalo, Ringo Madlingozi, Mimi Ntenjwa and Themba Mkhize.

The Songs of Madosini, an oratorio by Hans Huyssen, is performed by the Amici String Quartet and the maestra of the uhadi bow song, Madosini Latozi Mpahleni. Presented by the Eastern Cape’s Department of Arts and Culture, Umrhube – indigenous music offers audiences a precious opportunity to experience the time-honoured songs of abaThembu and amamPondo accompanied by traditional instruments. Some of the performers sing in split-tone style.

88 Tuned Drums – Facets of African Pianism brings the old Africa together with the new. Nigerian academic Dr Christian Onyeji starts the programme with an explanatory talk and sound illustrations. Pianist Jill Richards follows with a recital. Gauteng-based tenor Nicholas Nikolaidis (tenor) and Anneke Lamont (piano) present a Lieder Recital while Marc Uys (violin) and Jacqueline Kerrod (harp) offer two memorable programmes titled Clockwise. The Amici String Quartet’s second appearance features music by Haydn, Dvoøák and Wolf.

The Johannesburg Guitar Quartet is set to dazzle with their virtuosity and a programme that ranges through the Baroque, African and Latin repertoires. Jetting in from Mexico, the nine-member group Na’rimbo proves that exciting sounds can ensue when an African instrument like the marimba becomes naturalised across the sea.

Other dynamic visitors abound on the Festival’s Jazz stage. This year the international squad includes Israelis, Norwegians and Swedes, Swiss and Dutch artists and musos from the UK and the USA. They play in ensemble and in collaboration with their African peers, creating unique sound synergies. The local line-up is dazzling: Louis Mhlanga, Themba Mkhize, Brian Thusi, Shannon Mowday, Mark Fransman, Carlo Mombelli, Steve Dyer, Kesivan Naidoo, Marcus Wyatt, Siya Makuzeni, Neil Gonsalves, Frank Paco … the list goes on. Vocalists include Sibongile Khumalo, Melanie Scholtz and Abigail Petersen.

There are late-night Jazz Jam sessions with the young performers taking part in the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival and special slots for Eastern Cape combos like The Kouga Jazz Band, the Fiks Jazz Band from Port Elizabeth and Queenstown singer Bossorito Sana. The Jazz Festival programme winds up with celebrity concerts by a veteran and a new star: Zimbabwe’s singer/guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi has 40 original best-selling albums to his credit, and young South African sweetheart, Lira, is striding confidently into the limelight in the eye-catching outfits Stoned Cherry designs for her.

The 34th anniversary of the National Arts Festival runs from June 26 to July 5 and is proudly supported by The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za

The free Festival Booking Kit is now available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide. Fringe booking is now open.




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