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RICHARD WALNE & BURLESQUE (article first published : 2005-03-15)

Organisers of the Easter weekend’s Splashy Fen Music Festival have chosen Richard Walne and his Burlesque Super Group to fill their prestigious and much-prized Saturday night ‘showcase’ spot. The singer-songwriter has, in one guise or another, played at every one of the Underberg gatherings since their inauguration in 1990.

That was when audiences were treated to a solo Richard Walne with acoustic guitar delivering what he calls “intricate hippie songs”. The intervening years have witnessed Richard’s musical evolution encompass the “punkabilly-rockabilly trio” of Point Sirens and “good-time jazz ensemble” of Alright On The Night.

The previous two editions of Splashy Fen saw him front the 10-piece Burlesque Super Group, which has been upped to a dozen strong for Splashy 05. With horn players and back-up singers augmenting the standard line-up of rhythm section, keyboards and guitar, Richard describes his outfit as a “barrelhouse band with elements of avant-garde cabaret – and a bit of an edge”. The narrative thread is one of “beauty and sadness ... whose dividing line is often hard to distinguish”.

Fans will have a full hour and a half to decipher the Richard Walne experience, and he’s unsurprisingly delighted to be rewarded with the extended opportunity to air his visionary talents. “It proves that all the beer I’ve drunk at all those Splashy Fens wasn’t totally in vain!” Not to be confused with a lager-lout, however, he quickly added the more philosophical “Life has the potential to be extremely dreary, but creating music and having an outlet such as Splashy Fen allows me to restore the balance”.

Festival-goers will find the Burlesque Super Group anything but dreary, as in addition to crafting finely-honed ‘pop’ songs, Richard Walne is widely regarded as a highly entertaining front-man. And there’s no doubt that he intends taking full advantage of the ‘star billing’ to further make his presence felt.

Copies of the new, self-released double-CD Veranda Cigarettes will be on sale at Splashy Fen 2005: the collection of ambient electronica and folktronica is being championed on SAfm by DJ Richard Haslop in his late-night Wednesday Roots To Fruits’ programme.

For the history and current activities of Splashy Fen Music Festivals, visit www.splashyfen.co.za




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