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ROOTS TO FRUITS (article first published : 2006-03-18)

Well-known Durban musician Richard Haslop, who can be heard every Wednesday evening on SAFM at 23h00 will talk about, and play, recordings of his eclectic and unique kind of music in a programme titled Roots to Fruits in Person at the KZNSA Gallery on March 23.

D’ARTS editor Caroline Smart asked Richard how he came by the title Roots to Fruits.

“Well, it rhymes for a start,” was his characteristic laconic reply, “and I wanted the word `roots’ in it because the main focus is on so-called roots music from around the world. I also play a fair amount of old music (I recently played an American gospel song from 1897 and a Chinese piece from 1906), as well as a lot that's pretty modern, challenging, and even experimental. So I play the roots of the music, and the fruits of those roots.”

Well-known Durban artist Aidan Walsh came up with the idea of Roots to Fruits in Person and approached Richard who, being “naturally evangelical” about the music he liked, thought it was a great one. It is expected that the evening will be sequenced as a radio show might be, with linking chat. Richard intends to be “not too formal”. “I hope people will be encouraged to listen as they might at home, to talk among themselves - hopefully about the music - and generally to enjoy themselves.”

Richard describes himself as being interested in any music, no matter what the genre, that doesn't fit into the mainstream. He is especially attracted to music with both soul and edge - music that requires something from the listener.

"Though focusing on so-called "roots" music, Roots To Fruits is designed to reach those musical parts the other programmes don't,” Richard describes his SAFM programme. “So, while you might expect to hear contemporary and traditional folk, pre- and post-war blues, bluegrass, twang, Afropop, reggae and dub, Celtic, cajun and zydeco, classic R&B and soul, gospel, some uproarious rock 'n roll and a stylistic and alphabetical range of regional and cultural music from Albanian gypsy songs to John Zorn's radical Jewish experiments, you might just as easily hear a raucous '60s garage band and some interesting jazz too."

He maintains that his taste in music has always been for “stuff that's outside of the mainstream”. As a youngster, he started with blues, soul and rock from the margins, and then embracing folk, country, bluegrass, Cajun and zydeco, reggae, jazz, classical and music from other regions, more or less in that order.

“There are, in my view, two main streams of rock,” he adds. “The white blues stream that takes in Eric Clapton and endless self-indulgent guitar solos, and the Velvet Underground/punk stream that doesn't. I used to be impressed by the former when I was a teenager, but I'm not anymore.”

1967 was a watershed year for rock music and at the age of 14, the young Richard was already listening more widely than his friends, and reading the British music magazines like Melody Maker, New Musical Express, Disc & Music Echo and Beat Instrumental.

“I had also quite recently discovered Bob Dylan,” he says. “I think my attraction to the guitar was inevitable in the circumstances. I'm not sure I had actually seen anyone play other than my uncle - who played cowboy songs quite badly. I taught myself the guitar, and then, years later, to read music.”

In the '70s, Richard started playing the mandolin, which became his instrument of choice for several years. Having returned to the guitar about 20 years ago, he now generally only plays slide guitar, or dobro, or lap steel - anything that he can fret with a metal bar. He also has a bouzouki, a bodhran, a valiha, several tin whistles and he admits to still hankering after a banjo.

While he does not consider himself a formal musicologist, he has lectured several courses in the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s music department, mainly relating to the history of African-American popular music but also on the music business itself - and once even on the history of country music.

In addition, he has written quite extensively on popular music for various publications for more than 20 years, and continues to do so - especially for Business Day, the Weekender and Audio Video. He lectures Labour Dispute Resolution at the School for Legal Practice, and practises by day as a specialist labour and employment lawyer.

Roots to Fruits in Person takes place at the KZNSA Gallery at 18h30 for 19h00 on March 23. Tickets R50 include light supper and a cash bar is available. Seating is limited so booking is essential through Ida on 031 277 1702.




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