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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MARK FRANSMAN (article first published : 2007-10-25)

Mark Fransman (31), winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz, can play just about any instrument and writes and produces music but is probably best known for his jazz piano playing.

Mark is an easy-going, engaging individual, a trait that is evident in his music. “I am passionate about engaging with people on a more intimate level. I want my audiences to be drawn into the creative journey with me – it is not only about being entertained”, he explains. “All of my music has a message and I take social issues very seriously. I write songs about issues of the world but they all have positive messages, as I want people to feel good about themselves and to walk tall,” he says.

Mark is a true Capetonian, born and then schooled at Belgravia High School. He was brought up in a musical household with his mother teaching adult and children’s choirs. It was his mum who sent him to classical piano lessons, however he chips in:“most of my playing is done by ear.”

He started his tertiary musical education at the Academy in Belville and during this time he teamed up with David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen in their musicals Poison and Kat and the Kings. Mark received the FNB Vita Award for the most outstanding performer in musical theatre (1995/6) for his role in Kat and the Kings.

Mark received a bursary to study a Jazz Performer’s Diploma at the University of Cape Town. It was during this time that he started to play with Jimmy Dludlu which snowballed him into the jazz community in Cape Town. He has performed with the likes of Pharao Sanders, Winston Mankunku, Rene McLean, Hein van de Geyn, Zim Ngqawana, Gloria Bosman, Selealo Selota, Steve Dyer, Judith Sephuma, Dave Young and many others. He has also shared the stage with Cedar Walton, Andrew Hill, Donald Brown, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Danilo Perez and Yusef Lateef.

On international stages, he has performed in Europe at the Euro d’ Afrique Festival in Italy along with Yusuf N’dour and Papa Wemba, the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague in 2000 and 2002 and the Swedish Jazz Celebration in Stockholm, Sweden in 2006. Locally, Mark has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Cape Town /Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival and the Old Mutual Jazz Festivals along with all the big names.

Mark’s talent has overflowed into other musical arenas. He started his well-known band, Strait and Narro, which has released albums Ahead and Johnnie Walker Jazz Impressions vol.1. The band was extremely lucky as it was the only South African band to be selected by the Department of Arts and Culture to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 2004. Mark is the composer, leader and arranger of the band which boasts a new breed of musicians such as Buddy Wells, Lee Thomson, Kevin Gibson, Gavin Minter and Melanie Scholtz. This seven-piece band has a wide range of sounds incorporating fresh urban South African music, fused with elements of hip-hop, trip-hop, soul, funk and jazz.

In his spare time, Mark teaches at the University of Cape Town, a pastime he feels strongly about. “I feel that I should be putting back something of what I have got out of music,” he admits. Apart from this busy schedule, Mark is passionate about his family. He married his childhood sweetheart Ricky and they have two daughters (4 and 1).

On acceptance of this award, Mark admitted that he has aspired to being one of the prestigious winners of the Standard Bank Young Artists Awards as many of his friends have been recipients, but he never dreamt that he would be one of them. “I am truly grateful to be acknowledged in this light by Standard Bank and look forward to the challenge of having my own show on the jazz programme at the National Arts Festival in 2008,” he enthused.

The National Arts Festival will run from June 26 to July 5, 2008, in Grahamstown. For further information visit the website www.nafest.co.za




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