Category: Music

Lionel Loueke performs in the DSG Hall in Grahamstown on 3 July 2015 at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Loueke is originally from Benin in West Africa but is currently living in New York. (Photo: CUEPIX/Kate Janse van Rensburg)

As I look back on this year’s Standard Bank Jazz Festival, I realise how much music I missed. But I had some great highs: Lionel Loueke’s exciting collaboration with four SA artists, whom he praised effusively on stage, was the stand-out gig for me. Vocalist Siya Makuzeni, flugelhorn/trumpet player Marcus Wyatt, bassist Shane Cooper, and drummer Ayande Sikade clearly loved working with this magical Benin-born guitarist.

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Pianist Joanna Wicherek and soprano Michal Slawecki perform during their recital called Poems, in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. The Polish duo has been collaborating for the last eight years and has successfully been performing the most significant Polish contemporary music, written for a male soprano and the piano. (Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe)

From its flyer I am instantly intrigued by Poems. The performers’ faces are halved against a black background that is highlighted in multi-coloured techno lights. It looks like a unique expression of modern classical music. And it is.

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Mr Duda and J'Something of the headlining act Mi Casa at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The house band performed many of the crowd favourites, prompting them to get on their feet and join in dance.
(Photo: CuePix/Sithasolwazi Kentane)

The men of Mi Casa wear stylish shoes and, happily, their performance to a packed Guy Butler Theatre on Friday matched their flashy footwear.

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Multi-award winning South African musician, Thandiswa Mazwai, performs in a concert in the Guy Butler Theatre in Grahamstown on 11 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. (Photo: CuePix/Hlumela Mkabile)

Cue reporters Lesedi Ntuli and Thandi Bombi spoke to Thandiswa Mazwai ahead of her performance in the Guy Butler Theatre at the National Arts Festival on 11 July 2015.

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Ray Phiri performs at the Guy Butler Theatre in Grahamstown on 10 June 2015 at the 2015 National Arts Festival.  Phiri has received many awards
in recognition for his contribution in the music industry, including, in 2011, the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, South
Africa’s highest civilian honour for excellence and contribution to the arts, and, in 2012, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South African Music Awards (SAMA). (Photo: CUEPIX/Kate Janse van Rensburg)

Three days ago, while reaching for a suitcase to pack for his Grahamstown trip, Ray Phiri, the grand old man of mbaqanga music, falls off a chair and breaks three ribs.

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Multi-award winning South African musician, Thandiswa Mazwai, performs in a concert in the Guy Butler Theatre in Grahamstown on 11 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. (Photo: CuePix/Hlumela Mkabile)

Kimon de Greef Cue specialist writer took over the Monument on Saturday night and knocked this festival’s lights out. What a show! From before she walked on (fifteen minutes late, but quite honestly who cares) people were on their feet. Many remained that way for the entire performance. Afterwards she emerged from the wings. Fans mobbed her for hugs and photographs. She was weeping; they were weeping. And then, just moments later, she was gone.

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Zimbabwean music legend Oliver Mtukudzi performs at DSG Hall venue in Grahamstown on 10 July 2015; at the 2015 National Arts Festival. The singer/guitarist performed to a fully booked venue.  Mtukudzi is joined on stage by Alice Muringayi on vocals, Enock Piriro on bass guitar and Tendai Samson Mataure on drums. (Photo: CUEPIX/Niamh Walsh-Vorster)

It took seven minutes for Oliver Mtukudzi and his band to get on stage. It took less than three for him to have me in tears. The Zimbabwean-born musician is an emcee, adjudicating the dance electric – and last night, in front of a packed crowd at DSG Hall, he gave the performance of a lifetime.

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Don Laka performs at the DSG Hall in Grahamstown on 10 July 2015 at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Laka has been a performer, composer and producer for nearly four decades. (Photo: CUEPIX/Kate Janse van Rensburg)

I arrive ten minutes late for Don Laka’s show, at the tail-end of his first song. Worried I wouldn’t get a seat, my fears are abated when I see a few empty seats sprinkled around the venue. It’s amazing to me that one of the most important living pianists in South Africa is just barely filling up a show. Nonetheless, the sonic adventure he provides makes up for this slightly-above-lukewarm reception of Laka by Festival audiences.

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Lulama Gawulana performs with South African Jazz Classics at the Standard bank jazz café venue in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Gawulana was joined on stage by Sakhile Simani on trumpet and Donné Dowlman on bass guitar. (Photo: CUEPIX/Niamh Walsh-Vorster)

I was highly critical last year of the Standard Bank Jazz and Blues Café venue. It was an acoustic disaster, and had zero atmosphere. Reassured that this year’s venue (Saints Bistro in High St) was a very different story, I ventured forth on Thursday night to hear a quartet of Eastern Cape musicians pay tribute to our South African jazz heritage. I was, I must confess, familiar with only one of the musicians: trumpeter/ flugelhorn player, Sikhele Simani, and that only recently, when he impressed with his beautiful sound and good taste in Siya Makuzeni’s band at DSG Hall. (Drummer Lloyd Martin was not originally billed in the NAF printed programme).

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Photo: Henry Engelbrecht

The Runaway Train Cult is a collective  of accomplished musicians. They  are certainly not a “cover band”, they’re  just so much better. Instead of the usual  note-for-note repetition of the classics,  the musicians “de-compose” and  reconstruct familiar tunes by adding  their particular flavour, ensuring that  your feet keep tapping.

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