LOCAL MUSIC SHOULD MAKE OUR WORLD GO ROUND AND EVERYONE SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION

It was almost luck that I got to catch two musical documentaries at the recent Silwerskerm Fees. Musical prophet Danie Marais pointed the way and it was an extraordinary morning of two remarkable musical documents anyone interested in local music should try to see. Sadly, even at this festival, the attendance for these two searing films on the way music is used and abused was dismal – not even the local press seemed interested. DIANE DE BEER reviews and reveals more about MUTANT and DIE ONGETEMDE STEM:

Mutant pictures: Christian Imraan

Die Ongetemde Stem pictures: screen grabs

Mutant (directed and conceived by Lebogang Rasethaba and Nthato Mokgato) isn’t for the fainthearted. The Festival guide describes it as an intimate portrait of one of South Africa’s most outspoken and controversial artists and the turbulent, dangerous world he lives in.

I’m not in a position to dispute that, but I was gripped from beginning to end by what is described as an exploration of the rapper Isaac Mutant’s roots in the notorious violence-stricken Cape Flats of Cape Town, as well as his current situation.

This is an activist with a voice, articulate and angry yet reasoned when he explains that while he hates white people, he doesn’t want to kill them. “I just want to live or I would be like the evils I’m trying to fight.”

And he is coming from his reality, living in what he describes as “freedom” in a shack on Hangberg with the affluent Hout Bay and the harbour staring him in the face.

“I just want to live and I suppose everyone just wants to live,” he reinforces.

Still living in a country where apartheid determines lives, Isaac was directed by his sister, who saw him struggling with his anger, to turn to music. “Vent your anger into music,” and while many of his peers describe his lyrics as “hitting the nail too hard”, this is someone who is commenting on the life he lives and the one he experiences every day.

With his music he informs, he speaks his mind; and if democracy isn’t there to protect and nourish at least those dreams, what is the struggle for?

As another artist remarks, she doesn’t necessarily agree with what he is saying, but she admires Mutant for speaking his mind. Agreed!

And for those far removed from this world, it is an education, perhaps a harsh one, but in the separated worlds we still live in today, it’s invaluable. Are we just going to push people who are suffering away and hope the problem resolves itself, or do we at least engage and listen and hopefully understand and embrace?

As a representative for farmworkers explains: When one farmer dies, the world takes notice, but the deaths of farmworkers on a weekly basis are ignored. “Whose life is more valuable?” she asks.

 And that is what Isaac Mutant is fighting for. He might say things that those of us who are privileged don’t want to hear, but the least we can do is listen.

Isaac Mutant fighting for freedom

Or, as the man himself notes: “Let’s not talk, just give it back, give it all back. Everything that was taken away.”

We’re talking about a system which classified people along racial lines. And in those times, this mixed race man was considered black. It’s something he has identified with all his life.

But now, in this new country, he feels he is being shifted along racial lines once again. No longer is he considered black, now he has to identify as coloured.

And these are just some of the issues on the line. And the reason that Mutant has to be watched and Isaac Mutant has to be listened to.

Isaac Mutant in discussion with friends

The film is still on a festival run and has recently been  submitted to Netflix and Comcast for potential licensing deals.

The next festivals to screen it are: Blackstar Film Festival (USA); Rock This Town (France); and

Musical Ecran (France).

On a very different note yet with many of the same issues Die Ongetemde Stem takes a hard and uncompromising look at the Afrikaans music industry and the racial imbalances that still persist almost 30 years into our democracy.

Fraser Barry, Jolyn Phillips and Churchil Naudé, all who have been sidelined.

One would think that especially when people have a language in common, inclusion would be a given particularly  with our past. I was shocked, for example, to hear that someone like the articulate Churchil Naudé who uses his music to express particular feelings, still feels side-lined.

 Even if his music is not going to slot into some sections of Afrikaans music, that’s true of many singers, black and white, or are we still in this new  century going to judge on colour? Surely not?

Revolutionary rockers The Gereformeerde Blues Band in their hey day.

In this new era, rapidly becoming old, everyone writing and performing in a particular language should be embraced. And as the documentary points out, this battle was fought many decades ago by Johannes Kerkorrel and the Gereformeerde Blues Band when they broke through the boundaries of traditional Afrikaans music, which was often translated from European songs and determined by a self-imposed vanguard of elders.

But let Riku Lätti tell the story: “It came to us almost completely by accident while we were busy filming interviews and live performances by a multitude of mostly, but not exclusively, Afrikaans singer-songwriters as Die Wasgoedlyn. 

“Die Wasgoedlyn was a project that originated because I realised that the Afrikaans music that I liked and the Afrikaans music that received airtime and public attention could not be further apart.  I discovered, partly by virtue of being an Afrikaans music creator myself, connected and known to many other creators of original Afrikaans music, and partly because I started the investigation, that there is a magdom (please let’s submit that word to English dictionaries) decent Afrikaans music that for the lack of a better term could be referred to as Alternatiewe Afrikaans.

Arbiter of Afrikaans music the volk should hear; Anton Hartman

 “So Alternatiewe Afrikaans becomes a huge category from hard rock, punk, industrial, electronic, to all the way gritty folk and darker country, hip-hop, Goema, Afrikana (think old-school (and thought of as inappropriate by the Afrikaans music police) boeremusiek like Die Briels en Koos Doep).  Basically every kind of Afrikaans music that you wouldn’t hear on commercial radio stations.   Those are all the styles that I have a personal affinity towards, but never got to hear unless you actually go to the concerts of these musicians and go to see them personally. 

Some of the vocal participants in the documentary.

“Many of my favourite Afrikaans artists I set out to go see personally. I asked them if I could record their music with my mobile recording studio sommer at their homes or wherever we had the good fortune to be.  I released hundreds of these tunes and you can go listen to them if you search for Wasgoedlyn on youtube or itunes, or spotify. Basically, wherever you listen to music online. 

“These recordings by the original artists have a stripped down quality to it, a rawness, a cut- to-the-bone grainy atmosphere, that the environment provides, since these tunes where not recorded in pristine soundproof studios (Go listen to Wasgoedlyn Volume 1 – 3 online you will hear what I mean).”

As David Kramer also reminded us in the documentary (and live as part of the too small audience), Afrikaans was appropriated by the white elite while the origins of the language lay within the brown communities. And again, that was the problem for those who had the power to decide what would be played at the SABC.

Either way, the thing that should in this new millennium be the motivator, is the riches that the different communities bring to the language. We are a country that should be embracing all our artists because our diversity adds to the richness that will then emerge on our stages, in our literature, in our music and on our canvasses or in our sculptures.

We have tried separating and proved that it doesn’t bring solace to any particular group. It is our diversity that brings strength as this documentary shows so magnificently! And even the recent Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees again showed how the diversity on the stages added to the stories and songs that enveloped and enchanted audiences.

And that is what Die Ongetemde Stem celebrates.

It will be shown at a South African, Australian, New Zealand film festival in May in Melbourne but also online at: 

KLEIN KAROO NASIONALE KUNSTEFEES PROVES THERE’S NOTHING TO MATCH LIVE THEATRE

The youthful purity of innocence with Wilhelm van der Walt in Ek, Anna van Wyk.

What joy to attend the first of the arts festivals with the re-opening of the annual Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) on 29 March 2022. The programme was fantastic in spite of short notice with the pandemic holding everyone to ransom and artists and audiences alike seemed to trip the light fantastic in what felt like new-found freedom. DIANE DE BEER reviews her best of the best  ̶  because of course, there was more…

PICTURES: HANS VAN DER VEEN

Dancers Grant Van Ster (left) and Shaun Oelf (right) with (centre) Dean Balie (narrator).

It was when watching the magnificent Karatara that I truly realised the impact of the past couple of years without live theatre.

Personally, live theatre is where the emotional impact of a performance can truly take me to another place – and that’s magical. Karatara is one of those, a production of the KKNK.

It is all about the feeling and the way the story about the catastrophic fire in Knysna in 2018 is told. In this instance, artist Wilken Calitz came up with the concept and handed that to actor/director Gideon Lombard. They have  a strong working relationship, and it shows.

It’s the choice of performers (dancers Shaun Oelf and Grant Van Ster and actor Dean Balie, all who show their versatility brilliantly), the soundscape put together by Lombard that envelops and tosses you this way and that, and the combination of the powerful choreography, text and lighting.

The versatility and vitality of Karatara.

The devastation of a fire that completely destroyed communities had huge impact at the time – and then disappeared like  lightning from the consciousness. Not only does the piece play critically with the way the powerful manipulate the limitations of the powerless, but it also reaches back into the past to tell a very particular tale about the grotesque greed that determined and devastated the lives of others, and which still has consequences today –  as was so damagingly laid bare by this particular catastrophe.

Terminaal 3 with (left) Edwin van der Walt and Carla Smith and (right) Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam.

As we have come to expect, director Marthinus Basson produced two very different plays, both with extraordinary theatrical reach. Terminaal 3 would have played at the cancelled 2020 KKNK and was revived with Basson introducing us to the Swedish playwright Lars Noren.

It’s the originality of the piece that delivers the knockout blow. It takes a while to get to the crux of what is happening in this particular waiting room with two couples, one young (Carla Smith and Edwin van der Walt) and waiting to deliver their first baby, the other older (Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam) waiting to confirm that it’s their son who has died.

The couples don’t interact, but their stories hauntingly reflect and bounce off one another. The puzzle is revealed as the four individuals all seem to be fighting for their particular  lives – not in unison but uniquely alone.

Again it is the way the story is told and played with remarkable aplomb, the discomfort of the viewer as specific dilemmas are discussed and discarded, and the almost clinical way in which life and death are juggled. It’s the way we think we can plan our lives, the curve balls that have to be manoeuvred and manipulated, and in particular how both writer and director scramble our thought processes.

The visual splendour of Ek, Anna van Wyk.

And then there’s the homage to Pieter Fourie, a founding member of the KKNK with Ek, Anna van Wyk. This is Basson’s second time round with this play and as someone who celebrates the courage that Fourie displayed with his writing, which first appeared in the darkest days of apartheid, he also acknowledges the durability of the work, which is as relevant today as it was then.

Carlo Daniels and Wilhelm van der Walt are part of an exciting ensemble.

A fearless Tinarie van Wyk Loots plays the title character surrounded by a fantastic cast starting with Carlo Daniels,  Dawid Minnaar, Geon Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt, Gideon Lombard, René Cloete and Albert Pretorius as the interrogator.

Patriarchy is being explored and exposed, something that hasn’t shifted all that much since the play was written – and not because many of us haven’t tried. In this instance, Anna has no choice  –  and we can point to many examples in our daily lives that show similar patterns.

It happens to be the horror of the Afrikaner male in this instance, but we all know this is a universal issue and many of the ills in today’s world are the result of those previously all-powerful men refusing to let go – and whom the world enables … still.

The emotional breadth of Tinarie van Wyk Loots.

It’s a magnificent production from the Basson vision, the performances led by a heart-wrenching display by Van Wyk Loots and valiantly supported by the rest of the cast. I could watch it on a loop … over and over again.

As she always does, Antoinette Kellermann enchanted with Antjie Krog’s engaging poetry in die oerkluts kwyt. Compiled and directed by Frieda van den Heever who previously had such success with Die Poet, Wie’s Hy?, and again showed her delightful sensibility and approach, which seems to hold everyone on stage as well as the content in the most delicate balance.

Kellerman and Krog both celebrate their threescore years and ten in 2022 and this is not their first coming together on stage. Krog has translated a couple of texts with Kellermann in the lead, Koningin Lear being the last. But these are truly her own thoughts and words as she describes a life lived in a topsy-turvy world. She is a woman from this harsh but fabulous continent and she speaks her mind, yet often in jest even when speaking hard truths.

Kellermann shifts all the theatrics aside as she engages with the text in almost conversational tone. She allows the words to drive the performance with Krog’s poetry taking centre stage.

With what is fast becoming her trademark ingenuity, Van den Heever added a musical element and one that magnificently enhanced rather than detracted. Ancient Voices, consisting of the duo Lungiswa Plaatjies and Nimapostile  Nyiki, was one of my discoveries of the Festival. They also participated in the experimental Lucky Pakkie (Lucky Packet) with music and instruments that are from Africa, and with content that is performed in a way where meaning is self-explanatory.

But also their presentation and personalities are reflected in their performance and colourful presence.

The stylish Dineke van der Walt at the Opening of the Visual Arts at the Festival.

On the art side, curator Dineke van der Walt has become hot property for the festivals and it is easy to see why. She has a contemporary touch and is innovative with her presentations, which offer a wide range of art often unfamiliar even to those of us who try to keep in touch.

Two installations by the towering Mary Sibande as the Festival Artist set the bar high, but exhibitions like that of Karin Preller’s Beyond Memory (in which she uses family movies and portraits as her starting point), the fabulous use of fabric in the Van der Walt curated Rich in Fibre and Nkensani Rihlampfu’s magnificent display of An Orchestrated Reality (with ropes made from canvases) all held their own.

It also proved Van der Walt’s majestically illustrated point that art can emerge in many different ways and mediums – quite extraordinary.

Though very different in style and performance, Nataniël and Emo Adams both soared in their professional approach not often achievable when presenting musical shows on this grand scale at festivals.

Stories and  songs combined powerfully in the fabulously sparkling showman’s Prima Donna, the KKNK’s celebratory opening production showcasing Nataniël’s wit often laced with wisdom and some of his favourite songs with his original arrangements.

The Adams onslaught comes in silky-smooth style with music through the ages as he captures and gently spoofs musical favourites in cunning combinations to capture a real South African flavour – with a huge wink at everyone.

Both of these acts – pure class!

Sima Mashazi in full swing in Afrika Blues.

And staying with stylish voices, if you ever spot the name Sima Mashazi on a musical programme, catch this woman with the spectacular voice. She brings emotional depth to music sung in a local language you might not understand but the feelings tell it all.

I haven’t even touched on the hugely successful Lucky Pakkies which was an extension of the previously popular Uitkampteater. In similar fashion, these short experimental plays gave especially young artists the chance to play and audiences the opportunity to fast-track if they wanted to see a selection in different variations. It can easily be extended for a few years.

And watch this space in the not too distant future for more on Karoo Kaarte, which is a fascinating exploration of Oudtshoorn and its people … one that could and should be replicated around the country.

Here are this year’s nominees for the Kanna Awards which will :

Best debut production (music or theatre)

  • Die halwe huis
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Terminaal 3

Best theatre production

Op Hierie Dag
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Op hierie dag
  • Terminaal 3

Best music production

  • Emo Adams and Take Note
  • Nataniël: PRIMA DONNA
  • Anna Davel: 21

Best contribution to the visual arts

  • Karin Preller for the exhibition Beyond Memory
  • Dineke van der Walt as curator of Rich in Fibre
  • The artist Nkensani Rihlampfu for the exhibition An Orchestrated Reality

Slurpie Prize: best upcoming artist

Marinda Ntantiso in Op hierie dag
  • Janion Kennedy for his performance in Op hierie dag
  • Marinda Ntantiso for her performance in Op hierie dag
  • Conradie van Heerden for his performance in the short-piece Om skoon te wees
  • Adriaan Havenga for his performance and text in the short-piece Om skoon te wees

Best actress

  • Antoinette Kellermann for die oerkluts kwyt
  • Tinarie van Wyk Loots for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Carla Smith for Terminaal 3
  • Anna-Mart van der Merwe for Terminaal 3
Marlo Minnaar in Die Halwe Huis

Best actor

  • Marlo Minnaar for Die halwe huis
  • Wessel Pretorius for Kiss of the Spiderwoman
  • Stian Bam for Terminaal 3
  • Edwin van der Walt for Terminaal 3

Best supporting actor

  • Carlo Daniels for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Wilhelm van der Walt for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Geon Nel for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Albert Pretorius for Ek, Anna van Wyk

Best supporting actress

Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies in die oerkluts kwyt
  • The Ancient Voices: Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies for die oerkluts kwyt
  • René Cloete for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Marinda Ntantiso for Op hierie dag

Best director

  • Neil Coppen and Tiffany Saterdaght for Op hierie dag
  • Marthinus Basson for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Gideon Lombard for Karatara
  • Marthinus Basson for Terminaal 3

Best theatre design

  • Op hierie dag – Zietske Zaaiman, supported by the company
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk – Marthinus Basson
  • Karatara – soundtrack and design by Gideon Lombard

Excellent literary contribution

  • Frieda van den Heever for adaptation of die oerkluts kwyt from the work of Antjie Krog
  • Ricardo Arendse for the newly written text Die halwe huis
  • Tiffany Saterdaght and Neil Coppen, with contributions from Janion Kennedy, Hannes Visser, Theo Witbooi and Danny B, for the text of Op hierie dag

Best children’s or youth theatre

  • Pietersielie en Roosmaryn vertel stories
  • Liewe Heksie en die rolskaatse

Coligny Laer Om Skoon Te Wees

Best Lucky Pakkie production

  • Coligny Laer
  • Ruby en Roach – ’n animasieprent
  • Om skoon te wees
  • Onder in die bad

THE KLEIN KAROO NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL IS CELEBRATING ITS RETURN WITH DIVERSITY

With Covid-19 still a part of our lives, the uncertainty of live events is constantly hovering. Will it or won’t it? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as each event or festival comes into play. And while dates have to be juggled and last-minute plans put into play, this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees has come up with an exceptional programme in any circumstances – but especially now. DIANE DE BEER spotlights some highlights of this year’s KKNK which starts at the end of the month:

I can still remember hearing the news about the first Covid-19 lockdown at the 2020 Woordfees and while all of us were devastated and slightly bewildered, none of us realised quite the impact it would have on our lives – and the arts.

This was to be our last arts festival in a couple of years and the effect of that on the lives of artists who need live audiences has been disastrous.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna opens the festival.

There have been brilliant innovations in the intervening years and the word hybrid will fortunately become part of the festival landscape to broaden their audiences as well as capturing theatre on film for those who cannot attend a festival but would love to see productions.

And yet, nothing will compare with the real thing, which is why the announcement that 2022’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) will be happening from 29 March to 3 April was received with such joy.

Not only are they back, but the programme is something to cherish, especially in these haphazard times where everything has to happen almost on the trot. But as they suggest in their big reveal, “even in its slightly smaller format, the festival acts as a fuse for the explosion of productions and experiences to be presented by heavyweights in the South African arts industry!”

“This year’s festival is truly overflowing with exceptional programming in celebration of the KKNK’s return to Oudtshoorn, while retaining the quality that makes festivalgoers get in their cars and drive to Oudtshoorn annually,” says Hugo Theart, Artistic Director of the KKNK.

He isn’t just boasting  –  two of my personal favourites, Nataniël and director Marthinus Basson, are leading the way with their productions.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna, a debut show, will be opening the festival on Monday evening (March 28) and part of the excitement of the production is that he will sing a bunch of his favourite covers, all of which he has arranged himself. Add to that a collection of his fantastical tales, and those attending will be starting their festival with a bang.

Basson will be presenting two plays, Ek, Anna van Wyk, in memory of, and to honour Pieter Fourie (the first CEO of the KKNK), who recently passed away, starring Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Dawid Minnaar, Albert Pretorius, Carlo Daniels, Wilhelm van der Walt, Geon Nel, Gideon Lombard and René Cloete, and internationally acclaimed playwright Lars Norén’s Terminaal 3 with Anna-Mart van der Merwe, André Roothman, Edwin van der Walt, Carla Smith and Stian Bam. Both will delight festival connoisseurs.

Three iconic female artists further enhance the star line-up with the internationally acclaimed Mary Sibande this year’s Festival Artist and the double celebration of Antoinette Kellermann and Antjie Krog’s 70th birthdays in 2022 with Kellermann creating magic in the words of Krog in die oerkluts kwyt.

The picture tells its own story of Neil Coppen’s storytelling in Op Hierdie Dag

Other new scripts at the festival include Die halwe huis, a one-man show written by Oudtshoorn resident Ricardo Arendse, with another Klein Karoo local, Marlo Minnaar, in the lead, with Lee-Ann van Rooi as director; the promising Agulhasvlakte by young playwright Herschelle Benjamin with Kanya Viljoen as director and Wilhelm van der Walt, René Cloete and Kay Smith on stage; while another Oudtshoorn production Op hierie dag forms part of the KKNK Karoo Kaarte project, which will be the heart of the festival this year, showcasing Oudtshoorn residents’ various talents. Theatre couple Lida Botha and Johan Botha, who have relocated to this region, will be directed by the exciting playwright/director Neil Coppen and visual arts curator and facilitator Vaughn Sadie.

Mbulelo Grootboom and Wessel Pretorius in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Picture Fiona McPherson

Nêrens Noord-Kaap, following its success on television, returns with Geon Nel, Albert Pretorius, and De Klerk Oelofse; while the Sylvaine Strike production Kiss of the Spiderwoman featuring Wessel Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom; Spertyd honouring deceased Elsa Joubert, with the phenomenal Sandra Prinsloo in the lead and the return of Oscar en die pienk tannie, directed by Lara Bye, complete a very strong line-up.

Looking for something unusual, dance enthusiasts can book for Karatara with dance group Figure of 8 – the 2020 KKNK Young Voice Prize recipient, who joins forces with Dean Balie and director Gideon Lombard.

If you’re in the mood for something light, comedies include Transpirant with Bennie Fourie and Schalk Bezuidenhout – who can also be seen in Schalk sing sleg; motormouth Marc Lottering in his stand-up comedy show Uncle Marc; Adriaan Alfred in Adriaan Alfred Live; Lizz Meiring in her solo show Kameras, konserte en kleedkamers; Marion Holm returns with Holmruggery; while Koos Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling ingenuity.

Making music, David Kramer Vanaand, a solo show for Kramer, and Amanda Strydom with Nostalgie are the two evergreen performers who have performed at every KKNK.

Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling originality.

Coenie de Villiers and André Schwartz

Coenie de Villilers and André Schwartz, both on piano, team up for a celebration of their work. Karen Zoid followers will be thrilled that she performs in an acoustic and more intimate show, and Emo Adams and Take Note bring the flavour of Cape Town entertainment to the Klein Karoo.

Six of the country’s well-known guitarists will be together on one stage in Kitaarkonings, with the  gentle muso Louis Mhlanga playing in Afrika Blues.

Another highlight is The Music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lynelle Kenned, André Schwartz and the Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra presented on the Celebratio pomegranate farm outside Oudtshoorn, where Spoegwolf 10 Jaar also takes place. Other contemporary shows include Elvis Blue, Luna Paige, Rocco de Villiers, and Anna Davel.

For classical music enthusiasts a special recital of Beethoven and Beyond with the well-known American pianist Gustavo Romero is included on the programme.

Those familiar with the “out of the box” theatre concept will know that this is something to watch. This time it is called Lucky Pakkie Theatre, which means you will be going for a lucky packet stage version of the popular musical chairs game… Be ready for loads of fun. Three Lucky Pakkie packages will cater for all ages, from younger viewers (Melkbaarde) to older viewers (Sagtebaarde), and adult viewers (Hardebaarde). Each mystery round of entertainment will last 15 minutes.

Last but not least is the Visual Arts programme, curated by the innovative Dineke van der Walt, which for example includes the colourful Mapula creations, all of which can be viewed in the familiar  Prince Vincent building.

Joylyn Phillips (second from right) in Bientang also rewarded with Kunste Onbeperk Young Voice award.

The festival has honoured individuals in the industry since its inception, and this year’s four exceptional people include playwright Jolyn Phillips receiving the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for a Young Voice (she can be seen in the debut production Bientang); Nic Barrow, one of the founders of the KKNK and the individual who planted the seed for a festival in Oudtshoorn, is honoured for his contribution to the KKNK; and the ever-popular and exceptional Frank Opperman (to be seen in Ek Wens, ek wens) who is awarded the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Interpretation.

Frank Opperman in Ek wens, ek wens, also honoured for interpretation with Kunste Onbeperk prize.

Ticket sales are open and accommodation can be booked through LekkeSlaap at www.lekkeslaap.co.za/akkommodasie-naby/kknk, or kknk.co.za/verblyf-lekkeslaap/.

Interested festivalgoers can get more information by subscribing to the KKNK newsletter, following the KKNK on social media, or visiting www.kknk.co.za. Feel free to contact the festival office on 044 203 8600 or send a WhatsApp message to 065 285 2337.

The KKNK will follow a vaccination mandate, but terms and conditions for exclusions apply. More information is available at www.kknk.co.za.

LOVESICK IS THE MAGIC WORD THAT GOT HIS MIND WANDERING FOR HIS LATEST SHOW, LOVESICK TIM

The fun of a Nataniël interview is always the unexpected.

PICTURES: NICOLAAS SWART

THE fun of a Nataniël interview is always the unexpected. DIANE DE BEER shares some of the fairy dust he always has in his pocket:

Being the journalist, one would expect that I would come up with some surprises when doing yet another interview, especially as we have had to do so many through the years.

But Nataniël is so entertaining – whether on stage in a packed hall or with an audience of one – it never occurs to me.

Of course, I always forget about the masses of creativity coursing through his veins, and his ability to turn anything into a moment of magic – both for himself and those he has to entertain.

So this time, when discussing the time and place to chat about his latest show, he suggested we dress up and meet in one of his wardrobes where he stores only a fraction of his costumes and accessories from decades gone by.

It’s an apartment now packed with Nataniël costumes and other valuable mementoes from his unimaginably busy life.

Always in the mood for play, I selected one of my brightest outfits, sent through the colour scheme so that he could clash or subtly enhance the picture we were planning to produce from this working meeting – not party mind you, even if you see tea and cakes!

It’s a new time for an artist who has been producing his life on and off stage, mostly very publicly but with a private side that is fiercely guarded.

As for many around the globe, his world was flung into orbit with the pandemic and everything that came tumbling down around our well-ordered lives.

Nataniël with one of his many detailed costumes I covet!

Especially as he marches to what many might see as the latter stages of his career, there had to be a quick turnaround to adjust expectations and to reset future plans from those that had become improbable.

Re-ordering and remaking his world started with scaling down, which meant, amongst other things, cleaning up both his personal space and, as is his wont, also the greater planet out there.

Nataniël has been stripping his life for quite some time, but now there is an urgency which doesn’t allow for single-purpose plastic̶ –  ̶̶ or over-used costumes for that matter.

Repurpose and recycle is what drives him today and as far as he goes, he spreads the message. None of his disciples would dare venture on a shopping trip without their personal shopping bags and everyone who watches his lifestyle programmes on kykNET will be aware that this is someone who as much as he loves food, has also trained his body and mind into a healthy way of being – to his and the planet’s benefit.

With his costumes sorted for the moment, in a place that allows for all the right conditions, he visits this apartment high up (“so that no insects can get to them”) making new plans. For the future, he dreams about a fashion museum and a setup that allows for art installations.

“We don’t have a culture that cares for the past,” he muses, but what he wants to display is the artistry of true technicians trained in fields that are hardly nurtured anymore and might disappear in the future.

And when I start looking through the costumes, most of them still trigger memories of past shows. At the same time, their details are overwhelming and were rarely seen from the auditorium. And still, not a sequin or button was left out because it was all part of the bigger picture.

For Nataniël it is about the inspirational, the way he has been dressed by designers as kings, disciples and prophets for example, always in period in a manner that isn’t visible in today’s world.

Some of these costumes can be reshaped and modelled into something different and new because, as someone who in the past was passionate about shopping, discovering new delights (usually to dish out to friends), what kept him enthralled was the creativity and novelty that he could find in many unique and treasured Aladdin’s Caves.

This type of lifestyle was anathema to the Covid era and Nataniël, true to type, also shifted in his head and discovered his own way of dressing his world. Once he started scratching around and asking his designer (for example) what he had been doing with all the left-over fabric of past seasons and found they were all carefully stored, he discovered endless drawers and rooms in his own house filled with every type of fabric and accessory he could hope for.

He was also driven by the lack of travel, as well as the fact that distribution hassles meant the sudden halt of novelty items. He knew he would simply have to create his own and he could do this in a sustainable way. No more buying needlessly. The motto driving him is to use imagination and innovation, something which has always been his loadstar.

His  latest stage creation, LOVESICK TIM, will be presented at Pretoria’s ATTERBURY THEATRE from 11 to 14 February 2022. Four nights only, ending on Valentine’s Day and sadly it has already been booked out. (But check the latest dates still available below).

And because he is guided not by the obvious, the name of the show was determined by his passion for the word “lovesick”. “I have always had problems with love songs because the lyrics are so awful!” but with lovesick, he thought it would allow him a certain latitude. “I will feature love songs from the earliest of times to the very latest of trends, the jazz of the 40s, the crooners of the 50s, the freedom of the 60s, the heartbreak of the 70s and the never-ending evolution of love and chaos in pop culture,” he says.

He searched for songs containing the much-loved word, but also wrote a love song himself and discovered some music that boasts a narrative rather than a repetition of silly love lyrics.

As always ,the stories will steal the thunder because Nataniël has a way of meandering in magic and melancholy which few others can achieve.

He will be accompanied by Charl du Plessis (piano), Werner Spies (bass) and Peter Auret (drums).

Costumes are by Floris Louw, with the added flourish that they will be ‘green’, repurposed and recharged from carefully stored fabrics and vintage collections. They have been declared a feast for the eye, but made with a reworked responsibility.

Tea for two with much magic and merriment.

LOVESICK TIM

11 – 14 Feb 2022

Atterbury Theatre, Pretoria

www.seatme.co.za

Sold out

LOVESICK TIM

17 – 19 February 2022

Drostdy Theatre, Stellenbosch

Computicket

Bookings open

LOVESICK TIM

Atterbury Theatre, Pretoria

23 – 25 June 2022

www.seatme.co.za

Bookings open

These seats fly, don’t wait and be sorry.

CAROLS AND CHORDS IN THE CAPITAL

It’s time to make music in the capital city says the CEO of Aardklop, Alexa Strachan, as she gathers a coterie of classical contributors to lead the charge. DIANE DE BEER reports:

Following a critical call from Nataniël about a crisis in Pretoria’s classical music world because of the closure of yet another venue,  CEO of Aardklop Alexa Strachan knew she would have to take action.

With designated classical venues diminishing in the city and classical musicians finding less and less opportunity to perform, it was time to act.

“I know that our audiences hail mostly from Pretoria and Joburg and the Jacaranda city has always had a strong classical music following. It suddenly felt as if we were being presented with an opportunity in what have been tough times for especially performers and festivals,” she notes.

There aren’t many venues with grand pianos and that was the first priority, with funding also a head scratcher.
“But I was willing to take the risk with the first show,” even before she had all her ducks in a row. She turned to classical musician Charl du Plessis and together they approached Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool with the hope of finding a new home for the birth of their new  brainchild, Aardklop Aubade (morning love song) – which they duly did with great success.

Their aim is to present monthly Sunday morning concerts in Pretoria at a venue that is both familiar and easy to access. With their youth drama projects, Aardklop has forged a relationship with the school and it wasn’t too much of a stretch for them to step in as partners with Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), a media partner.

What appealed to Strachan was that music is an universal language which also broadens their base which is a bonus in tough times. “It’s always better to have more than one basket,” she points out.

For Aardklop, as for many others, 2020 has been a year of dread and disappointment which has forced them to take a long view but even more specifically, to think creatively – something that’s part of being an artist.

Their first show will be presented on  December 13 in the AHS Potgietersaal at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool at 11am. “I wanted to end the year on a more optimistic note,” says Strachan.

With Du Plessis her classical contact and compiler for the future, she wanted him to be part of the first concert and they decided on Carols and Chords with Du Plessis on piano, Lizelle le Roux on violin and Ockie Vermeulen on organ. The focus is on specially arranged Christmas music of the past 300 years from Silent Night to Bethlehem Ster and Somerkersfees and many more.

Accompanist to Nataniël, Du Plessis is a solo artist in his own right as a classical pianist who also performs regularly with his own jazz group, the Charl du Plessis Trio. Vermeulen, who is currently the university organist for Unisa as well as the organist at the Pretoria East Ned Geref Church while Le Roux is a lecturer in Law at the University of Pretoria and also launched her first solo CD last year which earned her a Ghoema for best solo instrumental album. It’s a formidable combo stepping out for this debut concert.

They will also be joined by an Affie saxophone player, Rohan Grobbelaar (gr 10) who will perform Jean Baptiste Singelée’s Concertino, accompanied by Dr Jannie le Roux on piano.

“We’re hoping music fans will make a morning of it because snacks and wine will be available with seating in the shade before or after the 60 minute show,” says Strachan who believes these first steps will herald small new beginnings.

Du Plessis is thrilled with this new venture, excited about the future and the planning of a series of classical concerts.

“It’s also exciting to discover and explore a new space with an already established tradition. Acoustically it is sound and a beautiful auditorium,” he elaborates.

And Strachan loves the expanded gallery which guarantees good viewing as well as listening.

They hope that this will be viewed as a gift for classical music lovers.

Covid rules will be followed strictly.

Aardklop Aubade – Carols & Chords

Date: 13 December 2020

Time: 11am until noon

Price: R150 (R120 pensioners)

Venue: Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (school hall)

Tickets: Ticketpro

Innovative Charl du Plessis Trio Play With Our Imaginations In Times of Stress

With a new album, in hand, it’s time for the Charl du Plessis Trio to launch their latest musical feast titled Imagine, apt for our times when the world has been turned upside down. But music will always be there to stimulate the imagination, Charl du Plessis tells DIANE DE BEER:

Because he works fanatically on so many different levels, it’s surprising to hear musician Charl du Plessis say that his jazz trio hasn’t released a CD for two years. He is someone who fast-tracks everything.

But this one wouldn’t have happened at this time either if they hadn’t been approached to record with Swiss speaker company as part of their Stenheim Acoustic Sessions which give artists the chance to record original tracks in unusual places and in exceptional acoustic conditions. “We were fortunate to record this project with their world-class acoustic treatment to ensure the most organic and powerful listening experience,” explains Charl about the sessions recorded at the Espace Consonance in Saxon, Switzerland.

These days with music recordings so problematic, no one is going to disregard this kind of invitation, but what really excited the trio was the quality inherent in the full process. Stenheim’s quality products are the guarantee of a superb recording in a state-of-the-art studio.

Charl du Plessis Trio

This is the first recording by the Charl Du Plessis Trio in its new format, following the departure of the former drummer for China. Peter Auret, one of Gauteng’s most sought-after jazz drummers, joins original members Charl on piano and Werner Spies on bass.

“It’s been invigorating,” says Charl, who with this album wanted to include tracks that share their respect for the original score which has always been their strong suit – a crossover between jazz and the classics, with Charl a master in both genres.

And he emphasises that with Peter joining their team, imaginative moves have been flourishing. One needs change every once in a while and when it is as positively organic as this one was, it can also be hugely beneficial. “We all work together extremely well,” adds Charl.

It also helps that Peter is an award-winning recording engineer and producer with his own studio while Werner adds techno buff to his skills. Charl, always someone who keeps adding yet another string to his bow (see Episode 2 of Toegang on kykNET), also recently added piano tuner to his repertoire. “One often battles to find someone at specific times,” he says and as the owner of two Steinways (being a Steinway musician), he can now do his own when required.

Peter Auret on drums

They say you have to know the rules before you can bend and  break them. That truly applies here and you will hear that immediately as you start listening to their music which seems to have taken on a world in trouble while offering an easy escape – for just a while.

Their music reflects their passion. These are musicians who travel the world with their special brand of music, something that translates well and appeals to both jazz and classical audiences – and that isn’t always a given. Think of the way classical or jazz music has sometimes been dumbed down for a more general audience. This is not that.

It’s about combining and infusing all their multiple influences but in a way that is smart, honours the original music and delivers a sound that is both fresh and refreshing. Included in the lineup, which should have you smiling, is Mozart’s Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Für Elise, Ode to Joy and the Adagio cantabile from Sonata Pathetique, Bizet’s Seguidilla from Carmen, Verdi’s Va Pensiero from Nabucco and to conclude, John Lennon’s Imagine!

Werner Spies on bass

They’ve been at it for 12 years and in that time while not stagnating, they know what works and how to keep it challenging. They wouldn’t have had this recording if that weren’t the case. This is a difficult area to make your name – and a living. You have to deliver for it to work and they do.

They have won major music awards including a Fiësta, two SAMA awards and a Ghoema for Best Instrumental Album. They frequently perform in Europe and Asia as well as at major music festivals in South Africa. Highlights include Grachtenfestival – the Netherlands, Musikdorf Ernen – Switzerland, and Standard Bank Joy of Jazz – Johannesburg as well as most recently digitally as part of the National Arts Festival platform. 

This launch of their new album Imagine will be held at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria on November 1 at 3pm. Tickets can be booked at iTickets. It’s all about familiar music with “daring textures, exciting rhythms and lush harmonic landscapes” which come together in their unconventional arrangements.

Charl on keyboards

And if you’ve never attended one of their shows, this is an ideal time to sit back (in controlled circumstances) with music that will be a balm for your soul.

The trio is constantly evolving in their quest to explore uncharted musical terrains in an imaginative manner and, like the title suggests, this is not borrowing from the extraordinary John Lennon but rather paying homage.

That’s the kind of music they make and I easily recommend. For those who cannot attend the concert (and I predict there will be more around the country as things start opening up in the new year), get the album. It’s one to cherish.

For more information visit www.charlduplessis.com

Charl du Plessis Trio with Peter Auret (drums) Charl (centre) and Werner Spies (bass)

Rock Legends Patti Smith and David Bowie Offer more than the Perfect Escape

Books are a uniquely portable magic.
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

It’s a strange time when being at home alone (with family or perhaps a friend) can become quite demanding, but if you are privileged enough to have the luxury of viewing it as a time to take stock, catch up and get to all those things you love doing but never have time for, this will also be a time to read, read and read as much as you can. It is the perfect escape. This is the start of some suggestions by DIANE DE BEER in random fashion and as eclectic as reading can be for each individual. Hope you find some inspiration:

Book Yr of the Monkey

 

You have to know when tackling a Patti Smith book titled Year of the Monkey (Bloomsbury) to expect the unexpected.

Nothing about her life will be ordinary or familiar and a willingness to follow her on whatever journey she takes is a prerequisite to starting this equally melancholy and madcap journal.

Someone mentions that anything is possible, after all it is the Year of the Monkey, hence the title of the book which should be another loadstar to where these Smith meanderings might lead you.

It’s been a year of coping both with ageing (her 70th birthday looms) and dying, when her friend the producer, rock critic and manager Sandy Pearlman is hospitalised and yet another close friend and former partner, playwright Sam Shepard, is also deadly ill and needs her help to finish what will be his last book. (If you haven’t read her obituary of Shepard, it’s worth finding online.)

But first things first. Apart from these close encounters with friends and her own mortality, it’s also a helter-skelter time politically with elections in the air (and we all know how that ended) as well as Smith’s tendency to intertwine her different realities. You’d better be on your toes to keep track of her eclectic mind. Some might be fatalistic given her circumstances but others are quite fantastical as she starts communicating with an  inviting hotel sign with the name Dream Inn.

She doesn’t have everyday conversations and even loses a ride when she can’t stop talking even when warned she could only tag along if she didn’t say a word.

Whether you know and like her music or not, your enjoyment of the book depends on whether you fall in love with her eclectic lifestyle, her unusual way of making her way through life and perhaps, the age she’s at, which determines this somewhat fatalistic mood.

Along the way, she always has her camera on hand taking artistic shots of seemingly mundane features like an unmade bed in a nondescript hotel room, a writer’s shoes, a café in Lisbon and anything that catches her fancy or captures her mood.

This is not any ordinary diary but someone musing about a time in her life that finds her at particular crossroads because of circumstances beyond her control. We all know that place, but for someone with Smith’s particular capabilities, it takes what might be for many quite strange detours. It’s as if she allows the universe to dictate, as if finding it difficult to determine her own pathway right at this time.

We all know that feeling of drifting but few would actually take on the physical reality as well. Perhaps the end of a run of New Year concerts helped her along. Spent as she must have been, a time to unwind and throwing herself to the wind might make sense of a world that feels as if it is turning on her. The election of Trump also having some impact here. It is Patti Smith after all, how could it not!

If all this sounds dire because of the loneliness and a certain desolation, it is also a novel way of capturing your own feelings – especially in this time, making sense of a world that seems out of control and lending insight to others who might experience similar feelings without knowing how to get a different grip on life.

And in our present circumstances, this might be the escape some of us have been looking for. It is a writer who uses her imagination to inhabit a world she doesn’t understand – or even want to.

Book Bowie's BooksFor Bowie, one suspects, had he still been living, he would have dipped into one of the many books he loved, far beyond the 100 listed in Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes who Changed His Life by John O’Connel (with illustrations by Luis Paadin) published by Bloomsbury.

It’s a fascinating read, which tells you much more about Bowie while explaining the books. In the introduction that explains the writing of the book, O’Connel quotes a Sunday Times location report: “Bowie hates aircraft so he mostly travels across the States by train, carrying his mobile bibliothèque in special trunks which open out with all his books neatly displayed on shelves.”

This portable library sported 1 500 titles, more than enough so that he would never run out.

From March 2013, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition David Bowie Is travelled the world for the next 5 years. To coincide with the show’s first port of call, Ontario, the V&A issued the list on which this book is based, explains the author. It is the 100 books Bowie considered the most important and influential – not, note, his “Favourite books” as such – out of the 1 000s he had read during his life.

Bowie had through his life advertised his bookishness, according to O’Connel, not through interviews “but more obliquely in his work and in the range of masks he wore when he presented it to the public”.

We  learn, for example, that he didn’t do well at school – not through laziness it is surmised, or an inability to retain information, but rather, speculates the author, an impatience with formal education. He enjoyed teaching himself much rather than being taught by someone else.

He loved passing on the knowledge and passionately argued for a book he enjoyed to the extent that he started reviewing books for Barnes and Noble (book stores in the US).

One could also see the influence of different arts and genres in his work, in his songs, his presentations, even his album covers. That’s what makes this such a fascinating read for those who aren’t that familiar with his work

Bowie also liked playing games, says the author – hence the lists. “The V&A list is but one element of a game he enjoyed more than any other – curating his own mythology”.

One of the most incisive quotes in the introduction is something he said to Michael Parkinson during an interview: “I spent an awful lot of my life …actually looking for myself, understanding what I existed for and what made me happy in life and who exactly I was and what were the parts of myself that I was trying to hide from.”

O’Connel emphasises that the role reading played in  this quest cannot be underestimated.

It’s an extraordinary book and one that constantly surprises. The secret is in the way it has been written. With a 100 books to run through, O’Connel rarely gives more than two pages to a book in which he explains the author, who he is and what the book is about.

There’s also the significance to Bowie, a context in some way as well as insight not only into the book but also into Bowie himself.

It’s not necessarily one of those books about books that send you rushing off to read most of them. More importantly, it is about the man who read them and why he found them so significant.

Bumper Toyota SU Woordfees Goes All Out To Wow Possible Festival Groupies

All who pass2
All Who Pass

A bumper Toyota SU Woordfees runs from March 6 to 15 in Stellenbosch. DIANE DE BEER picks a smattering of highlights for theatre, music and book chats, but as these are strictly a personal suggestion, there’s so much more to explore:

 

For those interested in theatre, here the accent is on participants for most of these are unseen productions, some in English and some Afrikaans:

All Who Pass: written by last year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Amy Jephta, directed by Quanita Adams, starring Elton Landrew, Iman Isaacs, Carmen Maarman, Roberto Kyle and Jawaahier Petersen; This is such a strong team, they’re hard to resist as they tell the horrific story of District Six with a family spending their last night in their home in 1974; and then restitution in 2019 as a daughter returns to claim her inheritance.

Cellist - cred Monique Pelser large size-1154
Cellist with Rabies. Picture Monique Pelser.

Cellist with Rabies: pairs artists extraordinaire Jemma Kahn (writer and performer) and Jaco Bouwer (director and set design with Rocco Pool) also starring David Viviers. The facts are stranger than fiction and as the name implies and the description – a peculiar romantic tragedy loosely based on questionable science – determines, they will be turning your imagination upside down.

Die Vermoeienis van Vlerke: is a translation of Lara Foot’s successful The Inconvenience of Wings which deals with the impact of disabling mood disabilities on friendships and family, directed by the luminous Sylvaine Strike and starring Henriëtta Gryfenberg, Frank Opperman and Chris Gxalaba in an exciting re-interpretation of this provocative play.

Lab class pic
The Market Lab students in action with Hani: The Legacy.

Hani: The Legacy: produced for the Market Lab, it comes with a reputation following its Gaunteng and National Arts Festival runs. It was inspired by the landmark American musical Hamilton and set to contemporary music, including rap, hip hop and ballads, with the approach aimed at inspiring the youth with the legacy of the slain warrior Chris Hani directed by the inspired Leila Henriques.

Hoe Change Hulle: It’s difficult to resist a production called Bossikop Productions and with text and costumes by Veronique Jephtas, direction by Lee-Ann van Rooi and starring Marlo Minnaar, it tells a story of the ghetto and the lives of those many prefer to ignore.

Bobs Live – Off The Record: If you haven’t heard of J. Bobs before, this will all change as his artistry is being recognised with a Young Artist Nomination for Drama at this year’s National Arts Festival. Performing with his Sketch Trio that includes Phillip Dikotla (of the extraordinary Skierlik! fame) and Pule Welch, know that you will be both challenged and charmed as he promises to play games that have to be taken seriously.

Valrsrivier: is the stage adaptation by Saartjie Botha directed by Janice Honeyman of a hugely popular book with, amongst others, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam. It’s a no-brainer so run for tickets. It’s the age-old struggle of loyalty, loss and growing up against the backdrop of the old South African landscape.

Wit Isse Colour: with writers Ronelda S Kampher and Nathan Trantraal and Jason Jacobs as director, brace yourself for some edgy brilliance. The script is based on Trantraal’s experiences and daily encounters as well as stories from published work in which everything from toxic masculinity to a re-imagined history of Autshumao and Jan van Riebeeck is explored.

Salome 2
Geon Nel in Salome

 

Salome: Wilken Calitz (text) and Gideon Lombard (director) have shown their collaborative power with Karatara (which can be seen at KKNK) and here they tackle Etienne le Roux’s Sewe Dae by die Silbersteins with a solo performance (Geon Nel) as Henry van Eeden struggles with some bizarre encounters while trying to find his future wife Salome.

 

 

 

w9(1)
Rehane Abrahams

There are too many to consider, but check Pieter Dirk Uys’s trio of productions; Sandra Prinsloo’s Kamphoer; Tien Duisend Ton with Cintaine Schutte and Albert Pretorius if you haven’t yet seen it; as well as the Nico Scheeper’s driven Triple Axel and Die Engel by die Dam; the wit of Rafiek Mamon’s Die Garage; Johnny Boskak Voel ‘n Bietjie ... if you haven’t seen this Craig Morris tour de force; Chris Vorster’s Die Hart Verklap; and the extraordinary Brandbaar with Rehane Abrahams and more…

 

 

And now for some other showstoppers:

The wonderful LGT Young Soloists who represent 15 countries across the world is a happening classical experience.

Devonecia+Wilken Albumbekendstelling is a combo that could be fascinating. She is an artist with super-sized talent, supported by the crafty eye of muso Wilken Calitz, sparks could fly – even gently.

Kyle Shepherd Trio @ Standard Bank Jazz in the Quad with Shane Cooper (bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums) will be a thrill. Anything with Shepherd is worth the time. And similarly any of the concerts in the quad.

Sho Madjozi is a rapper, singer, poet, composer and actress who grabbed the SAMAs for both best newcomer and female singer last year. Check her out.

Gerhard Marx teams with Toast Coetzer, Shane Cooper and Kyle Shepherd for Vehicle: Soundings and Fathoms in an attempt to give a voice to to lifeless objects. All the artists involved point to the kind of experience you would want to see/hear.

Nataniel in song1No longer a regular at festivals Nataniël: Hoekom Hulle Swing will be precious as he swings between thoughtful yet tantalising.

On the bookish side – and this is but a tiny fraction…

Wreed én mooi is die dood with Tobie Wiese, whose collection of stories about the experience of death includes an essay by Karin Brynard, whose husband, Rien, passed away after a period of illness, and more.

Willie Esterhuyse: Oorlog en vrede in conversation with Moeletsi Mbeki: The author contemplates how to turn an enemy into a friend. Is it even possible?

What’s in a name: The New Queer Frontiers: Jaco Barnard-Naudé talks to Mark Gevisser about his book The Pink Line; The World’s Queer Frontiers to be published later in the year, and the authors of They Called Me Queer, Kelly-Ann Koopman and Kim Windvogel, about the taboos and debates surrounding identity politics across the globe.

Giving voice to victims: the Scottish Damian Barr and Fiona Snyckers talk to Francois Smith (Kamphoer). In his novel, You Will Be Safe Here, Barr attempts to give voice to the victims of gender violence. In Lacuna, Snyckers turns JM Coetzee’s dramatic novel Disgrace on its head when Lucy Lurie, the rape victim says: “Enough. I am going to tell my own story as I experienced it.”

Muckrakers or Watchdogs: Jacques Pauw asked three well-known journalists, the award-winning Pieter-Louis Myburgh (Gangster states: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture), amaBhungane’s Pauli van Wyk and Foeta Krige (SABC8) of the essential, but demanding work of investigative journalists in an era of increasing corruption and fake news, wondering how much of a difference a journalist can make.

ANTHONY BUTLER_RAMAPHOSA_S LONG GAME(1)

 

Ramaphosa’s Long Game: Cheryl Carolus, Anthony Butler and Ralph Mathekga talk to Adriaan Basson  about the President, who is at a crossroads and whose choices will have far-reaching consequences for our country.

Foeta Krige: Die SAUK-8 with Lukhanyo Calata and Ivor Price: Why is a free press so important in a new democracy? Three members of the SABC8 share the shocking story of becoming the news and how it affected their professional and private lives.

 

 

Jonny Steinberg: One Day In Bethlehem; Non-fiction with Sandra Swart: It was a remark by Fusi Mofokeng, released after 19 years in jail, that led to this book. He said that the biggest surprise of his new life wasn’t smartphones or Google, but “that a white woman actually served him in a restaurant, and she was friendly”.

Breaking Independent News: Paper Tiger: Herman Wasserman talks to Chris Whitfield, Alide Dasnois and Dougie Oakes: When Independent Newspapers was bought by Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium, journalists at South Africa’s largest newspaper firm were optimistic. What followed instead was media capture.

Ronelda Kamfer & Nathan Trantraal: twee digters tesame in conversation with Louise Viljoen: Chinatown and Oo’log mark the first time (almost) that the Trantraals, Ronelda Kamfer and Nathan, publish together. How do they manage a marriage, raising a child and being creative?

To Lose Everything: Three International Authors: Azille Coetzee talks to Christy Lefteri, the child of Greek refugees, who spent time in a Syrian refugee camp as research for her book The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Mira Feticu (Al mijn vaders) left her family when she moved from Romania to the Netherlands. Suketu Mehta was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found, his account of growing up in Mumbai.

Go to https://woordfees.co.za/en/ for the full programme. The full force of the arts available is astonishing.

 

 

Freehand is the Personal Story of Pianist Charl du Plessis and his Life in Music

Freehand Cover

The whirlwind that is pianist Charl du Plessis’s life has meant that more than 20 years into his performance career, he is finally releasing his first solo album. He reveals the thought processes behind Freehand to DIANE DE BEER:

 

Pianist extraordinaire Charl du Plessis is all about improvisation – not only on the keyboards but also in his life. He has to be. He has that many projects in the air at a given time, and constantly has to juggle.

Stepping off a plane from an international destination, he runs to catch another flight to make a concert as Nataniël’s accompanist the following day and then he rushes from there to catch up with the Charl du Plessis Trio who are also releasing a CD at the Woordfees in March.

But with improv part of his game, he will be performing his latest and first solo album,  Freehand, at the Atterbury Theatre (and in concerts throughout the year across the country) on Sunday at 3pm, followed by a performance in the Cango Caves just outside Oudtshoorn on March 28 at 8pm as part of this year’s Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK), bookings opening on Saturday (February 21). This hasn’t happened in 24 years and is a rare event, which won’t happen any time soon – if ever.

He will be the first pianist to present a performance in the Caves on International Piano Day. Strict rules will be applied to avoid any damage to this historical site and for Charl, it is a dream come true. “The space, the acoustics, the darkness and the sounds that will embrace everyone!”

The origin of the solo album began with unwinding after concerts and a hectic touring life. Arriving home and wishing to unwind, this Steinway artist would sit and tinkle on one of his two Steinways (one a new acquisition) playing music that’s gentle to his ear. When he felt it was time for a solo album  – finally – it was to these excursions in his mind that he decided to escape to.

He would sit down at the piano, and we all know that end of day feeling, and start playing. This was music that he liked listening to and never to please anyone. It’s mostly gentle and spontaneous, yet once he decided this was the way to go, he would practice improvising according to a specific mood, a moment or an object that would take him to a specific place.

“I didn’t feel I had to prove anything,” he says about this solo attempt – and many of his fans would say about time.

But of his many endeavours, where Charl has also excelled is planning his own career. Any solo career is a challenge as an artist. You only have yourself, your skills and a professionalism which helps you to sell and establish yourself. But mostly you’re always on show.

And one of his attributes is coming up with new ways of making music – classical, jazz and simply a melody that he finds enchanting or a composer he wants to showcase. He would contact a fellow performer or two or three and put together a show.

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What is truly impressive is that these shows always had a specific individuality and originality and never felt forced. This was an unusual yet also deliberate route. And those who know Charl’s work would have expected something as smart as Freehand to go solo with.

He is celebrating two decades as concert pianist in both classical and jazz  spheres. This is not typical but from the start (and I witnessed his first jazz competition in which he competed against some of the top young talent in the country, achieving a brilliant second place), he felt comfortable in both spaces. “I have had true musical satisfaction in combining my passion for various styles in crossover arrangements for multiple projects with my trio, with orchestra or solo,” he writes in his album notes.

This one specifically captures his own voice – an important step for especially solo artists. He describes this way of playing piano almost like an artist doodling or a chef who after a particular stint in the kitchen would crave comfort food not fine dining. And once he knew this was what he was going to do, he turned to fellow musician, the Trio’s drummer, Peter Auret, who is also an award-winning recording engineer, to record this pet project. It took three solid days of spontaneously improvising at the Etienne Rousseau Theatre in Sasolburg  – no rules, no preconceived ideas.

They have worked together before and the reason Charl is comfortable with this particular artist is that he feels no judgement. This was a project that felt very personal, a statement as a first solo album, but Charl also needed it to be far removed from critics, purists and conservatives.

Living and working in this world, especially in South Africa, he knows the pressures. It’s a tiny but hugely critical community and can sometimes inhibit artists to try something new – the essence of being an artist. By chance I heard some critics talk about his first Freehand performances and it was clear that he had found something truly unique to share with an already adoring following. But that’s how you get there.

Once the recordings had been made, the process was still on-going. “I left it before listening for five months because I needed some breathing space and distance,” he explains. Then he was called to choose some tracks because these improvs didn’t yet have titles. Following the completion of the album, which then had to be performed, he had to relearn the pieces that had flowed from his imagination.

“I couldn’t even recognise some of the pieces when I listened to it the first time,” he says. “This is what I love about spontaneous music making: the unpredictable journey, the freshness, the honesty, the energy, the enjoyment,” he concludes in his album notes.

The success has been sweet and he walked off after that Aardklop run with the best musical production award. Something that has been rewarding too which he didn’t take into account was the mobility of the project. “I’m reaching different audiences because I can pack up, travel and play,” he says – from Upington to Vleesbaai and from Shanghai to Switzerland.

Charl knew early on  that he didn’t want to travel the typical classical route. He needed to find a voice that would catch the fancy of audiences – worldwide. He has done exactly that on a stage, probably the most difficult in the world. This is storytelling without words and demands that the audience truly use their imagination.

With all his different projects, Charl has made sure of that – and now for the first time, he hopes to capture them with a very personal story. Listen and make up your mind. I think it is difficult to resist.

For more detail and dates, check https://charlduplessis.com/

The Artistry of the Best on Tennis and Music Stages Makes My People Sing

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In the beginning … as the excitement was building.

Pictures of tennis: Esther du Plessis

Pictures of Kirstenbosch Concert: Debra de Souza

 

When you are gifted the weekend of a lifetime and things work out and then, as a bonus, you are unexpectedly given much more than even you bargained for, all you can do is smile – for the longest time. DIANE DE BEER loses her heart  – again – to her people and continent:

 

Not only would I have the chance to see two of the best tennis players on the planet in action at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town (courtesy of the children of a close friend), but would also see cellist Yo-Yo Ma in action in the spectacular setting of Kirstenbosch as part of his Bach Project.

The gods were smiling and it turned out to be so much more – in unexpected fashion – than I thought it could be.

South Africa is not in a good place and there’s not much hope that the turn-around will be swift. Those working against the citizens have done too much damage and are still sowing havoc. We will make it though as this weekend again promised, but patience is required.

Too often so many dump on what this country and its people are, that those of us who are optimistic by nature have a tough battle on a daily basis. But sometimes the country and its people deliver brilliantly.

With the excitement at an all-time high, seeing these artists of sport and music was all we dreamt it would be.

We planned the logistics of especially the tennis. In fact, we had a full day of entertainment planned so that we would not find ourselves in traffic jams or in a distressing situation where we couldn’t make the game.

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The exuberance and ingenuity of Jojo Rabbit set the mood for the day.

With the stadium in walking distance of the V&A Waterfront, that was an obvious destination. Our movie for the day was picked, Jojo Rabbit, and we would have a late lunch at about 3pm before making our way to the stadium at 5.

Everything played into our hands. We had picked the parking mall closest to the stadium and it was literally a 10 minute walk from both the stadium and the movie mall. The stars had aligned and once we experienced the delight of Jojo Rabbit, the perfect pick for the day, it seemed nothing could go wrong.

Even our late lunch at Tashas, which consisted of a house salad with the freshest finely cut greens and avo mixed with portions of pickled calamari and squid heads with a cool glass of Cape wine, was perfect.

This was followed by a short walk to the stadium, the palpable excitement of the crowds starting to amass and the simplicity of finding the right entrance and our seats. Of course the stands are far from the court and we couldn’t really see their facial expressions, and we were sitting in an area where the sound was distorted (all of which we could later catch up on DStv), but we could certainly experience the play, see the balletic magnificence of Federer and experience Nadal’s joy as he became more and more aware of the importance of this meet for someone who is now his big tennis buddy.

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Nadal and Noah vs Federer and Gates… with everyone in stitches.

I am a Federer fanatic and the pleasure of witnessing the way he plays in real life and real time is something that’s hard to explain and with that, the bonus of the gracious Nadal who could hardly keep the smile off his face the whole game. How blessed tennis fans are to have these two gentle sports giants at the top of their game for much of our lives – and then to catch them in Cape Town nogal!

Who could have thought. And then in typical South African fashion, a young man with an exquisite voice started singing Shosholoza, capturing that awesome home ground spirit that we wallow in and reminds us just who we are.

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Throughout the game, if I had criticism, it was the music which should all have been from here. It’s such a brilliant showcase and we certainly have a choice which would have every spectator’s hair standing on edge as could be witnessed with the spirited Shosholoza. It was a night when the people, the organisation, the tennis and the players and for those of us who have never been, even the stadium with the starry night skies, were doing their best.

The following night was Yo-Yo Ma’s Kirstenbosch concert as part of his 36 Concerts. 6 Continents. 36 Days of Action, exploring how culture connects us.

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The beauty of Kirstenbosch with nature the perfect setting for Yo-Yo Ma.

It all began in August 2018 when he started a two-year journey to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for cello in 36 locations around the world. For me this was meant to be. He is probably my favourite classical musician and not only for his playing but also for the way he embraces world music and makes huge statements without saying a word – all in aid of our common humanity. We need these artists, especially when they have his insight and platform.

What were the odds that these two events would come together on one weekend in one city on the Southern-most point on Africa – or almost. And yet another perfect night. It started in Cape Town’s best late-afternoon light (not a sign of the wind of the previous night which had Trevor Noah asking for the aircon to be switched off!) and worked itself into the most precious full moon which shone on Yo-Yo and the crowds like a halo.

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Tripping the light fantastic pictured by Austin Mann.

It was sublime – everything. From the musician all by himself making heart-achingly beautiful music, the setting, the lit trees as the darkness descended and even going home, making your way back to the car, not everyone sure which route to take yet being directed out by traffic police who had warned before the time that they would be there.

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A night to remember with all the planets in alignment.

And through this all, it was being South African and participating in when we are at our best that kept me smiling. From the spectators and audience to the organisation at both events, to the settings and more than anything the people and the camaraderie, we couldn’t find that anywhere else.

We have proved that as a nation when we find common ground, we have the same drum beating the African rhythms that keep us fighting for a country where diversity has always been its strength.

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The perfect partnership: Zolani Mahola and Yo-Yo Ma.

The genius Yo-Yo Ma experienced that as he invited Zolani Mahola (formerly Freshly Ground) onto the stage and they performed one of Johnny Clegg’s most haunting anthems Asimbonanga:

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water…