As performance access ends today, July 16, a final wrap-up sees more varieties of music and a bit of physical theater. It really has been a joy, even if ‘virtual’, to witness new talents, youthful zest in the arts, and heady contemporary themes in this year’s National Arts Festival 2020. Here are a few brief reviews:
“JAZZ IN THE THEATRE” FEATURING: MUNEEB HERMANS at 44 ON LONG (PTY) LTD
A favourite Cape Town-based jazz band treats the ear to original compositions from band members, under trumpeter Muneeb Hermans’ direction. Hermans has made his way around several countries performing, including gracing the prestigious Carnegie Hall, and has a lot to show us. Saxman Justin Bellairs stuns with his runs; pianist Blake Hellaby, a master at improvisation, always creates that mood, particular a classical-Ravel sound in his 3 ½ minute solo (at 07.50 minutes); Hermans’ trumpet spills forth influences far and wide as this capable musician controls but doesn’t dominate his entourage. It’s a pity that, somehow, the sound amplification of bassist Steve de Souza did not do justice to his solo playing. Nevertheless, this recording is a good example of how the Theater on 44 Long run by music/arts-lover, Esra Overberg, has become a popular central venue in Cape Town’s art hub, and will thrill future audiences, if covid-allowed!
FROM MAKHANDA TO KOFIFI: MAJOR DUO
Who would have thought two teenage school girls with violins, swinging out familiar songs of South Africa’s 1950s, would add zest with classical African sonic twists? Asive Ngcebetsha and Yolisa Ngcola, music students at the Diocesan School for Girls in Makhanda, present a delightful mix of Tsaba-Tsaba and Kwela rhythms of Sophia Town days. One cannot just sit and listen – the gals allow for lots of body movement in this 20 minute session. For sure, their engagements will feature prominently in future Festivals and other schools events in the country!
“JAZZ IN THE THEATRE” FEATURING: CHADLEIGH GOWAR at 44 ON LONG (PTY) LTD
Here’s another gem of a “Jazz in the Theatre” concert at 44 on Long in Cape Town featuring bassist Chadleigh Gowar and his very youthful band. Gowar has gone far in deploying lots of rhythm and harmony in his compositions which are rich in Cape jazz songs ranging from the indigenous ghoema to Afro-soul with that gospel influence to other bouncy improvisational styles. The staccato guitar of Lee Ludolf kicks off this set with Gowar’s obvious talent on his electric bass. These are happy musicians, smiling and hearing each other with an eagerness to please. With two keyboards, not commonly seen in jazz bands, which include a synth and organ, the band produces a versatility of sounds, mostly in the upper registers. Even the production crew can be heard singing to refrains which, ‘normally’, an audience would engage in. Gowar is a favourite rising Cape star, having played with a slew of musicians of note. Watch for more!
Dancer Smangaliso Siphesihle Ngwenya is a videographer, editor, writer, and choreographer who makes a profound statement in his Fragmented Scribbles that haunts our virus-ridden world at the moment. He presents a solemn solo dance in a narrow empty kitchen choreographed to convey a sense of emptiness, a void, that becomes body-talk. Ngwenya’s sleek moves in a confined space capture moments of endless embodied conversations that occur in one’s body, mind and spirit. One hears the primeval: indigenous sounds brought out by a dirigidoo, steady beats of Native Americans stomping, chanting. This is body-talk, or what the artist calls ‘embodied language’, with conversations made by various contortions of the body. Ngwenya has embarked on an illustrious arts career, from journalism to physical theatre, with different dance groups, like Vuyani Dance Theatre. His freelance art and writing are, indeed, begging for more audience conversations.
NOWHERE PEOPLE with the KINSMEN and featuring guitarist Vuma Levin
Indian classical, mainstream jazz, avant-garde, World fusion and South African Jazz come together in a far too short performance by the Kinsmen. Sitarist Dhruv Sodha holds this performance together with Tabla player Shailesh Pillay. The saxophone output of Muhammad Dawjee could have been either upgraded or eliminated, with harmonies sounding more like scales practice. Having the extraordinary talents of guitarist Vuma Levin, who featured ever so briefly, hardly elevated the group, whose style seemed to be, indeed, experimental and ….. going….. nowhere. Even Levin seemed to struggle with theme and purpose. I’m afraid, the group’s event was appropriately named.