FolkWorld #75 07/2021

A South African / Eastern Melting Pot

Derek Gripper

»Guy and I have played together before. But that night was the first time we’d played together after spending solid time drinking tea together. Turns out this made all the difference. As did the incredible audience turn out in one of my favourite venues in Cape Town (pity about the hard wooden pews but sometimes you have to suffer for Art).« — Derek Gripper

Artist Video

Guy Buttery & Derek Gripper: Live in Cape Town

Guy Buttery — sitar, acoustic guitar, mbira

Derek Gripper — classical guitar

Guy Buttery & Derek Gripper "Live in Cape Town", Own label, 2021

South African guitar masters Derek Gripper & Guy Buttery release "Live in Cape Town".

Guy Buttery

»It's curious to think that the first time Derek and I finally got ourselves together for a collaboration, beyond a quick soundcheck rehearsal (i.e. "It's in D minor bra”), was in the very space I first saw Toumani Diabaté. Toumani is Derek's first port of call for the mind bending arrangements he's done of kora music for guitar. I remember leaving his solo concert that night as if there was little or no gravity beneath my feet. A sense of frictionlessness. I recall a similar elation happening on stage for me with uncle Derek that night. So many moments full of freedom, exploration and a sense of fearlessness to whatever the outcome may be. Apart from feeling out the tunes together, our two days hanging before this show were spent spinning Ali Akbar Khan records, sharing hair products and washing dishes, with regular stops at the local corner café for a chat with the fantastically verbose chef."« — Guy Buttery

Artist Video Guy Buttery @ FROG

Long-time friends, collaborators and leading exponents of the acoustic guitar scene in South Africa, Derek Gripper and Guy Buttery come together for their first outing in an improvised live concert recording captured in Cape Town, South Africa. Originally intended as a radio broadcast first heard as an exclusive premiere on NPR's "New Sounds", the album is something of a melting pot of South African and Eastern influences crafted by two of the finest visionaries to emerge from the tip of the continent in decades.

Cape Town based guitar player and composer Derek Gripper took untold hours of painstaking work to transcribe note-for-note the complex compositions of Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and find a way of playing them on a six-string guitar. The results appeared on his ninth album, “One Night on Earth.” The album created an unprecedented meeting point between the written tradition of Western classical music and the oral tradition of the West African griots. Critical acclaim was quick to follow. Classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it.”

Toumani Diabaté himself asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing one guitar. Both invited Derek to collaborate with them: Derek performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali. He also played with Trio da Kali at Carnegie Hall and won a Songlines Award for the best album in Africa and the Middle East. Derek tours regularly in the USA, Canada, Britain, Europe, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, Australia, Malaysia, India and Mali.

“Guy Buttery is something of a National treasure”, says South Africa’s leading newspaper The Mercury. However, to simply label Guy Buttery as one of South Africa’s musical phenoms would be an injustice. His international role has surpassed merely performing concerts to foreign audiences. It has evolved into one as an ambassador of South African music, inspiring people across the world with his homegrown style at the very heart of his talent and tenacity. Guy’s distinct unification of South African guitar music is the musical advocate for everything positive and beautiful about the place he calls home.

In 2018, Guy received the highest accolade for a musician in South Africa and was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. In almost 4 decades of honouring artists throughout the country, this was the first time since its inception that the award was presented to a musician outside of the classical realm. Buttery has worked with an incredible myriad of artists including Dave Matthews, Jethro Tull, Vusi Mahlasela, multiple Grammy Award Winner Will Ackerman, Salif Keita, Kaki King, The Violent Femmes and countless others. The media has cited him “as one of the finest exponents of the acoustic guitar in the World.”

Derek Gripper and Guy Buttery's debut release "Live in Cape Town" see's them joining forces and exploring further down their respective musical paths creating some entirely new terrain using guitars, sitars and mbira's. The album is now available on all streaming platforms including the artist's preferred platform, Bandcamp. Expect high dynamics, deep grooves, delicate African inflections and mind-bending guitar playing of an entirely new order.

Photo Credits: (1) Derek Gripper, (2) Guy Buttery, (3) Guy Buttery & Derek Gripper "Live in Cape Town" (unknown/website).

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