1 April 2017
Top guitarists Issy Ariefdien and Ivor Wagner – legends of the ’60s and ’70s – are on the verge of teaming up again after playing their last gig together almost 50 years ago.
Yeah, you say, check the date. Nice try. April Fool!!
Anything but, folks. True dat. Both Issy and Ivor confirmed this week that they have been jamming for private enjoyment these last few weeks and there is a distinct possibility they’ll be looking to go public soon – very soon.
Both musicians are now in their early Seventies and, to all intents and purposes, had given away public performances.
Issy’s last major gig was a Pacific Express reunion performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival in 2015. He says he had to deal with some serious health issues around that time and basically packed his guitars away.
Ivor in recent years had returned to Cape Town in retirement after decades in London where he had practised as a barrister and, as a sideline, performed as a solo guitarist.
Both Issy and Ivor were high-profile guitarists in the Sixties. Ivor started out with the Big Beats, then the top band in Peninsula, and Issy was with the Magnets, an Elsies River group noted for the exceptional vocals.
In 1968, when soul music and underground was popular, they found themselves playing for Respect with drummer Noel Kistimar, bassist Mel da Silva, guitarist Issy Mohamed and vocalist Tyrone McCranus. They were hot. Issy was on lead guitar and Ivor on organ and they were trendsetters at the time
The group folded in the early ’70s and contact between Ivor and Issy was minimal while they pursued separate careers.
Then came the social visits earlier this year.
Issy explains: “Ivor had popped around a few times and brought his guitar along probably to entertain me because I was in a bad place. I was blown away with what he was doing.
“Then one day he said he was coming around and he told me to have my guitar out. Well, the truth is, for the past couple of years, I haven’t even listened to music even though I was told it was therapeutic for me.
“I have so much good music on my iPod, jazz and what have you, but after so long in a dark place, I had lost my mojo.
“But Ivor inspires me. I have been in awe of him ever since those days when he was playing those Shadows numbers with Big Beats.
“We wouldn’t have a problem putting together a repertoire. When we were jamming he was playing these lovely old standards like Autumn Leaves and some pop stuff.
“I do a couple of jazz tunes and he was impressed with my version of Take Five on the six-string bass.
“It’ll work out because he plays solo guitar, I can play bass solo and I can accompany him with the bass. And I can sing jazz standards.
“Even now, without practising, I am quite confident we can put together a 45-minute to one-hour set.”
Ivor was equally ecstatic about the prospect of sharing a stage publicly with his one-time fellow band member.
“His experience and my experience are two totally different experiences but we can bring the two together and produce something reasonable.
“A photo of the two of us that appeared on social media sparked this interest for us to play publicly. Initially, all I wanted to do was hang out with Issy and play a few tunes.
“Issy is a much more modern player than I am. I am very old fashioned. He likes what I do and of course Issy is an all-round brilliant musician and singer. He is so talented, it’s unbelievable.
“We have now jammed to or three times with other people around us. I think we have to get together on our own without any distractions and actually get to work things out between us.
“There is that is the keenness on the part of both of us. We want to play publicly and the lovely thing is, Issy seems to have woken up. And if I’ve been a catalyst in that respect, I’m very pleased to have been able to do that.
“He and I will start rehearsing after Easter.”
So, no April Fool’s Day joke. It’s a happening thing. Watch this space.
You can read more about Ivor Wagner and his career here.
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