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Heritage Day, D6 vocal groups, and the museum that must not die

Chico Levy, Salie Daniels with The Playboys and, on right The Falcons, from left, Biba Petersen, Mana Petersen, Tommy Peters, Ama Petersen and Taliep Petersen. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Do the names The Ambrosias, The Playboys, The Falcons, The Splendours or The Emotions mean anything to you? They absolutely would, if you had any connection with District 6.

They were all singing groups who had their roots in District 6 in the late ’50s and ’60s before the apartheid regime uprooted the community and turned the area into a wasteland.

Today is Heritage Day, a day to remember and acknowledge our past . . . the things that mattered then and matters now. Heritage is about past tangible things like buildings and intangibles like customs, music dance sports etc.

For many, those singing groups are part of the heritage of people who lived there and who have passed it on to their children.

There wasn’t a stage show in the ’60s that didn’t feature any one of those aforementioned groups and others like The Telstars, The Rockets (not the pop band) and Hi-Lites. They would feature on the bill on that small stage at The Star Bioscope with the likes of Ebrahim Rodrigues, Ismail Parker, Vernon Saunders and budding stars Zane Adams and Taliep Petersen.

The Rockets vocal group, one of the most popular groups that came out of District 6 in the Sixties. [Elspeth Davids and Neesha Abrahams are the women, any help with naming the others would be appreciated.]

Those were great days for the D6 people. Life might have been a struggle for many but when it came to entertainment it was alive and vibrant. After a week-long slog on the factory floor, light relief on a Saturday afternoon was a stage show at the Avalon or one organised by “Sakkie vannie Star”.

It would feature their neighbours, their brothers or sons (daughters in some cases) but almost always someone from District 6.

Today, all those groups and entertainers and their venues have to be remembered because it is part of someone’s heritage.

There is no better institution that ensures people remember the District 6 heritage than the District 6 Museum housed in the old Methodist Church on the corner of Buitenkant and Albertus Streets. They have been doing sterling work for decades in keeping alive the memory of District 6 alive.

The museum, since its establishment in 1989, has been a cynosure for those who want to imprint indelibly in people’s memories the apartheid’s forced removals, be it District 6, Newlands, Wynberg, Claremont, Mowbray, is never forgotten.

Within its walls are mementoes and street signs bearing names of families who lived on it . . . Eckhardt Street, Pontac Street, Aspeling, Stuckeris, De Villiers . . . a link to the past but never forgotten.

A clipping from The Post in 1968. The Ambrosias in the group are Rashaad Craayenstein, Solly Junior, Gouwa Abrahams, Achmat Abrahams and Isgak Felix.

Sadly, this beacon of a community’s heritage is in danger of closing its doors, another victim of the flow-on effects of Covid-19.

The museum has relied, in the main, on donors and a steady stream of international visitors, who came to hear, first-hand from former residents of life in the area.

When the Government closed the international borders, the principal revenue stream dried up. It doesn’t get funding from the authorities, and in an effort to continue operating, it has launched a local and global appeal for people to donate any amount to help them keep their doors open. They would like donations to start at R50, the normal price of an entry fee.

Donations can be made by EFT to their Standard Bank account 0707 293686, branch code 020 909. The Swift code for foreign donations is SBZ AZA JJ.

Local artists, along with many other organisations, have joined the campaign to save the museum. Tomorrow (September 25) the Save D6 Benefit Concert will be live streamed on social media from the 44 Long Street venue. It will feature, among others, Madeegha Anders and her children Jawaahier and Ashur Petersen, Loukmaan Adams, Nur Abrahams, Jarrod Ricketts, Mujahied George and Claire Phillips. The concert starts at noon and goes to midnight.

Some of the performers have a strong link to D6. The father of the Petersen siblings is Taliep Petersen.

Nur Abrahams, one the top entertainers in Cape Town, is, of course, the son of Gouwa and Achmat who were part of The Ambrosias. He’ll be celebrating his heritage big time no doubt.

Tickets for the concert – R80 – is available until October 1 and can be bought here:

https://www.quicket.co.za/events/115443-save-d6-museum-benefit-concert/#/

I’ll be celebrating Heritage Day by tuning in and doing my bit to save the museum. As a proud Trafalgarian, I trudged to school from the station up Hanover Street and hung a right at Tennant Street, then left at Constitution and right into Birchington Road to get there.

Years later, I was to spend my formative years as a journalist working at The Post in Hanover Street, which is where I met The Ambrosias, Chico Levy and The Playboys, Mac Emeran and Colin Martin of The Splendours and a host of other performers who were local heroes.

You don’t know where you’re going in life unless you know where you come from. It’s all heritage.

To the international readers of this blog (and there are many of you, my site tells me that) please support this worthy cause. In Australia that R80 converts to $6.65, NZ is $7.19, Canadian dollar is $6.35, US dollar is $4.77, in the UK that R80 coverts to £3.75 and the Euro to 4.05.

All material on this blog is copyrighted and permission has to be obtained to reproduce any part of it. Pictures from Warren Ludski archives.

The Emotions . . . from left, Abduraghiem Leggett, Fatie Jardien, Abdullah Barodien, Mustapha Barodien.

The Splendours . . . men from top, Colin Martin, Bobby Jamal and Mac Emeran. Women, from top, are Denise Roman, Merle Hendricks and Joy Hendricks.

Sophia Foster’s Aretha tribute is pushing for a world audience

 

Sophia Foster, the head of the Foster Foundation, with the all-female cast of Sista’s Tribute To Aretha which will be live streamed next Sunday

Singer Sophia Foster is reprising her Sista’s Tribute To Aretha Show that hit the boards in December last year – with one huge difference. This time she’s going global.

The veteran diva and her Fostering Foundation kids will present the same show next Sunday, September 13, going live in an online streaming event.

Unlike the first outing of the show that was put on at the Nassau school in Newlands where only 220 people could attend, Sophia is banking on a much bigger audience, courtesy of modern technology and the reach of the internet.

“My broer,” she says in her trademark opening line, “I’m hoping that the response is huge. We’re counting on thousands and thousands buying tickets. It’s for a very good cause.”

The original Sista’s Tribute To Aretha Show was Sophia’s acknowledgment of the role the Queen of Soul played in her formative years.

Sophia used the first performance to showcase the talents of the young artists she mentors as part of Fostering Foundation that she set up to nurture raw talent.

“We put on a wonderful first performance last December and followed it up with a couple of corporate gigs but Covid 19 kinda brought things to a halt,” she said. “There were so many people who were dying to see the show but we went into lockdown.

“However, we can’t stagnate indefinitely. Now technology gives us this great opportunity to not only put on this show again for a few hundred people but to take it out of a suburb in Cape Town and present it to the rest of the city, the rest of South Africa, and to the world.

“We’re all pretty excited about that. We know how much people overseas hanker after something from home. Now ex-pats in Australia and New Zealand can watch it next Sunday night, South Africans in Canada and America can watch it early on the Sunday morning and in the UK they can watch it with us on a Sunday afternoon.

“And if they can’t watch it live, it will be available for delayed streaming for about 10 days after that. Everybody’s a winner!”

Tickets for the show can be obtained at www.quicket.co.za and costs R75. [That’s about $5 in Oz and NZ, about $4 in North America and cheap-cheap in the UK.]

The show will be aired from Aki Khan’s Penny Lane Studios in Wynberg.

It will once again feature an all-female cast made up of the young performers but this time there will be one big change – Sophia herself will be joining them on stage.

“Performing at Penny Lane Studios will be like coming home,” Sophia said. “The studio is close to where I grew up as a child.”

The recent easing of the lockdown restrictions has meant the students and Sophia can get in a number of days of rehearsals to fine-tune the presentation.

“I can tell you … it’s dynamic. It’s alive. It’s vibrant.”

As can be expected, Sophia will make full use of the extravagant wardrobe she wore on stage when she was much in demand on the hotel circuit in Southern Africa.

Sophia also has the expertise of experienced dancer Tilly Daniels Barber to polish the choreography of the young cast.

Unlike previous shows taped at Penny Lane Studios where performers played to a room filled with camera and lighting crew, Sophia has used the tricks she has learnt over the years to turn the studio in a mini-theatre accommodating about 20 people.

“It will help the young ones who could find performing to an empty room a bit daunting.”

Sista’s Tribute For Aretha cast going through their paces for next Sunday’s show which will be live-streamed.

Tickets: www.quicket.co.za

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The Lady Is A Vamp

 

Richard Ceasar and Camillo Lombard online . . . that’s tops, dog!

Blog Editor’s Note:  This article was written and posted  before the developments that have enveloped one of the people featured prominently in it.  The show has since been cancelled. This blog is a firm believer in the rule of  law  and allowing courts to decide the matter rather than taking any action that prejudges the issue. The article will remain on the blog until further notice but no comments  will be allowed.]

Camillo Lombard’s group, Top Dog SA, has lined up another musical top dog, singer/guitarist Richard Ceasar, to headline the band’s next online streaming gig.

It goes out next Saturday, August 1, and Top Dog is hoping that with Richard as the main act, the event will have huge appeal to expat South Africans living in Australia and New Zealand.

“Richard enjoys a huge following in both countries because he has performed there over the years and maybe this will be something nice for his fans in distant parts,” Camillo said.

Top Dog had its first online gig in May as musicians moved to the online platform to make up for the money they would have earned with live gigs.

“Our gigs have been few and far between and we have had very little support from the national government in this regard,” Camillo said.

“We have to do what we can. Like everyone else, we have to put food on the table. This is our way of doing it.”

Camillo said the group knew they had to come up with something different as a follow up to their first gig.

“We thought long and hard about which artists to feature. Richard is well loved by many audiences in Cape Town and around the world. He was a perfect fit.”

“We’ll use the occasion to celebrate a Cape Town legend.”

Camillo said viewers of the show would be treated to a “repertoire of contemporary jazz, toe-tapping music seasoned with great improvisation”. It will include some of Richard’s originals and “an amazing song penned by our own Ebrahim Khalil Shihab (Chris Schilder)”.

For Richard, life today is a quite different scenario to what he was doing in July last year. Then he was performing on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean stopping off at ports in Greece, Italy, Spain, France . . . living the dream.

Richard Ceasar . . . from cruising in the Mediterranean to online gig.

The online gig comes at a time when he has to find ways to promote his newest album, The Cape Town Old School Jam, that he released a few weeks ago. It is available now on online platforms like Spotify, Deezer and iTunes. Richard says it is a mixed bag of old favourites that people like to request when he plays.

“It is probably the last time I will be doing something like that. I have reached the stage in my life when I want to do my own stuff to explore my own creativity,” he said.

The online gig will also feature local singer Candice Thornton who is a graduate of the Cape Music Institute and is fast making a name for herself on the local scene. She has released two singles, Superhero and Four Leaf Clover. Top Dog engages her when they need a lead singer.

Tickets for the event can be obtained via Quicket and, here’s the rub . . . it will cost only R50. Camillo says price that is appropriate for a cash-trapped local audience but for the expats, it is a drop in the ocean. R50 equates to less than $5 in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and little more than two British pounds.

“We appeal to our international audiences to purchase as many tickets as they can afford to support our initiatives during Covid 19,” Camillo said.

They are hoping that overseas viewers will buy multiple tickets per household as a gesture.

Singer Candice Thornton . . . a guest spot on the Top Dog-Richard Ceasar online gig next Saturday.

Don’t hold back you expat music lovers in Oz, Kiwiland and in the Northern Hemisphere. Dig deep and buy up big. It’s the least you can do.

Four musos leave us to rock on at a big gig in the sky

Drummer Gilbert Matthews who made a name for himself in South Africa in the Seventies before settling in Sweden. He died last weekend. Photo: Rashid Lombard

We lost Big Beats guitarist Ivor Wagner on Monday. We lost Spirits Rejoice drummer Gilbert Matthews last weekend, and Invaders and Chayn Gang keyboardist “Spewy” Pillay the week before. And Respect bassist Melly da Silva passed away a few weeks before.

All four made their mark in the Swinging Sixties in bands that had huge followings in Cape Town and, in the case of the Invaders, around the country.

Ivor Wagner started out with the Big Beats in the very early Sixties as the lead guitarist. Apart from tapping successfully into the sound of the very popular UK group The Shadows, the Big Beats were noted for the fact that Ivor and bass guitarist were both blind.

Ivor Wagner . . . passed on.

When the Big Beats faded he linked up – as an organist – with top Cape Town group Respect (which had Melly da Silva on bass). Respect was one of the first groups to embrace the psychedelic and underground music styles of the late ’60s. Ivor took to it like a duck to water.

When Respect disbanded, Ivor joined jazz pianist Tony Schilder in a “white” City nightclub, he switched to playing the bass guitar, and by all accounts, excelled at it.

He left for London with his young family in ’72 where he studied law and became a successful solicitor specialising in property law . . . a remarkable achievement for a vision-impaired man who had gone as far as Std 6 (Grade 8) when he entered the workforce as a switchboard operator. When he retired, Ivor came back to Cape Town to settle. He died on Monday in Oudtshoorn where he lived with his partner Lynette Deyce. He was 78.

Melly da Silva started with a group called The Shannons in the mid ’60s and had a strong neighbourhood following in the northern suburbs. He moved on to the Lunar 5 that had vocalist Bernie Brown as its charismatic frontman.

The Lunar 5 had a bigger following and recorded songs like Hi Hi Hazel and She’s Yum Yum that enjoyed pretty good sales for the time. Melly moved on to The Raiders for a while and then formed Respect with guitarist Issy Ariefdien and drummer Noel Kistima. They were innovators.

He settled in Australia in 1970 where he worked in the IT industry. He died in May, aged 75.

The late Mel da Silva, left, and Noel Kistima with whom he formed Respect.

Rajin “Spewy” Pillay started his career in Durban where he was from. He played with Naked Truth and then Chayn Gang with Jack Momple on drums and Henri Donjeany on guitar.

The group was one of the first Durban groups (with The Exotics) to head to Cape Town to make it their base.

The Chayn Gang broke up because some wanted to go back home. Spewy did odd gigs for years but concentrated on making leather goods (it was a ’60s peace and love thing and Spewy, with his ever present headband, and shoulder-length hair, lived it to the full).

The Invaders found him playing in a white club in Durban and were looking to broaden their repertoire and their appeal to accommodate the changing music styles of the late Sixties. Spewy hit the road with them.

Invaders lead guitarist Joe Moses, who kept in touch with him over the years, remembers it well: “We met him in this white club and he sounded great on keyboards. He had a nice style.

“We asked him to come and play for us. At first he was reluctant and long, hard think about it, but he eventually he came around.

“Spewy had a cool manner and what I remember most about him was his quality leather products and his habit of having his Alsatian dog, Tessa, on stage with him all the time.

“Just recently we made contact and he asked me if we could team up again because, as he put it, he had never played with such nice guys. I didn’t know what to say. Now he’s gone.”

Gilbert Mathews was a fixture on the jazz-fusion scene in the ’60s, moving around to different groups wherever there was an opening for a skins man who was comfortable in the genre. He ended up with Spirits Rejoice, one of the top groups in the country and recorded the eponymous LP with them. He moved to Sweden in the ’70s and plied his trade there.

Photographer and jazz promoter Rashid Lombard was deeply saddened by the passing of the four musicians, all of whom had a part in shaping his life as a young man growing up in Athlone.

“I knew all four of them,” Rashid. “At some stage or other I caught their act hanging out in the clubs in Athlone.

“I was 17 years old living in Lawrence Road, in Athlone, when I heard of the group, the Chayn Gang from Durban that moved into a house in Church Street, the next road up from where I lived. They performed at the Columbia ’68 Club and the Soul Workshop, the two hot clubs in Athlone at the time.

The late Spewy Pillay who played with The Invaders and The Chayn Gang.

“During that same period at Columbia, Melly da Silva and Ivor Wagner were with Respect. They were the regular house band there, well-rehearsed and always adding new songs to their repertoire.

“They played the stuff that got me into appreciating music that went beyond the pop and bubblegum stuff that you heard on the radio.

“Through them I got hooked on the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Clapton, Blood Sweat and Tears and the like. Those were good times.

“The biggest loss to me is Gilly. He was originally from the Eastern Cape. We grew up together and became family in many ways. Before he left for Sweden, he was a regular at the Beverly Lounge and the Landdrost Hotel, both popular spots for cool jazz music.

“Gilly later joined the super fusion group Spirits Rejoice with Mervyn Africa, Paul Petersen, Duke Makasi and Robbie Jansen. They were dynamite. They recorded the album, Spirits Rejoice, and had a long residency at the Club Montreal in Manenberg.

“It is so sad that we lose all these great musicians in quick succession and now we have lost a great photographer in George Hallett too.”

“They should not be forgotten. They laid the foundation and shaped my appreciation of the different music genres and of photography.”

As an entertainment journalist, I also knew all four of them. If I replayed the soundtrack of my life, Melly and Ivor would feature prominently. And I’d press the repeat button for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Related material:

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Rajin “Spewy” Pillay (middle) adorned with bangles and beads, with Invaders, from left, Johnny Burke, Dave Burke, Joe Moses and Lionel Petersen.

 

Marc Lottering hits ‘home run’ with a crowd of 18,000 in the front room

Comedian Marc Lottering . . . broke “attendance” records for his first online streaming show, My Fellow South Africans which went out live.

Comedian Marc Lottering’s one-off My Fellow South Africans show has been a monster, runaway hit. It was H-U-G-E!!!

Ticket sales, according to ticketing company Quicket, came in at about 18,000. That is phenomenal. That’s not me saying it; that comes from Marc’s peers in the entertainment industry.

The first thing most of them did was to crunch the numbers – 18,000 tickets at R70 a pop. Yep, that’s in excess of R1,000,000 for the night’s work. That’s great money in any entertainer’s language, more so as a comedian.

And think about . . . he was performing in a studio that had no audience bar technicians. It is part of the “new normal” where artists have no choice but to go online and stream shows “alive”, as Marc’s Aunty Merle character puts it.

Marc was so overwhelmed at the response that he opened the June 13 show absolutely ecstatic at having heard the news that they had sold 15,000.

Marc Lottering’s Aunty Merle . . . had some sage words as always for My Fellow South Africans.

“We’re rich. I wish I had charged more,” he told viewers (probably in jest).

With more than 60,000 followers on social media and a history of sell-out runs at his live shows in the past, it was kinda expected that he would draw a few hundred viewers.

“I was hoping to sell one thousand tickets,’’ Marc said. “People currently have many shows to choose from.

“As we got closer to show-day, Aki of Penny Lane Studios kept sending through the numbers.  We were all in continual shock as it kept climbing.  And fans were buying from all over the world.

“When we started to creep past 7000, my stomach nerves started losing the plot.  I was like ‘oh flip Marc, you cannot screw this up’.  It got so bad that I eventually asked Anwar [Mc Kay, his partner and manager] that the figures be kept from me. I was not dealing with it.  I just desperately wanted to not be distracted, and to prepare as I would for a normal preview night at the theatre.  Except this was not going to be a preview.  This was going to be the preview, the opening night, and the final performance rolled into one.  It was a crazy feeling.”

A week after the one-night stand, Marc was still in awe of the achievement and how it stacked up as a source of income against a long run at a theatre.

“Seventeen thousand tickets sold! [It ended up being 18,000 when online access was stopped.] I’m really not sure if that will ever happen again.  I made good money.  Everyone was doing the math on their couches and sending me screen grabs with calculator totals.

“The show was shot at a filming studio.  So there were expenses attached, as with any other big theatre show.  Studio and crew costs, opening act costs, PR costs, SARS, . . .

“Anwar and I also support selected charity groups.  But having taken all of that into account, the income for one gig was still helluva good.  There’s obviously no way you could make that money in one night at a theatre.  Which is why I usually run at a theatre for a month or so.  I am mindful of the fact that that live stream show was somewhat of a phenomenon though.”

Although Marc’s last live gig, Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl, ran until the end of February, he, like so many other artists, found himself without work when the national lockdown came into effect in March. Initially he wasn’t keen on “pivoting” to the new online medium.

“I was reluctant.  Everyone else was doing it but I was resisting the idea, as I simply could not get my head around the thought of not having a live audience.  But then so many of my followers were pushing for me to ‘please step forward during lockdown’.

Colleen The Cashier lays down the law about social distancing.

“They wanted to hear what I had to say right now.  So I guess I figured that there would be some support.  I estimated that we would sell around a thousand tickets.  Anwar quietly booked the studio and the put out the flyer.  Quietly.”

Given the success of this event, is he considering doing another?

“There’s been some talk of me doing another live stream show.  It’s probably going to happen around the end of July.  We’ll see.  It all depends on what’s going on inside my head, creatively.  Also, the world is currently a surreal space.  People are fighting for their lives, and people dying.  It sometimes feels as though comedy is not the easiest thing to do right now.  And yet, many have said that it’s a very necessary thing to do right now.  We’ll see.”

While many local acts that have decided to stream live via Facebook from their lounges or garages at home and ask for donations, Marc opted to use the Penny Lane Studios and Quicket ticketing company.

“I wanted to do things right.  I wanted the fans to have as few technical hitches as possible.  Or even better, no technical hitches at all.  Hence me deciding to shoot at a studio where the team knows their stuff.

“It’s also very good for my headspace to leave home to do a show.  I’m old school like that. It just feels right. I have to point out that the show went out live, so there was little room for screwing up.  Many online shows are pre-recorded. Ours was not.  So I needed a solid team.”

Marc’s advice for any other artist who has hopes of emulating his achievement is to treat the show like any other show: “Prepare in the same way.   Not only rehearsal-wise, but also in terms of PR.  Have a solid PR campaign.  That helped me a great deal.  Fans loved the little promo videos of Aunty Merle and Colleen the Cashier.  We were also fortunate to secure radio and TV interviews.  Those were amazing.”

Of the show itself, it was vintage Marc, or should I say Aunty Merle, Colleen the Cashier and Shmiley, the taxi Sliding Door Executive, with lots of new material, some specifically corona virus related.

“Anwar was only willing to direct if I came with only new material,” Marc said.  “So of course I hated him.  I usually do new material with new shows but then I usually have the luxury of fine-tuning the material night after night.  This was going to be different – brand new material into a camera with no idea as to whether the material is landing or not.  It sounded like career suicide.  Well apparently it was not.”

Marc Lottering with a sign language interpreter in a promo. He used one in the show.

The use of a sign language interpreter was commendable. We must always be mindful of people who are hearing-impaired.

For those of you who were not among the lucky 18,000 who bought tickets, (thousands more probably saw it because it’s only fair to assume that many households had multiple viewers glued to the screen) hope and pray that the show could be viewed in the future.

“Some people have asked if they could catch the show online forever, I’m looking into that,” Marc said.

If and when you do get to see the show in the future, be alert to the sombre moment at the end when Marc slips into social commentator mode and reminds people of the other “pandemic” in the community . . . TIK TOK! Very potent.

Ticket seller Quicket revealed some interesting facts about the show. The day before the show, June 12, about 9000 tickets were sold. By the time the curtain went up it had hit 16,500. An additional 2000-plus tickets were sold after the show as viewing was extended for a week.

Marc Lottering . . . online and plugged in.

Indicative of Marc’s far-reaching popularity – and his fans’ yearning for something from home – about 1500 people based overseas bought tickets.

There are lots of local acts streaming online now in an effort to generate an income in lockdown. Emo and Loukmaan Adams had a quite entertaining show with their father on Father’s Day to honour him. The Makhanda/Grahamstown festival has kicked off in an online format and it will feature some brilliant artists. And next month Madeegha Anders has on an online gig as has radio personality Clarence Ford celebrating 30 years behind the microphone.

Support them, local is lekker!

 

Ramon Alexander and his quartet . . . ‘live’ online in your front room

Ramon Alexander with his quartet, Valentino Europa, Byron Abrahams and Annemie Nel, who perform with him as part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival that is being streamed online.

Pianist Ramon Alexander realises one of his long-time ambitions this weekend when he takes to the stage, in a manner of speaking, at the prestigious Standard Bank Jazz Festival 2020/Makhanda.

The enterprising musician will showcase his prodigious talents when his quartet is featured on Sunday’s program of the festival – with one significant difference: this time it’ll be an online streaming event.

The jazz program is part of the Virtual National Arts Festival that had its genesis 44 years ago as the Grahamstown Arts Festival. The jazz component goes back 33 years to give performers a place where “artists meet and challenge audiences to expand their expectations of the art form”.

The corona virus pandemic has forced the event, like so many others, to go online and stream to an audience sitting in the comfort of their lounges.

For Ramon, the fact that it is an online streaming event has not taken off the gloss of him being part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.

“It has long been a dream of mine to play at the festival,” said Ramon who, back in 2004, was selected as pianist for the Standard Bank National Youth Big Band.

“It would have been great to be live at the festival but for me just being part of it is fantastic, even if it is a streaming event.”

The streaming event itself won’t feature the quartet playing live. It will go out as a pre-recorded set. The group recorded their tunes last week at Artscape.

“It was a very professional set-up on stage at Artscape,” Ramon said. “Standard Bank organised a quality crew to tape the show.

“I wasn’t too fazed that the auditorium was empty. It was like recording in a studio.”

Solo piano links

Ramon said the set would feature some of his older tunes with Dance of Our Fathers being reworked. Other tunes in the set include Apex, Louwskloof se Mense, Ebrahim Khalil Shihab’s Jing’an Park, Oom Robbie Jansen, Roderick and Reflections.

Roderick is a new tune dedicated to his brother who died a few years ago.

The set will also feature a significant part where Ramon plays solo piano as he links the various tunes. “I just feel that is an area of my playing that I need to explore a little bit more.”

Ramon’s quartet is made up of Byron Abrahams (sax), Valentino Europa (bass), and Annemie Nel (drums).

The boy from Mamre hasn’t only been busy preparing for the festival. Behind the scenes he has been working on his next album.

“I have most of it done already,” he said “It’s just a matter of adding one or two more tunes and doing some mixing.”

He has used bassist Chadleigh Gower, Annemie Nel and saxophonists Byron Abrahams and Zeke le Grange for the recordings which were laid down at i-Studios.

“The Covid-19 situation has put a spanner in the works with this project as well. I am now hoping to have it out by the end of the year or early next year.”

The coming album will be a follow up to his highly successful Echoes from Louwskloof that featured the very popular ghoema tune, Sons and Captains and Essence of Spring which was a collaboration with Shihab.

Tickets to view Ramon’s online streaming gig can be bought here:

https://test.nationalartsfestival.co.za/show/ramon-alexander/

The festival runs from Thursday, June 24 until July 5. Tickets can be bought as single event passes, a day pass or a festival-long pass. It features some of the best young jazz performers in the country.

Support the artists. Times are tough!!!

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Support your local artists, they need it – and local is lekker!

Top Dog on stage in their virtual concert streamed online last week. The group is planning to do a few more to generate an income now that the lockdown has deprived them of live gigs.

In the midst of all the suffering and grief that Covid-19 has inflicted on us, there has been one little upside (if one can find an upside in such tragic circumstances) – it has allowed us to listen and view “live” some of the best local music in the comfort of our homes.

It has made the dreaded lockdown just a little bit palatable.

In the past week I have had the pleasure of watching concerts by pianist Kyle Shepherd, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, and the vibrant group, Top Dog, led by Camillo Lombard and DonVino Prins.

It was an awesome experience, particularly for one whose opportunities to watch live South African acts are few and far between. That would be the case for all the expat South Africans who hanker for a taste of the home-grown stuff.

Saxophonist McCoy Mrubata with bassist Lex Futshane and pianist Paul Hanmer performing in their online concert this week.

The online concerts serve another purpose. It is providing an income stream for all the artists, musicians and thespians alike, who have seen the work disappear into the ether when the lockdown was put in place. No gigs, no performances. Nothing.

This is what made watching the concerts all the more satisfying. I was getting a fix of “local is lekker” as well as contributing financially to the performers who have no gigs.

Rashid Lombard, the man who for years was the spearhead of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, says the online concerts have been an “absolute blessing” for the performers.

“People are doing it tough,” he said. “The work just dried up overnight and there was no money coming in. For the lucky few who have put together an online concert, there is some relief but there are thousands of other performers who have nothing.

“I urge people to support these concerts and to be part of an initiative called MuzosDirect. It is a network of musicians, media identities, business people, cultural activists, and music lovers all over the world, who are chipping in to help arts people in desperate need.”

People in the arts haven’t had financial relief from the government. MuzosDirect has set up an online fundraiser – www.backabuddy.co.za/muzodirect – for people to donate.

“The money will be used to purchase food vouchers,” Lombard said.

Top Dog’s Camillo Lombard said the group appreciated the support that came in via the purchase of tickets to view the concert live as well as the donations that came in afterwards.

Top Dog pianist Camillo Lombard

“We are very pleased with the whole venture and we are exploring ways to generate more such opportunities in the online space,” Camillo said.

A number of studios are equipped to provide top-class streaming services along with quality lighting to give the occasion the full concert ambience.

Kyle Shepherd’s concert was streamed by Penny Lane Studios; McCoy Mrubata’s by Militia Broadcasting; and the Top Dog gig by Victory Kingdom Studios. All three were commendable efforts.

The head of Jo’burg-based Militia Broadcasting, Eban Olivier, said they had been doing sessions “off and on for five years but really started to get to business only three weeks ago”.

Militia currently has a number of concerts available for streaming on demand on its platform, including Bokani Dyer, Benjamin Jeptha, Sydney Mavundla, Mandla Mlangeni and Keenan Ahrends, all of whom lean towards the jazz genre. The average cost of a live concert is about R80 and a stream on demand about R30.

“All genres are welcome on the platform . . . with that said, we do adhere to a level of musical quality,” Olivier said.

Militia Broadcasting’s company has streamed a number of international live concerts, among them big names like Mumford and Sons, Chris Brown and Linkin Park.

“We have sold over 4500 tickets in the last three weeks with only 42 per cent of these tickets coming from our own local soil. It is being promoted straight from artist to fan via social media.”

Kyle Shepherd’s concert was a solo piano performance titled After the night, the day will surely come. It was music of a very high calibre, almost cerebral in places. Not much of the spoken word during the performance bar the opening remarks.

Of his concert, Shepherd said: “My performance will be a reflection and meditation on a time when we can be together again! A musician’s purpose has always and will always be as an advocator of community. As it has been throughout the ages, balance will be restored to life.”

McCoy Mrubata had Lex Futshane on bass and Paul Hanmer accompanying him and the three provided an eclectic set that touched on some smooth jazz, some ghoema and some interesting influences on a tune called Tunisia on which Mrubata played a haunting flute.

DonVino Prins blowing up a storm for Top Dog in the online concert last week.

Top Dog dedicated their set to indigenous African music that embraced their Khoi and San roots, some traditional ghoema sounds, Afrikaans tunes and moving poetry.

All in all three very satisfying concerts for a music lover stuck thousands of kilometres away. Like many other expats in a similar situation, I relish the thought of the smorgasbord of “local is lekker” stuff that is being made available online (even if we watch it on demand at a decent hour).

For those in South Africa, turn off the radio, Chromecast to the big screen telly from your smartphone/laptop and enjoy. I did. And think of the benefits to the struggling artists.

If your entertainment taste is a bit more diverse you can always check out Mujahid George, Loukman Adams and Alistair Izobell on their live stream on Friday June 5. Or comedian Marc Lottering’s My Fellow South African’s live stream on June 13. Click on the link below and follow Auntie Merle’s instruction on how to get a ticket.

 

 

To all the ex-pat South African’s living where the exchange rate is a gift from heaven, dig deep and give till it hurts.

https://muzosdirect.com/?fbclid=IwAR0u2U4boCwvKWpz70vaBqdwCkBz2Pt37RJ3qLkaezAtaolMprLXSyo2Wws

 

Happy birthday Louis Moholo-Moholo . . . may the rhythm in your heart beat a lot longer

Louis Moholo-Moholo . . . still beating out a rhythm at 80 years. Picture source:  Social media

Louis Moholo-Moholo, one of the founding members of the legendary South African jazz group, The Blue Notes, celebrates a big birthday today. The master of the drums turns 80 years today.

The enduring Moholo-Moholo has outlasted and outlived most of his contemporaries who popularised be-bop, mainstream and avante garde jazz in the Sixties. (Abdullah Ibrahim – then Dollar Brand – is one of the few still around who played with Moholo-Moholo).

The Blue Notes were the trendsetters when they hit the scene in Cape Town in the early Sixties. But as quickly as their flame burned brightly, it disappeared from the South African scene. The apartheid regime made it impossible for the group to survive here because it was made up of four blacks and a white South African.

That was just inviting trouble in apartheid South Africa.

So the group – Moholo Moholo, Dudu Pukwana on alto, Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Nikele Moyake on tenor, Johnny Dyani on bass and Chris McGregor on piano – headed for Europe and the UK in 1964 to seek fame and fortune.

Fame they certainly achieved. This vibrant group of young South Africans caught the eye of the purist jazz lovers who were taken by their free-form jazz style mixed with the throbbing sounds of African rhythms.

A young Louis Moholo-Moholo during his time with Brotherhood of Breath. Picture source: Social media

The group played at the much talked about Antibes Jazz Festival in France in July 1964 which further enhanced their growing reputation.

The Blue Notes morphed into the Brotherhood of Breath and the group became an even bigger drawcard in London and Europe even though they had lost a few members along the way.

Louis Moholo-Moholo formed his own group and played with a number of other leading jazz lights.

It was going to be decades before he would be in the shadow of Table Mountain again. Nelson Mandela would be a free man and apartheid as a law would be gone.

As big a name as Moholo-Moholo is, he largely unknown on the broader Cape Town scene.

But Cape Town is where it all started for him. His love for music and drums in particular came from listening to scout bands that walked the suburban streets of the Cape Flats.

This blog had plans to interview Moholo-Moholo do get his views on life, music, the younger generation and anything he wished to talk about . . . but after six months of trying I still have not been able to buttonhole the man. He is constantly on the move. One month he is in Berlin, then he is in Port Elizabeth, now I believe he is celebrating his birthday in London where he lived for many years.

As I have said many times before, musicians like Moholo-Moholo were pioneers in South African entertainment history. Although the Blue Notes had a short lifespan on the South African scene, they did more than enough to be lauded for achievements. The younger generation of jazz lovers should know about them.

It’s been tough trying to have a chat to Tebogo Moholo-Moholo because he still travels overseas for gigs and has a base in London. Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to sit down with him and get inside his head to let him tell me what it was really like back in the day.

But for the moment – DRUM ROLL PLEASE!! – happy birthday Louis Moholo-Moholo.

 

Video of The Blue Notes playing in Europe

 

 

An early picture of jazz group The Blue Notes. They left South Africa in 1964 because a “mixed” group had little chance of thriving in apartheid South Africa. Picture source: Social media

Leslie and Darryl’s 10-piece group hits right spot at Pizza Shack

Imagine you’re sitting soaking up some pretty cool sounds . . . Darryl Andrews plucking away on guitar, Dylan Roman on keyboards, Wesley Rustin on bass, Denver Furness on drums, Leslie Kleinsmith and two songbirds handling the vocals and a horn section to die for.

Like a nice cold beer or a chilled sav blanc on a hot day, that should “hit the spot”, right?

Right!. That’s exactly what that group is called – Hit The Spot. That’s the exciting new outfit handling the Sunday night jazz gigs at the Pizza Shack Pub Bar & Grill in Ottery.

The group ain’t exactly “new” new, though. They (without a formal name) have been doing the Sunday night jazz gigs off and on since last year but now management has offered them all the Sunday night gigs in March, starting tomorrow night.

Group spokesman Leslie Kleinsmith said they thought it was an ideal time to hit the “refresh” button on their approach to the music they will provide on the night.

“Previously, we had been a five-piece or six-piece group with various guest spots on the night,” Leslie said.

“Now that we have the regular Sunday night spot for March, we decided to be a bit more creative and give the crowd more value for their money – we expanded the group to a 10-piece.

Hit The Spot vocalists . . . Leonie le Roux (left) and Lynn Fritz with Leslie Kleinsmith. They front the new 10-piece group at Pizza Shack.

“Apart from Darryl, Dylan, Wesley, Denver and myself, we now have two female singers – Lynn Fritz and Leonie le Roux – and a brass/horn section that has Byron Abrahams on sax (and vocals), Athi Ngcaba on trombone and Joseph Kunnuji on trumpet.

“It’s a work in progress. We’ll see where it takes us but we’re all pretty excited about the musical possibilities.

Between Leslie, Darryl and Denver the group has a ton of experience. All three have been performing for 50 years or more. The younger members of the outfit should provide an ideal vehicle to combine the old with the new. The group has prepared a repertoire that will embrace jazz, Latin sounds and anything that Darryl Andrews puts on the table.

“We are very fortunate in having Darryl in the line-up. He brings so much to any group with his capacity to compose and arrange stuff,” Leslie said. “He does some wonderful things with the salsa sound.

“We’re also blessed with having two very talented female vocalists in Leonie and Lynn. It gives us so much breadth and depth in the range of songs we can tackle.

“But what excites us most is the new dimension that a trumpet, trombone and saxophone brings. It should bring out the best in Darryl with his arranging experience.

“We’re hoping that our fresh sound will hit the spot – that’s why we chose the name Hit The Spot,” Leslie says.

Ten-piece groups aren’t an everyday occurrence on the local scene. Makes me think of the days Express used to line-up with the likes of Basil Coetzee, Robbie Jansen, Barnie Rachabane and Stompie Manana.

Hit The Spot is hoping to be a round a little longer than just the Sundays in March.

In the meantime, Pizza Shack is the place to be tomorrow night – International Women’s Day. I’m inclined to check it out myself. The music should be good, DJ Stan The Jazzman always has good stuff on the turntable and the food, like the band, will leave you wanting more.

All up, it should hit the spot, huh?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW FOR VIDEO TEASERS OF HIT THE SPOT AT REHEARSALS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cQqZ8gzwrQ&list=PLeNMjOFQij2fe_N7v_r9ZNV3g0F4HU-90&index=5&t=0s

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-dRMkU8eHE

 

 

Foster kids turn out alright — and the future looks bright

14 December 2019

Foster kids can be a bit like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Unless of course the “foster mum” is Sophia Foster and the kids being raised are the young entertainers at her Fostering Foundation.

The veteran singer put her charges on the public stage for the first time last month with her Sistas’ Tribute To Aretha show and now everyone is beating a path to her door wanting to see more of the young talent.

The show, which was a sell-out on opening night, features an all-girl line-up, from the five front-line singers to the five-piece backing group belting out Aretha Franklin’s soul hits.

Social media was awash with Sophia Foster’s novel initiative to use her “students” to honour the name of one of the legends of music.

“It has just been the most incredible reaction,” Sophia says. “We have so much talent here, it’s just unbelievable.

“They just did their first corporate function to an amazing response from South Africa’s top corporate people. I can’t begin to tell you how it warms my heart to see the fruits of our labour get such a fantastic reception.”

Sophia says they worked flat out for about two months to get it to the point where she was comfortable putting her young charges on stage.

For those who do not know, Sophia runs the Fostering Foundation, a finishing school of sorts, for up-and-coming young entertainers. She is a veteran of the South Africa industry with more than 50 years’ experience.

“I pushed them hard. I worked with them seven days a week. The young girl on the keyboards said to me at the start: ‘Sophia, I’m sorry, I have to apologise to you, I can only read music. I play what’s in front of me’.

“I said to her, ‘No, you can do more than that. Do you know what the meaning of improvisation is?   You don’t have to just read it’. I showed her what scatting was. I changed their attitude.

“Straight after the very successful opening night, I went right back into rehearsals, telling them where they could improve. I went through everything with them.”

One of the big talking points of Sophia’s initiative was her use of only females for the performance. It struck a chord with all who saw the show.

“For me, it was all about empowerment. There is an expectation in South Africa that shows have a certain format, and that has been the view for years. Well, we just turned that on it s head. The girls can do it on their own.”

The other eye-catching element of the show was, of course, the glitz and glamour that has become a hallmark of any performance that Sophia is associated with.

“You know me,” Sophia says, “it’s all about the glamour, the costumes and the flair. People couldn’t believe their eyes with what they saw.”

She has plans to do more runs with the show but at this stage she is continuing to fine-tune her young students.

“God willing, for the new year I want to do a short run in a theatre as these young adults have grown tremendously under my mentorship.

“I already have people trying to poach my artists – as if there aren’t enough artists in Cape Town. I got a message straight after the first show asking if they could use my artists.

Sophia Foster

“I’m very optimistic about the future for them but we have to prepare them properly. To succeed in this industry it is about how you present; something that you have to develop and market and sell.

“What I’m giving them is not information they can buy. I am giving them first-hand experience. I want them to broaden their horizons; I want them to grow wings.”

Veteran entertainer Terry Fortune (now retired, much to the chagrin of many) was effusive in his praise for the budding stars.

“Man, they are just wonderful,” he said. “It warms my heart, as one who has also invested in young talent over the years, to see these youthful, dynamic performers. In Sophia as a mentor, they have one of the best in the business.”

Actor Basil Appollis, who is fast becoming the go-to person when it comes to directing local stage productions, was another who was carried away with what he saw.

“Knowing the Fostering Foundation and Sophia’s mission of nurturing and mentoring young talent, I was wondering whether the treatment would work at all,” he said. “I approached it with trepidation. Aretha Franklin is, after all, the High Priestess of Soul!

“Well, my worries soon disappeared. I was most impressed with these young new voices delivering Aretha’s greatest hits with flair and a maturity far beyond their years! It was truly magnificent and the show, on the whole, one pleasurable surprise.

“It would be unfair to single out any of these young singers because they were all directed to show their unique strengths. At some point during the show I felt a bit guilty because I couldn’t help thinking that I’d love to poach this one, then the other!”

Basil had nothing but praise for the girl band. “They were so dynamic! And so refreshing and appropriate. I’m sure Aretha – one forgets she was a brilliant pianist – was smiling down on them.”

Basil Appollis . . . impressed.

“The presentation was one long, exhilarating medley of Aretha’s famous hits with no break to catch one’s breath. I couldn’t help feeling the performer anxiety with the many (wonderful) costume changes! That is something Sophia is famous for – and it should really be written up in the Guinness book of Records! They’ll get there.”

There was one thing that Basil thought Sophia could do to take the show to another level: “This is personal taste entirely . . . I would’ve appreciated an anecdote or two about Aretha’s inspiring life story.”

More power to you Miss Foster! R.E.S.P.E.C.T!!

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