Feeling the fear
As Celine Dion jets out of South Africa with a small fortune in her bank account, a horde of noise terrorists are jetting into the country to share their latest works in experimental sound. The stage is the Unyazi 2 Festival, a touring roster of extreme listening, which has been dubbed Fear of the Known.
The inaugural festival was hosted in 2005 and this year it is curated by pioneering South African sound artist James Webb, who has selected a cast of 25 sonic artists to take part in this year’s festival, which will travel from Cape Town to Stellenbosch and then on to Johannesburg.
“The festival will be featuring some world-class sound art and experimental music,” says Webb. “A week-long indulgence into aural excesses and theoretical delights.”
He says he wanted to build on the last event by creating a festival of “extreme listening” where space is made for artists to push boundaries.
“The title Fear of the Known is an invitation for artists to react to conventional approaches of working and to truly experiment with their ideas,” says Webb.
South African electronic musician Warrick Sony, who is best known for his project The Kalahari Surfers, is hard at work preparing for the festival.
“It’s a great opportunity to put across music that is challenging to the listener and to compose stuff that is free of entertainment as we know it,” says Sony. “It gives creative people an opportunity to explode their imagination.”
Sony says he is finishing work on a 30-minute performance piece for the festival that will be based on recorded radio and television coverage of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.
“I am exploring some of the more bizarre aspects of the coverage like this quite nice moment when Radio Metro lost its feed from the inauguration,” says Sony. “I am quite interested in things that happen in the public domain that weren’t meant to.”
Alongside Sony a host of local sound artists will be performing, including Buckfever Underground guitarist Righard Kapp, Julian Jonker, Garth Erasmus and Brendon Bussy.
Webb reluctantly singles out a few highlights from the upcoming festival. “It’s hard to pinpoint just a few highlights but a personal one must be Stellenbosch University’s Kemus Ensemble performing Stockhaussen’s Mikrophone 1 on the back of a taxi wreck,” he says.
He also points to the collaborative performance by France’s Eric LaCasa and Australia’s Philip Samartzis who are arriving two weeks prior to the festival so they can record sounds in the Western Cape, which will be used to build two performance pieces.
He describes the planned performance of avant-garde artist Asmus Tietchens at the festival as “quite a coup”, adding: “He is a great pioneer of electronic music and we are very honoured to have him perform.”
The festival will also run a series of lectures and workshops where the artists can meet each other and discuss their work.
“To have the festival as a week-long event makes it all the more possible for local artists to meet and engage with the international ones,” says Webb. “Instead of flying people in and out again, we have invited artists to stay for a longer time, develop local projects and get to know the scene.”
“We also don’t want to see this as a one-off festival and will be in discussion with all the artists about future projects in South Africa and looking into the possibility of collaborative events and projects,” he says. “We want this festival to work towards creating new events in the future.”
The Unyazi 2 Festival concert performances will take place at The Assembly in Cape Town on Wednesday March 12; at the University of Stellenbosch on Friday March 14 and Saturday March 15; and at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Sunday March 16. For a full schedule of performances, workshops and lectures go to www.myspace.com/unyazi.
Artists appearing in concert and conference include Asmus Tietchens, Automat, Brandon LaBelle, Brendon Bussy, Carine Zaayman, Ensemble Je Ne Comprends Pas, Eric LaCasa, Garth Erasmus, Jako Maron, James Webb, Jason Kahn, Julian Jonker, Lawrence English, Philip Samartzis, the POW Ensemble, Marc Behrens, Mark Schreiber, Righard Kapp, Stacy Hardy, Sudden Infant, The Kemus Ensemble, Theo Herbst, Ulrich Süsse, Warrick Sony and Willem Boshoff.