Gauteng music lovers were spoiled for choice last weekend, with a number of global stars taking to stages across the province.
The most high-profile performance was from Cuban guitar legend Eliades Ochoa, a founding member of the famous Buena Vista Social Club.
Ochoa, who has been dubbed the “Cuban Johnny Cash” because of his roots in Cuban country music and his trademark black cowboy hat, was one of the highlights of the Arts Alive festival this year. Watching the gyrating audience at the Bassline on Friday night, it was easy to see why.
Backed by a six-piece band, Ochoa wowed the audience with hits such as Chan Chan and El carretero, which South Africans would recognise from the Buena Vista Social Club album.
But Ochoa and his band were not the only treat of the evening — Indian violinist Lakshminarayanan Subramaniam led a six-piece band that included his 17-year-old son, Ambi Subramaniam, on accompanying violin.
Subramaniam is an internationally renowned composer who has collaborated with jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Earl Klugh and his band’s improvisational performance had the audience spellbound, even if it was a little short.
Vereeniging’s Dickinson Park was the venue for another great performance by a world-music legend last weekend.
On Sunday Malian star Salif Keita was the headliner at the Vaal Jazz by the River festival.
It was a welcome return for the jazz festival, which was last hosted in 2005. Music lovers arrived in their thousands to enjoy the show.
The highlights were a stirring performance by Hugh Masekela, who had the audience dancing up a storm — a dust storm to be precise — and a fantastic show by Keita.
Keita brought his entire nine-piece band with him and the five-piece rhythm section had the audience grooving well into the night.
But the two stars were Keita’s guitarist and the dreadlocked musician on the seven-stringed simbi, whose interlocking riffs were simply sublime.
Keita was the ultimate showman, leaping around the stage with the energy of a man half his age — and he probably didn’t make many friends with the organisers when he invited the audience to jump the barricade and invade the stage.
If working-class drinking songs set to a wailing banjo is your thing, then make sure you catch Canadian alt-folk band Pernell Reichert and the Hard Drinkers, who are touring Gauteng and the Free State this week.
Their repertoire is mostly made of country and bluegrass-styled tunes with a punk edge, so fans of Steve Earle and the Violent Femmes should catch this three-piece from Vancouver.
Lead singer Reichert is a graduate of the school of hard knocks and his experiences pumping gas, grilling burgers and driving forklifts all feed into his down-and-out songs.
Inspired by a copy of Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan that he was loaned in 1997, he set about defining his musical approach, which he describes as “razor-sharp folk”. Catch Reichert and his band at one of the following gigs:
October 4 at Rock Bar, Melville
October 6 at Tings n Times, Pretoria
October 7 at Stones, Edenvale
October 8 at Tanz Café, Bryanston
October 9 at the Bohemian, Richmond
October 10 at Cool Runnings, Bloemfontein
October 11 at Foundry Fly Lounge, Pretoria
Let’s hope the Vaal Jazz by the River festival is back for good.