/ 23 June 2010

Folk musicians flourish at fest

Folk music is mushrooming on the Fringe this year with musicians Gary Thomas, Ginsburg and Herman, and Meri Ké bringing soul to the Festival with their acoustic melodies.

These guitarists each give their own interpretation of folk with rich harmonies combining creatively with various other musical forms. Thomas draws on the ‘whack acoustic” sound of the anti-folk movement made popular by Regina Spektor.

Though wary of defining his sound, he concedes that this is the most fitting description. Anti-folk emerged as a shift away from the folk music of the 1960s, though his latest album has the relaxed sound and raw quality of folk.

‘It’s experimental and weird,” says Thomas, who has played alongside musicians like Guy Buttery and Farryl Purkiss.

The Fringe offers an intimate atmosphere for artists.

‘Everyone is focused on you, so if you fuck up, you just shrug it off,” he says.

Thomas will also perform on Thursday at The Sound Kiln music festival.

‘That will have a bigger vibe,” he says. ‘I’ve always warmed to festivals and smaller stages.”

Would he consider going mainstream?

He laughs. ‘I won’t write mainstream songs, but I won’t turn down an opportunity to turn this into a job and not just a great love.”

Josh Ginsburg and Lance Herman have performed in Grahamstown before as part of Fly Paper Jet and acted in The Travelling Salesman directed by Rob van Vuuren. Ginsburg and Herman are back on stage this year as a two-piece band, having reduced their sound to a more basic level.

‘We’re friends who make music together, and we need the structure of a two-piece band to perform as individuals,” Ginsburg says.

Ginsburg describes their sound as ‘cinematic folk”.

‘There is a strong story-telling element in our songs at the centre, which we colour in with minimal electronic beats,” Ginsburg says. He plays electric guitar with Herman on acoustic and vocals.

‘Music is always a work in progress. Festival gives us a measure of where we’re at,” Ginsburg says. ‘So we’re just saying, ‘This is us. These are our songs.”

Acoustic guitarist Meri Ké is enjoying her first time at the Festival.

”It’s wonderful, and the response to my music has been great,” she says.

This soul-folk musician describes her lyrics as poetic and philosophical.

‘My music is storytelling in a soulful way,” she says.

‘But though the lyrics have a deeper meaning, they’re still vibrant, they’re still lively.”

Meri Ké released her debut album, In A Moment, in 2008.

This piece is from Cue Online, a project of Rhodes University’s New Media Lab.