South Africa has a host of quality independent record labels — Paul Riekert’s One F Music, Righard Kapp’s Jaunted Haunts and the Make Over’s KRNGY label are just some that spring to mind.
They, and not the major labels, are pushing truly innovative and unique South African music.
They may not have the financial clout or marketing power that the majors are able to throw around and you might have to be a little industrious in tracking down their releases but they are nevertheless producing some astounding work.
Now guitarist Derek Gripper, one of the region’s foremost guitarist/composers, has launched a new independent label that focuses on the more innovative and experimental aspects of the Cape’s music scene.
Gripper is a veteran of that, having collaborated with many of his respected peers such as the late trumpeter Alex van Heerden, who was also Gripper’s brother-in-law, and bassist Brydon Bolton, who is a member of avant-garde experimental outfit Benguela.
As Gripper’s website states: ‘His intimate style of guitar-playing combines the techniques of classical guitar with the imagery and mystery of the rural areas of the Cape.”
Gripper’s new label, New Cape, has put out three albums in the past few months. The first was of solo guitar recordings by Gripper, titled Kai Kai. The second was a live recording of Gripper and master Indian tabla player Udai Mazumdar, Rising, and the third was a solo recording of the work of traditional musician Madosini, Eparadesi Nkosi Uzube Nam.
All three should wow fans of innovative South African music.
Kai Kai, which was recorded in one take at Milestone Studios in Cape Town, appears to be a very personal album for Gripper. It has a lullaby to his daughter, Kai Kai, and another about his daughter, Sai Goes Round and Round.
But the highlights are Okkie Langdraai, a piece written by Van Heerden, and Koortjie for the Kommetjie Whales, which Gripper says is about the whales that beached near Kommetjie and the ‘inevitable human clash of interests and beliefs that ensued”.
Rising was recorded live at The Forge in Kalk Bay in March 2010 and sees Mazumdar and Gripper working through some amazing pieces, the best of which is Segankure, a funky little piece featuring some exceptional tabla work.
Which brings us to the latest New Cape release by Madosini. She has been dubbed the queen of Xhosa music for her work in expanding the traditional repertoire of selected instruments — composing new songs and instrumental pieces.
She learned how to play traditional instruments such as the isitolotolo, uhadi and umrhubhe from a young age. She attracted the attention of Dizu Plaatjies, the leader of Ama-mpondo, who eventually persuaded Madosini to join his group, with which she performed around the world.
She now lives in Cape Town and is pursuing a solo performing career. She frequently visits other countries to share her stories, music and songs.
‘Back then it was simply a way of life and people made their own entertainment,” says Madosini.
‘Nowadays the traditions we lived by are dying and people are no longer telling stories and making music.
I had to try my best to keep it all alive.”
These new releases have almost sold out, but the good news is that the label has pressed a new edition of all three and, with some choice reissues, has added another six records to its catalogue.
These include the critically lauded album, Sagtevlei, in which Gripper and Van Heerden do a contemporary take on vastrap and goema.
Also to be reissued are the live album, Ale!x, which saw Van Heerden, Gripper and Bolton collaborate, and the Gramadoelas album, Gemoedsrus, which was completed by Van Heerden just before his death in January last year.
Rounding off the catalogue are three solo albums by Gripper — Ayo, Blomdoorns and Prayers and Dances II.
The pressing of these nine albums were done in editions of 300. So, if you are looking for some great innovative music out of the Cape, act quickly.
‘We are looking into various distribution ideas and hope to move CDs into selected Western Cape outlets within the next few months,” says Gripper. ‘But for now the focus will be on internet/postal sales plus [at] the actual live shows of the artists.”