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Soliloquies for the Soul

by Brendon Bosworth / 21.09.2009

These days it’s increasingly difficult to appreciate anything in isolation; to find the time to shut out the sensory overload, the draining wash of sound and visual stimuli, that prevails in a world of ‘too much.’ Watching Derek Gripper at the launch of his sixth album, Kai Kai, alone with his acoustic guitar, took me back to simpler days. The lilting sounds reminding me of past road trips, sparking memories of good times and emotional highpoints. Places I should revisit more often.

In his own words, Gripper takes music from ‘outside and fuses it with the known, the essential, that which is Cape.’ With his past offerings melding classical compositions with Goema melodies, the Cape’s influence has always been core. But at the same time he is moving outside of it, taking it in new directions. For him, the composition starts with the hands and the guitar then moves to the melody and that space within the mind where it all comes together. He finds sounds in the everyday as well as the extraordinary, captures them, experiments, and lets them fly. His compositions unfold like stories, drawing you in, each one a journey with its own dramatic episodes. Punctuated by intermittent vocal additions. Some take you to foreign climes. The pace of the Spanish guitar entering unexpectedly; the rythmn of West Africa coming through in his shortened Kora rendition, influenced by the music of Mali. Of course, the Kora has 21 strings. But Gripper makes up for the deficit by pushing the six-string to its limit. At times, it sounds like a different instrument.

Derek Gripper

On stage Gripper is calm. He talks the audience through the gaps, outlining the genesis of each piece, spouting anecdotes about composers past and present. It’s like listening to a well-travelled friend. The Alliance Francaise, with its quiet charm, lends itself to such a gig. I left feeling uncharacteristically at ease.

Pics © Niklas Zimmer

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