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Music at #NAF16: Tuning in to the sounds of SA

Published on 26 May 2016

Festival goers will be able to tune in to the soundtrack of South Africa when the country’s finest musicians and visiting artists from around the world take to the stages of Grahamstown during the National Arts Festival, which runs in Grahamstown from 30 June to 10 July.

There’s musical royalty on the programme this year – each gracing the stage for one night only. Look forward to an audience with the prince of hip hop AKA (8 July) and the king of African love songs Ringo Madlingozi (9 July). The queen herself, Simphiwe Dana, will perform as part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival on 8 and 9 July.

Other headliners on the contemporary music programme include Johannesburg rockers Prime Circle (6 July), Cape Town live electronic act The Kiffness (2 July), and eclectic soul masters The Muffinz (9 July).

Violinist Avigail Bushakevitz, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music, will be accompanied by her brother Ammiel for two performances, which will include two pieces by Fritz Kreisler, JS Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major, and Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 (1 and 4 July).

Avigail Bushakevitz will also perform as the soloist at this year’s Festival Gala Concert, with the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the Odeion String Quartet under the baton of South Africa’s favourite conductor Richard Cock (3 July).

Samson Diamond, the leader of the Odeion String Quartet, will join pianist Grethe Nöthling to present a flamboyant selection of some of the most breath-taking film scores of the last century in Cinema Extravaganza (5 and 7 July).

You can expect something extraordinary when Guy Buttery’s virtuosic solo guitar intertwines with the Odeion String Quartet in daring new arrangements, with strings and guitar operating as musical equals in a contemporary African symphonic setting (4 and 5 July).

Reimagining the classical is also at the heart of Breath and Hammer, which furthers Grammy-nominated American clarinettist David Krakauer’s and pianist Kathleen Tagg’s quest to redefine the sounds and roles of their instruments (7 and 9 July).

Tagg, a South African pianist who now lives and works in New York, will also present a solo programme, African Piano. The programme promises to take audiences through works by African classical composers and those deeply influenced by the music of central Africa to arrangements that include Zimbabwean mbira music, Malian kora songs and original compositions (6 and 8 July).

Traditional music, indigenous to the area, will be showcased by the Eastern Cape Dance and Music Ensemble’s We Salute Madiba (Part 2), which builds on the group’s success at last year’s Festival. The programme aims to honour Nelson Mandela’s ‘royal’ upbringing in the Transkei region to tell the story of the man behind the legend (30 June, 1 July).

The power to unite humanity and make peace rests with art forms that break stereotypes,” says percussionist Hannabiell Sanders, one half of the Afro-Latin percussion and brass duet, Ladies of Midnight Blue. Together with Yilis del Carmen Suriel, she will bring their passionate and committed style to the South African stage from the North East of England (30 June and 2 July).

The sounds of South America will be represented by Colombian accordion player Álvaro Meza, best known for his award-winning Vallenato style (8 and 10 July), and Uruguayan multi-instrumentalist Mateo Mera (4 and 6 July).

Trombonist and vocalist Siyavuya Makuzeni, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, is well known for her uniquely experimental, edgy yet pure intonation. “The influence of Xhosa music and jazz is the foundation of my musical beginnings, and has helped me to shape my own voice or individual expression,” she says. Makuzeni will bring her genre-busting style to Grahamstown as part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.

“From honouring the work of legendary composers to celebrating the successes of new composers as well as introducing new sounds from beyond the Limpopo and from across our oceans, this year’s Main Music programme continues to reflect our enthusiasm to present a richly textured, diverse and enjoyable platform for both artists and audiences,” says NAF Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed.


The Standard Bank Jazz Festival promises to act as a barometer of the South African jazz scene as it offers a glimpse into the country’s jazz identity in all its complexity – from razor-sharp contemporary artists (Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Siya Makuzeni, Afrika Mkhize Big Band), to established South African stars (Simphiwe Dana, Caiphus Semenya, Ringo Madlingozi, Swing City); to the hippest groovers (Cape Town duo The Kiffness; Soul Housing Project with Bokani Dyer and Sakhile Moleshe).

Visiting international stars on the Standard Bank Jazz programme include Trio Corrente from Brazil; Norway’s Petter Wettre; Austria’s Rabitsch & Pawlik; Holland’s Toon Roos; as well as musicians from Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Sweden, the US, Britain, Mozambique, Slovakia and France.

Alan Webster, director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, says: “We are gathering a mesmerising collection of musicians from around the world who will spend a week generating jazz that has a unique Grahamstown energy, creativity and thrill. We look forward to hosting audiences who are keen on sharing this vibrant art form with us.”

You can look forward to sizzling after-hours collaborations between visiting jazz musicians at the late night Standard Bank Jazz Café at Saints Bistro in High Street. Sessions will be hosted by a different musician every night, including pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, last year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner.


There are over 60 acts on the National Lottery Fringe presenting musical magic, ranging from cabaret and musical theatre (A Great American Songbook, Ityala la Mawele), to choral performances (Let There Be Music – A Choral Celebration, Seshego Gospel Choir) to chart-topping contemporary artists (Ovation Award winners Hatchetman, Acatears, Acoustiq Assassins, Tshepo Fela and Chris Chameleon).


The National Arts Festival is grateful to the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, M-Net and Standard Bank of South Africa.


Please use the hashtag #NAF16


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Sascha Polkey
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