Kenny G in concert

One of the highest selling artists of all time, Kenny G has single-handedly made the saxophone a hit amongst music lovers. Perhaps it is the raspy mid-tones of the saxophone that lend it an air of intimacy, or maybe it’s Read more

Splashy Fen is the ultimate Easter concert

It’s been going since 1990, and Easter 2015 will be the 26th year for the Splashy Fen music festival. I have yet to learn why the music event is called Splashy Fen, though I do believe that the farm it Read more

Oppikoppi, a whole series of concerts rolled into one

The small town of Northam in Limpopo Province comes to life every August. Technically it’s spring if you calculate that you are halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and you don’t factor in seasonal lag, but Read more

Richard Clayderman in concert

No doubt the mysterious Frenchman’s greatest gift to the world musically has been “Ballad for Adeline.” Composed by Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint in 1976, the co-writers could never have imagined how big the song would become, because disco Read more

Albert Hammond in concert

This is not a name that rolls off the tongue like Madonna or Michael Jackson or Elvis, but Albert Hammond has had an amazing music career anyway. A native of the UK, he has done a considerable body of work Read more

Mamma Mia! heads back to Jozi in 2015

The smash hit musical based on the music of those 4 Swedes (well, actually 3 Swedes and a half-Norwegian) returns to the Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg, for a limited season run from Tuesday 24 March 2015 to Sunday Read more

Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse is NOT too cool for school!

On 1 October the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City hosted Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse in concert. It’s been 30 years since his hit “Burnout” tore up the charts, and, according to the write-up for his show, 50 years since Read more

The fallen rise of Justin Bieber

He’s given the world Bieberlicious and Beliebers, and, like Hanson (them of the Mmm-Bop song), he did all this before his voice broke. He was big on YouTube before Psy and Die Antwoord, and he blazed his Internet trail after OK Go did their cutesy treadmill video that broke through all the clutter and got them noticed on the cyber box, with its highly appropriate ‘broadcast yourself’ pay-off line/slogan. Read more

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The fine art of busking, part 2

So the man gave me his chips after tipping me, and I ate them. The way I figure it, it meant I didn’t have to pay for my own lunch.

As I wrote previously, buskers are viewed as musical beggars. But the people that I perform with are amazing. Some of them look a little long in the tooth, and possibly a little disheveled – but they are human beings nonetheless, and they, like me, choose to eke out a living from music. I have huge respect for them. Perhaps in New York and London, where buskers perform at subway and underground stations (as in Moscow), buskers are probably seen as dodgy too. But I will say this: if a singing student of mine told me that they were terrified of performing, I would take them with me to The Zone and get them to sing in front of people. That will soon cure their stage fright. I will write about this in another blog post in the future. Read more

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The fine art of busking, part 1

Katie Melua is partly of Russian descent. As I recall, she once saw a 6-year-old boy busking in a Moscow metro station, and she was mortified. “Busking is a rite of passage,” she said, “but I think 6 is too young.”

Busking is a rite of passage.I agree. So, in my musical travails, I have made busking part of my journey to move my music career forward. Every Saturday (as I still have a day job), I drag myself out of bed and trek down to The Zone in Rosebank, where I join a whole bunch of fellow musicians, and I stand at the pay stations, where I sing. If people either feel sorry for me, or if they like my voice and the songs I sing, they will give me a tip from the change they get form the pay stations when they pay for their parking. Read more

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Musicians & Money

I heard Margaret Mcnignana (aka Singana) on the radio today singing I never loved a man (the way that I love you). What a song! She also sang the lead vocals for Shaka Zulu (Bayete) and a number of other songs, and was as famous as they come in South Africa. But from what I understand, she died in abject poverty, almost penniless. Our beloved Solomon Linda was another muso who was raped by the industry, and died with less than $25 in his bank account in 1962, the year his song Mbube became the smash hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Read more

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Tony Bennett, Tori Amos, Chuck Berry & others: masters of the long haul

I have huge respect for these people because they just keep on going. Chuck Berry is sometimes regarded as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, while Tony Bennett has turned his love for jazz into a 60-year career. Tori Amos, who recently performed in Jozi and Cape Town, refuses to become an irrelevant old woman. Read more

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The Rolling Stones: wrinkly rockers, and smart old men

They are all in their 70s or headed there very soon, and they are all supposedly over the hill. If you watch a movie like Cadillac Records, you will see how people made fun of them when they were first starting out – whether that is true or just for dramatic effect remains to be seen. Read more

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Musical Journey of Material Girl Madonna

The world has a lot to say about Madonna, who turns 56 in August this year. Sinner, saint, Vixen, virtuous, Lady of the night, lady to be admired, woman who will not let the world dictate to her when it is time to get off the stage. Read more

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The power of persistence

I guess this blog post will read as slightly more anecdotal. My singing teacher always used to say to me, persistent and consistent work is what makes a voice. After training with her for ten years, I mastered the technique, and am today able to teach singing because I stuck with her, even when it was very tough. She fired me after those ten years, because I always used to give her so much grief. She left this world in 2012, at the age of 81. I only started training with her when she was 66. I count myself as very, very lucky, that I was able to learn from the wisdom of her many years of teaching. Read more

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The Parlotones – LA is a great big freeway

It took them four albums, probably over 200 gigs a year, and a lot of work, to become one of the most loved rock bands to emerge from the modern South African scene.
One could argue whether Colourful was their breakout hit, and got them established with major airplay on mainstream radio. Others would say it was their rendition of Lisa se Klavier that got them noticed by the public. Whatever it was, young girls went gaga when they heard that the band were playing at a venue close to them.

Of course, as time marched on, like many a South African act, they felt that they had done all they could locally, and decided to relocate to Los Angeles, which is still the nerve centre of the world’s recorded music scene. They are obliged to return to local shores four times a year to perform, as part of their contract, but they have spent a lot of time overseas of late.

They join the ranks of many a local band who made the jump overseas, only to find it a lot more challenging than they initially realised. Just Jinjer confessed that when they were there, they went from playing gigs of 6,000 people in Jozi to gigs of 6 in LA. Likewise, Tree 63 spent a considerable amount of time in Nashville, with lead singer Jon Ellis returning to Durban for a while. Seether made a very successful go of it overseas, but it is believed that Shaun Morgan has a house in Cape Town and spends quite a lot of time there. Maybe once Africa is in the blood, there is just no getting rid of it.

It was Burt Bacharach and Hal David who spoke of LA being “a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car, in a week maybe two they’ll make you a star, weeks turn into years how quick they pass, and all the stars, that never were, are parking cars and pumping gas.” And of course it was Dionne Warwick who sang about it. But whatever happens with The Parlotones in America, they can be justly proud of their achievements so far, and they should just keep doing there what they did here: work consistently, and keep working. Like all of us, they may have no control over where fate may take them, but at least if they’re aiming in the right direction, they are far more likely to get there. Good luck boys! We’re all rooting for you.

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Evolution of house music in South Africa

SA is generally regarded as one of the largest House markets in the world. House owes its origins to the great city of Chicago, but has found a modern home in Miami, and is also part of the pulse of what makes Johannesburg such a cool and vibey place.

Some would argue that House emerged as the contemporary successor of Kwaito, though this line of thinking would stimulate great debate among die-hard fans of Kwaito, and puritans of House. Some may even argue that this is one of the reasons why Mandozahas lost his spark, and why a song like Nkalakatha would probably not work in 2014. Well, that really IS a matter of debate.
But perhaps one of the reasons House music has become so prevalent is its engagement with the DJ – this is music that is easily translated onto the dance floor, and easily translated onto the decks. Many a DJ is also a producer, and the music that is born in the studio often makes its way into the public arena when the producer goes out to DJ at a gig or a club.

Of course, the irrepressible Soul Candi Records is the doyen of House music in SA, and has given the music scene the likes of RJ Benjamin, Crazy White Boy and most recently, MiCasa. Soul Candi’s incubator of House beats in the past was their music school, which taught DJing and House music production. This function has subsequently been seconded to another college, but is still done in conjunction with Soul Candi.

And although downloads and music file sharing are becoming a bigger issue with the local music industry, such activities actually fuel the growth of House music, as it becomes popular organically and virally when it spreads across computers, phones and flash drives. To quote Sergio Botelho of Soul Candi: “Music is actually more popular now than it has ever been.” Preach it, brother!

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