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South Africa Inaugural Music Fest in Los Angeles 10/04/13


October 04, 2013 Review by: Shumon Hutchinson


South Africa Inaugural Music Fest in Los Angeles 2013

Product Details

"Mzansi" Release date 09/10/13




Wouter Kellerman - Photos

Johannesburg  Wouter Kellerman, (pronounced vo-tur) two time SAMA winner, (the SAMA is his country’s top musical honor) equivalent to the GRAMMYs. and his new CD “Mzansi” is poised to be nominated for a upcoming GRAMMY.

Smooth Jazz Magazine got the chance to meet Wouter at the first annual South African Music Festival 2013 in Los Angeles at their VIP reception and found a soft spoken, humble and funny guy.  Not a newcomer to the states Wouter has played in the states at South by Southwest 2010 & 2011, last year he played in the Kennedy center as well as in Las Vegas at Ceasar Palace at The National Flute Association, which is the largest flute organization in the world.

But earlier in the day before sound check he took some time to talk about his recent new release and how he got his love for music.

His love for music began at an early age has his parents had a love for playing classical music the home, but when his mom went off to work his care taker listened to African music all day long so “Mzansi” has been a long time in the making.

At age 9, Wouter went to a symphony concert with his parents, and his mom asked which instrument would you like to play? I noticed that the flute pointed sideways while the other wind instruments pointed forward and in my child-like mind I just felt like that was a very special instrument. (chuckles) When I started playing I fell immediately in love with it and played it every afternoon when I got home.



Currently in the top 25 on the New Age Charts “Mzansi” is fusion with harmonies from Celtic to Hip Hop with Wouter “Flute Boxing” as he uses his breath to express himself. 

The 13 track CD leads off with “Hornpipes” with its Irish flavor, to track 13 “Miniamba” which is a traditional song of love and sacrifice from the Mandinka people of West Africa.

Track 3 “Khokho” that is primarily vocal sounds, vocal percussion and wordless vocalizing (with some flute and percussion). 



Track 5 The ballad “Cape Flats” was written by Wouter and his guitarist friend Paul Carlos one day after they had done yoga.

Track 10 “Mzansi” as Wouter explains “Track 10 also written with Paul, came about as we  collaborator when I started writing my own and we were writing songs together but we were both clueless when it came to improvisations, we felt comfortable with each other and started doing stupid things that soon developed, we wanted to show with this song the harmony and discord  just like the country there is so much contrast but the beat goes on.”



Track 11 “Sylvia” written by Wouter and bassist Phresh Makhene, this beautiful vocal features the use of “water percussion” as both artists share their hearts in the music from suffering the loss his dad and aunt respectively.

“I would describe my music as being opposite of the music that is played in a movie when something bad is happening, its positive music good energy music. My focus on the music is to focus on the roots, its very much roots music, I don’t believe in complexity for the sake of complexity, it has to touch you, move you, that why we have some 2 chords music and we have some more complex music. Altogether it’s multi layered music where the top layer is very easy to listen too, then other layers as you listen to it to get deeper into it.”

All I can say is that it’s music that you can listen to again and again.























L to R: Luke van der Merwe - guitar, David Klassen - drums, Wouter Kellerman - flute,  Phresh Makhene - bass, Lamine Sonko – percussionist and dancer.


Photos by: Mann


Fri., October 04, Opening Night


The Republic of South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture brings its first South African Arts Festival (SAAF) to Downtown Los Angeles at 3 different venues. 

 _1832182.jpg  food.jpg

Opening night reception as red and white wines flowed and a variety of Hors d'oeuvres were passed while actors, musicians and dignateries from South Africa all mingled in the surroundings of the beautiful downtown Los Angeles skyline as prime stage views of the music festival at The Grand Performances at California Plaza hosted the evening affair. 

 _193431.jpg  southafricia100413041.jpg

Opening Night Photos


The program included a preview performance by the Mahotella Queens, and a full screening of “Otelo Burning” as the weekend of South African film and music kicked off. A host of professional film and music panel discussions were held at the Omni Hotel over the weekend as Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 hosted screenings of various films for free in the downtown area.



Mahotella Queens - Photos

As the VIP crowd walked across the courtyard to the Omni Hotel, they were greeted with a performance by the legendary Mahotella Queens, which first performed in the 1960’s and who are noted for their three-part harmonies, Mbaqanga township music, and fast-paced Mgqashiyo
music, and fast-paced Mgqashiyo dancing. They Performed a short set of traditional songs in their signature high-energy style as they entertained and encouraged the audience to dance and join them in song.


southafricia100413125.jpg           Director Sara Blecher


The feature film for the evening, “Otelo Burning,” was introduced by the film director Sara Blecher. This critically-acclaimed South African feature film told the story of a group of township kids that discover the joy of surfing, against a backdrop of conflict brewing between two political groups. 

It was interesting to get a feel of the tension of the times as Nelson Mandela was being set free and as blacks and whites started to adjust to their new world as equals.



Sat., October 05, Day 2

The Inaugural South African Arts Festival 2013 in Los Angeles.

Commissioned by the Republic of South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture as part of the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy Lindi Ndebele-Koka the Acting Chief Director of Cultural Development stated that “its mandate is to promote its arts to the world, to create new audiences and develop new consumers for South African products. We are here to showcase our music, theater and dance as a tool to create relationships with other countries and a way to say thank you to the world for helping bringing apartheid down. With this music festival these artists are just a few of our ambassadors as the various genres of music which shows the diversity of cultural that we have in the country.  Another focus is having South Africa as a travel destination as one discussion panel of American film producers stated that South Africa is one of the best locations to shoot at, since you get the world when you shoot there, plus we have incentives, the weather and other benefits as we compare to the rest of the world like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And with the 20th year anniversary of becoming a democracy next year we are ready to take South Africa to the world."

southafricia100413046.jpg www.southafrica.info

    Michael Alexander Executive Director of Grand Performances


In conjunction with “South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture” Michael Alexander the Executive Director of Grand Performances worked closely for eight months in planning this 3-day event. Hailed as the “Best Free Outdoor Summer Concert Series” by Los Angeles Magazine, Grand Performances is located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles at the breathtaking California Plaza as the venue premiers high-quality music, dance, theater, and more. 



From mid afternoon to late evening, the WaterCourt Stage was bustling with the sounds and melodies of music from seven of South Africa’s most talented groups and performers. Selected by the Republic of South Africa’s Department of Art Culture, the performances ranged from instrumentalist to beat box a capella and even a couple of hip hop groups to keep the younger audience members involved as well. 


Wouter Kellerman - Photos


The first cultural treat of the day was Wouter Kellerman, a flutist from South Africa who is known for fusing classical and contemporary music.  He brought his award winning sounds to the downtown Los Angeles amphitheater and played several of his most popular pieces and several tunes from his latest CD. He ended his set proving that white men can dance. 



The Soil - Photos


Immediately following, the beat box sounds of the a capella group “The Soil” took center stage and mesmerized the crowd with their wonderful talent of voice minus instrument and tales of an incredible journey in their native country.  They instructed the crowds to dance along to their afro soul tunes that spoke of love and life, and although not all the words were in English, the passion in their harmonies still spoke volumes.


iFani  - Photos


Next up was the high energy sounds of hip hop artist iFani.  His style was some what different for hip hop, working as an engineer, he suffered the loss of his sole guardian, his grandmother, and while in the hospitalize for a few weeks due to a car accident, he had time to ponder about his life and what made him happy, so he quit his job and followed his heart but even though this artist represents a country far away from the States, his lyrics were not far off from the topics United States artists use as he danced and rapped about making a “Milli” which is one of his titled songs. 


Mahotella Queens - Photos


To end the first half of this amazing show, the legendary Mahotella Queens graced the stage performing their famous Mgqashiyo dance routines and harmonies.  This group has been performing since 1964 and the ladies aging into their late 60’s and early 70’s have not stopped them from continuing a style that has made them world famous.  To pass the torch to the new generation, they have recently added a new member who is in her 20’s as well as performing with the hip hop group Jozi.



Jozi - Photos



Simphiwe Dana - Photos


After a brief intermission, the night sky allowed the Grand Performance laser and light show to bounce across the stage, theater and surrounding skyscrapers and buildings of downtown Los Angeles.  Then things heated up with elegant sounds and performance of Simphiwe Dana.  She sang her notable tunes that blend jazz, afro soul and contemporary soul.  There was definitely a blues influence as well, and her performance was just as eloquent has her beautiful dress that beamed and glistened on the lit up stage. 



The Parlotones


Next up was South African rock band The Parlotones, a multi platinum selling band who did not disappoint as they revved up the audience with their high energy show.  They rocked and spoke of how the plight of South Africa influenced their music singing songs such as “Should We Fight Back,” which was inspired by the release of Nelson Mandela.



Hugh Masekela - Photos


Then, the moment the packed out amphitheater crowd had anxiously waited for finally arrived.  World wide sensation and South African musical legend, Hugh Masekela took to the stage dancing, singing and playing his trumpet as only he can.  This Grammy Award winning artist entertained and dazzled the crowd so thoroughly that an encore performance was demanded. 


The 2013 South African Arts Festival held in downtown Los Angeles was a cultural treat to all that indulged in some of the traditional cusine and music. The variety of the acts provided something for all musical palettes as well as the notoriety of the performers and showtimes were on schedule, which was amazing in itself.  This is the type of event that can humble even the greatest of cities. I am sure that this will become an annual event for many years to come..








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