|October 04, 2013||Review by: Shumon Hutchinson
South Africa Inaugural Music Fest in Los Angeles 2013
"Mzansi" Release date 09/10/13
Wouter Kellerman - Photos
Track 5 The ballad “Cape Flats” was written by Wouter and his guitarist friend Paul Carlos one day after they had done yoga.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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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