Music Review: The Music Makers – Compositions In Position, Or Instrumental In Their Own Development

April 22, 2020

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By BRUCE DENNILL

NSA Festival of the Arts 2020: The Music Makers / Accompanist: Ruhan Nabal / Fringe, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

 

This showcase for the National School of the Arts’ Music Department plays almost like an upscale open-mic night at a cool club, with teacher Ruhan Nabal seated behind a grand piano stage right and the various artists and their instruments seated along the back of the stage, but for the string quartet – Andiswa Booi, Thoriso Motlhasedi, Inam Manqina and Tshegofatso Mfazi – who kick things off with a delightful Afro-influenced piece. Sifiso Mbata’s solo cello playing is an early highlight – an occasional glance at his accompanist the only thing betraying a touch of nerves.

Singers Boitumelo Moumakwe and Hlayiseka Mashaba sing Pie Jesu and John Ireland’s If There Were Dreams To Sell respectively, with the former having a touch more control, though both are enjoyably performed.

Guitarist Thomas Oats is brave enough to offer an original composition, and it is to the audience’s great benefit, as the instrumental is a stirring combination of delicate picking, hammer-ons, percussive strumming and the use of the body of the guitar as a drum. It’s virtuosic stuff and, with a little more polish, could easily be a major drawcard at commercial venues.

Oats returns later as part of a duo with Ayanda Bixa. The pair have a great musical understanding, with both their gentle technical interplay and the subtly differing sounds of their guitars (one has steel strings, the other nylon) making for an enthralling listen.

Maita Mazhandu’s petite frame belies the authority with which she delivers Stephen Sondheim’s Take Me To The World (from the relatively lesser-known musical Evening Primrose) and, though there are occasional struggles with the high notes, her commitment draws admiring applause.

Bixa and his guitar then return as part of another duo, playing a flamenco-infused composition with Khayelihle Mabusela before another duet – this one vocal, and featuring the voices of Moumakwe and Obakeng Ramarou, who complement each other well. Lusanda Mkhwanazi’s solo guitar work on the track Dirt Wizard (played to a driving backtrack) is impressive, with her peers unable to stop nodding or clicking their fingers to the rhythm.

Chisa Kaputu has, in his classmates, a built-in backing choir for a medley that includes Boyz II Men’s End Of The Road and I’ll Make Love To You, for which he accompanies himself at the piano. Kaputu has presence, but his singing and pitch is not as precise as it might be.

The flamboyant Takatso Morapedi adds some movement around the stage to his take on Me! from Beauty And The Beast, Sethlynn Strachan plays a beautiful piano solo, and Siyabonga Mthethwa’s closing Cry Me A River shows off some good tone in his vocal.

Unavoidably more fractured than some of the theatrical productions in the festival on account of its comprising a long list of individual performers with different specialities, Music Makers still introduces an encouraging crop of fresh talent.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][us_single_image image=”7966″ onclick=”custom_link” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.coolmags.co.za%2F||target:%20_blank|”][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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