Review: Flamenco with James Grace and Saudiq Khan


James Grace‘An Evening of Spanish Guitar’ was always going to be a treat, and with our shared love of music, James Grace and Saudiq Khan live at the Baxter sounded like an appealing – if rather grown up – Saturday night date.

‘Rather grown up’ was perhaps a bit understated. In fact our date night appeared to be more like pensioners’ night, with the iconic domed lights of the Baxter highlighting, on our arrival, a distinct predominance of grey hair amongst the concert goers. But over the next two hours, we learned that the older generation still had a few things to teach us – namely, how to spend a Saturday evening.

The evening opened with James Grace, who boasts training from the Royal College of Music in London and currently serves as Head of Classical Guitar Studies at the University of Cape Town. His classical training is clearly evident, not only in his choice of repertoire for the evening – which included Invocacion y Danza by Rodrigo and Granada Asturias by Albeniz – but also showcased in his near-flawless technique and execution. While the pieces he chose might not be familiar to mere guitar mortals, the more well-educated audience members were muttering words of approval and appreciation.

After a short break, it was the turn of Saudiq Khan. In contrast to Grace’s top drawer classical guitar education, Khan’s impoverished upbringing meant that his driving passion for Flamenco guitar was honed by immersion wherever and whenever he had the opportunity. His determination led to the chance to travel to Lisbon and Seville, where he spent months with Flamenco maestros, absorbing their culture and music. On his return to South Africa, he became involved with local dance schools and theatres, before opening his own Flamenco Guitar School.

Khan’s natural theatricality was unmistakable not only in his style, but also in his programme. While he may not be classically trained, his dramatic and passionate Flamenco flair ran thrills through the audience – not least when the fantastic Robert Davids joined him on stage. Adding rhythm with the cajon, accompanied by bassist Andre Webb, what promised to be a guitar concert suddenly turned into a Spanish celebration. Both additional musicians were exceptionally talented – not only highlighting the guitar hero – but occasionally, even eclipsing him.

The Cape Town Concert Series has been showcasing top class local and international talent at the Baxter’s Concert Hall since its inception in 1977. These concerts are real treats. Don’t wait until you go grey before you discover that for yourself.

Candice Bresler

James Grace and Saudiq Khan performed at the Cape Town Concert Series at the Baxter Theatre on 17 May 2014.


Discussion1 Comment

  1. Saudiq Khan’s upbringing was far from impoverished. He grew up in District Six and had a colorful childhood experiencing the cape culture all around. His father’s musicality inspired him and the strict moslem tradition contributed greatly to his disciplined approach to learning the guitar. He had structured flamenco lessons and outplayed his teacher while he went on to compose .Learning an instrument is multifaceted and doesn’t necessarily require an academic institution. Creativity and discipline are the magic ingredients to success. After all, Paco de Lucia played Concerto Aranjuez without reading a note.


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