Review: Cape Town Folk n Acoustic Music Festival

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Derek+GripperThere is something magical about pure, unpretentious, acoustic music.  While normally found in intimate venues, there is clearly the demand for a larger scale gathering of talented local musicians and beautiful local voices.  In the sixth instalment of the Cape Town Folk ‘n’ Acoustic Music Festival on Saturday night this ‘pure’ form of music was performed to a highly appreciative audience in a sold out concert hall at the Baxter Theatre Centre.

Bringing some of South Africa’s finest musicians onto one stage for one night only, the festival featured the likes of Deep South, Mark Haze and Jesse Jordan, as well as Errol Dyers, Dave Ferguson and SA’s “oldest boyband” Blacksmith amongst numerous other local talents.

The simple but effective stage setting and props enhanced the theme of unpretentiousness, with a large backdrop depicting a field of sunflowers and rustic wind pumps creating a true South African countryside feeling, and bales of hay and boxes of Sedgwick’s Old Brown Sherry providing decoration, with wooden barrels as seats for the musicians.

The musical performances by the 30+ performers, a pleasantly balanced mix of male and female artists, ranged across all genres from country to jazz, via gospel, rock and blues – you name it. Every performance was a musical collaboration between singers / groups, providing some interesting mixes. The opening performance by Jennifer Eaves was the perfect introduction to the evening’s star-studded line-up. Wearing a white flowery summer dress and simple brown sandals, playing her guitar and singing with a sweetly fresh, country style voice, Eaves fitted in perfectly with her surroundings and set the tone for the rest of the night.

Not all performers were singers: renowned guitarists Saudiq Khan and James Grace had us in awe with unbelievably beautiful renditions of duet pieces, as did Reza Khota and Derek Gripper.  Their melodies seemed to take on lives their own, their source emanating from the musicians’ obvious love for their instruments, moving almost unnoticed through their fingers and setting the strings in motion, producing a sound so intricate that by the time the tunes reached our eager ears, we believed that the guitars were in fact singing with angelic voices.

Another highlight was Blacksmith’s version of ‘Wild Horses’ which had the audience singing along – and if there had been any space, I’m certain they would have started a proper barn dance.

But the duo that stood out the most was saved for last: Ard Matthews and the legendary Vusi Mahlasela. Both of these performers have a gigantic stage presence, and to have them each playing their guitars and singing some of their most beautiful songs together was an extraordinary privilege. As soon as Mahlasela uttered his first tones a palpable shiver of excitement ran through the audience, which culminated in a standing ovation.

By the time the show ended, the clock was about to strike midnight – with no trace of tiredness within the audience. A big thank you to the sponsors and organizers for treating us to this wonderful experience of simple but beautiful music, and especially to Gavin Minter, whose appreciation for acoustic music is the driving force behind this festival which has become a definite highlight in Cape Town’s musical calendar.

Marie Stinnes

The sixth Cape Town Folk ‘n’ Acoustic Music Festival took place on 30 August 2014 at the Baxter Concert Hall.

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