Classic electric-rock beauties

2012-07-03 00:00

THE first time I saw the Muses perform on stage was at the final of Idols in 2011, when they joined the eventual winner, Elvis Blue, on stage.

Since then, they’ve gone on to record their debut album, Pop on Strings, and have been wowing crowds with their spectacular live performances.

Olivia Kotze (violin), Anna Peacock (cello), Mia Snyman (violin) and Reabetswe “Ruby” Ngoasheng (viola) are all classically trained musicians, who’ve been playing their instruments since childhood.

And the women agree that without that classical background and knowledge, the transition to playing on electric instruments would have been more difficult.

Speaking to me before their recent gig at Vogue in Umhlanga, Snyman said: “With an acoustic violin, you hear the sound close to you … the sound resonates out of the sound box, whereas the sound from an electric violin comes out of an amplifier.”

Peacock, who was just one year old when her mom, who is also a cellist popped a violin between her legs, agrees, saying: “With an acoustic instrument, the more energy you put in the bigger the sound, whereas with an electric instrument, the sound can be manipulated.”

But playing electric instruments is not the only unique fact about this string quartet. No one is seated and no one wears traditional black outfits. Instead, these women perform — Peacock holds her cello standing up and sends it spinning, the violinists and viola player rock to the beat of the music and you get lasers and plenty of choreography.

As for the music itself — forget about Tchaikovsky and Mozart. This quartet’s song list includes Adele’s massive hit Use Somebody, and a host of other songs fresh from the pop and rock charts around the world.

Kotze, who also plays the sax and piano, and started playing the violin at the age of four in Bloemfontein, quips: “The difference between classical performance and the Muses is that we get to wear pink dresses instead of black.” Snyman adds: “And don’t forget the wind machine blowing our hair back and lots of smoke.”

On a more serious note, Kotze says: “We are taking the instruments to places they haven’t been before. We’ve crossed boundaries, and people seem to love it.”

All the women cite British violinist Vanessa Mae as one of their biggest inspirations and influences. “She was one of the very first woman to perform on electric violin. We are very grateful to her. She is an amazing violinist — both classical and electric — and she really opened a new world to us,” says Kotze.

The Muses, who have performed with the likes of the Ten Tenors, Prime Circle, Arno Carstens and Chris Chameleon, feel blessed to be living their dream, and like the Muses of Greek mythology, who inspired the creation of literature and the arts, these women simply love performing and making the crowd feel part of their show.

Peacock puts the band’s success down to passion. “We love our instruments. I started learning to play the cello when I was three, and I have loved every second of the journey. At times, it was super, at other times, it was frustrating, but you won’t succeed if you don’t have passion.”

As for what advice they have for young musicians, Ngoasheng, who is the youngest of the quartet at 23 and has played for a number of orchestras, including the Soweto Youth Orchestra, the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra, said that if you work hard and persevere, you will be a success, whatever you choose to do.

Kotze, meanwhile, stressed that commitment was important: “We love what we do, but a lot of hard work also goes into it. So my advice to anyone would be to follow your dreams and work hard.”

• Want to know more about the band? Log on to www.themuses.co. za or www.facebook.com/The.Muses or www.youtube.com/user/TheMuses ZA or follow them on Twitter at @TheMusesZA

FIVE FACTS ABOUT THE MUSES

• The Muses performed a gig in the Namibian dunes at night.

• The band’s dream is one day to have the chance to play in a big arena, like the half-time slot at the Superbowl in the United States.

• Olivia Kotze, Anna Peacock, Mia Snyman and Reabetswe (Ruby) Ngoasheng boast over 50 years of classical-music experience between them.

Pop on Strings, was arranged by esteemed composer Mark Cheyne, and recorded at CSR Studios in Bryanston.

• The Muses performed at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, with DJ Black Coffee and a 24-piece orchestra conducted by Brendan Jur,y who scored and composed the music.

• arts@witness.co.za

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