Our musos come into their own

2016-03-29 06:00
TopDog SA, made up of Cape Town backing musicians, will be performing at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this weekend.  PHOTO: RONEL PRINS

TopDog SA, made up of Cape Town backing musicians, will be performing at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this weekend. PHOTO: RONEL PRINS

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While they are all well-known Cape Town musicians in their own right, the members of TopDog SA are gearing up to play their first festival in front of their home crowd at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this week.

The band – made up of Don Vino (saxophone), Camillo Lombard (keyboards), Charlton Daniels (bass), Mornay Hofmeester (drums) and Mark Williams (guitars) – hail from suburbs across Cape Town.

The musicians were on tour with Tevin Campbell and preparing for a show at Johannesburg’s Carnival City when Camillo came up with the idea to start a band.

“We were individuals at the time; we used to work together a lot, but we weren’t a unit,” Camillo explains.

Camillo also came up with the name TopDog, even though Charlton wasn’t too impressed with it.

“I thought it would sound arrogant,” but once they started getting bookings, he says, the name grew on him.

With their combined musical CVs, TopDog SA has every right to be a little arrogant.

TopDog SA has been together for three years now, originally performing as a tight backing band for the likes of Emo and Loukmaan Adams, Lloyd Cele, Judith Sephuma and Danny K. But once they started backing Jonathan Butler they decided to start working on their own original material.

“We realised we had an opportunity to perform anywhere in the world with the band,” Camillo says, adding: “His smooth South African sound kind of led us into a direction as well.”

Hard workersBetween working as the principal of the Cape Music Institute, Camillo is a sought after accompanist for legends like Jimmy Dludlu. Don Vino rates his work on Kirk Whalum’s album Gospel according to Jazz Chapter 4 as one of the highlights of his career.

Drumming lecturer by day, Mornay has similarly worked with big local and international names, ranging from Judith Sephuma to Chevelle Franklin. With more than 16 international tours under his belt, Mark’s skills have seen him play in 14 different countries. Charlton was chosen as a mentor alongside big names like Frank Paco for last year’s Artscape Youth Jazz Festival.

The band has been hard at work on their debut album at Fish Hoek’s Paris Studios. Griqua DNA will be out in time for the jazz festival. Mornay describes it as a “mostly instrumental fusion album” with elements of genres from ghoema to funk and even a little gospel.

Their completely independent album also features performances by Jonathan Butler and Marrion Meadows.

When they aren’t on stage, the members are all involved in youth development through various musical training projects.

“We have to pass on the baton to the next generation and provide them with skills,” Mornay says. “We’ve got to impart what we know and what helped us in the industry.”

“We’d like to see a better future for the upcoming musicians,” Camillo adds. “We had our fair share of challenges and it’s up to us to rectify those mistakes by imparting the correct knowledge.”

Charlton points out that there are misconceptions of what the music industry is about and many say: “You’ll never make it as a musician.”

“We’re here to give back and prove to them that what they are saying isn’t true: there are possibilities.”

This weekTopDog will be doing just that when they play on the Basil Manenberg Coetzee stage at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this weekend.

They will also be performing at the festival’s free concert at Greenmarket Square on Wednesday.

Camillo works on the festival every year, but says this year is extra special because, instead of backing another artist, the band will be playing their own original material.

The festival is also a platform where international artists and promotors can see and hear the band, possibly leading to bookings for other festivals.

“Also, it’s an honour and a privilege to play in front of a home crowd; our own people,” Mornay says. V For more information about TopDog SA, their shows and upcoming album, visit their Facebook page. For more information about this weekend’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival, visit www.capetownjazzfest.com.

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