Striking harmony

2009-08-29 15:13

THIS morning some international artists who were part of this

year’s yearly Standard Bank Joy of Jazz will be boarding flights for home.

But Swiss-based harp player Andreas Vollenweider will remain for

just a little longer.

“I will be spending some time with my sister Tina whom I haven’t

seen for too long,” he said with an infectious chuckle. “She is married to a

South African guy, so yes, I have relatives here.”

On Friday night Vollenweider, accompanied by internationally

acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and jazz great Pops Mohamed, dazzled music fans

at the Mbira Stage in Newtown, Johannesburg.

The Joburg gig is celebrating a decade of showcasing top local and

international jazz stars.

On the night revellers were bopping their heads, tapping their toes

and moving to the sound of great musos.

As part of his impressive set Vollenweider (55) played songs from

his new album AIR, which has a deep soothing orchestral feel, and a wide

selection from his previous body of work.

Our local lads, vocal group Africapella, making their debut at the

extravaganza, gave a sterling performance. Bravo!

“I feel very much at home here ... I love this country,”

Vollenweider told me earlier. “When I first heard Abdullah Ibrahim I thought

this man is playing my kind of music. Ibrahim has this ability to play a

repetitive sonata using a left hand while the right hand is making this

three-part harmony ... it’s so beautiful and amazing,” he said the night before

the show, while enjoying milky green tea at the Crowne Plaza hotel in


Having sold more than 15 million records in 47 countries, achieved

a Grammy Award and several Grammy nominations as well as playing 3?432 concerts,

including the Cape Town International Jazz and Bloemfontein Macufe jazz

festival, Vollenweider said: “It’s a privilege to play music. I don’t call it

work, it’s about stimulating the mind.”

A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Vollenweider said he does not

see himself as a musician but a storyteller. “I’m using music to tell stories,”

he said, tossing his bushy wild hair in the air.

In 1975 he discovered the harp and developed his own style,

tailoring the instrument to his needs.

Four years later he released his debut album, Eine Art Suite in

XIII Teilen, which launched his career.

Today he has composed scores for film, theatre and TV productions.

If he is not in his study working on his autobiography,

Vollenweider says he spends most of his time with disadvantaged children from

all over the world, including in Kensington, Johannesburg.

“When I return here I would like to reconnect with other South

Africans like my friends Ibrahim, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Busi Mhlongo,” he


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