‘My father was a piano player in Durban. playing both African music and European classical music. so the elements ofjazz are already there. right? The first time I was really introduced to jazz. though. was around 1970 or 1971. when some jazz musicians backed a little group my sister was in. and I got to know them.
‘South Africa is not such a different :
situation to America — the African roots are maybe stronger. but the mixture of African and European
music is the same as in America.
Americans are better at promoting
themselves commercrally. but even if ’
we had never heard any of the great American musicians in Africa. I am certain we would still have played jazz}
White control ofclubs and music outlets made life untenable. however. and Mseleku joined the long list of South African musicians making their living elsewhere. Unusually. the pianist is also a tenor saxophonist..and even plays both instruments simultaneously. something which he says you have to see to understand how it works (he’ll get no argument from me on that — I look forward to the experience).
On his recent Scottish debut with saxman Courtney Pine, he confined himselfto the keyboard. but the promise he showed on that occasion has been confirmed in his debut recording for World Circuit. Celebration. The album features powerhouse drummer Marvin ‘Smitty‘ Smith and bassist Michael Bowie. but his dates in Edinburgh and at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival will feature the exciting
Bheki Mseleku: spiritual seeker
prospect ofCharnett Moffat on bass. Pine. Steve Williamson. Jean
'I'oussaint . ex-Loose Tubes ﬂautist
Eddie Parker and percussionist
Thebe Liperi all augment the basic
trio on disc. but it is Mseleku's inventive. individual. but undeniably steeped-in-the- (American)-tradition playing which catches the car. He takes a highly spiritual view of his music-making. which has precedence over issues of nationality. style and influence. ‘People are fighting to free themselves from control all over the world. and I noticed when I was up with Courtney that ideas of national freedom are strong even in Scotland. I feel that is very natural. but for me the true identity is a spiritual one.
The business ofscarching for roots
and thinking about what we are is something that only human beings are able to do. and there are questions which have to be answered about our natural state.
‘People get stuck on the body level. and never reach the light which comes from the masters. from the spiritual teachers. The masters are the light which dispels darkness. and we need to know them. I appreciate music as an art form. but I see no point in being involved in music just for the sake ofit. I think that my feelings about peace and spirituality must come out through my music. when I am playing and when I am
In a classic case of little acorns and big oak trees, Cappella Nova celebrates its tenth birthday this month. It was started by husband and wife Alan and Rebecca Tavener as an amateur choir because they felt there were a few people around Edinburgh and Glasgow interested in singing early music. Now it has grown into a professional chamber choir giving regular concert seasons, has several highly acclaimed recordings under its belt, broadcasts regularly and, while retaining its original specialisation in early music, has also jumped to the other end of history and has commissioned over a dozen new works by mainly Scottish composers since 1986.
‘Contemporary music,’ says Alan Tavener, ‘has become as much a part of what we do as the early music. On occasion there are things in between, such as the Fauré Requiem we did recently.‘ But for the birthday programme, Cappella Nova turn to
Music for the masse O
Scottish Renaissance composer Robert
Carver, whose entire works they recorded in 1990. if he has helped make Cappella Nova’s name, then they in turn have helped make his. ‘He was pretty well unheard of,’ explains Tavener, ‘with just one or two pockets of interest, but now he is known on a national level.’
This fortnight, they play two concerts
which feature his ten-part Mass and the magnificent nineteen-part motet
‘0 Bone Jesu'. ‘There is strong evidence that the ten-part Mass was composed in 1513, the same year as Flodden, for the Coronation of James V,’ says Tavener. And what coronation would be complete without Tom Fleming who, in a guest appearance, will describe the proceedings of a Scottish coronation between sections of the music. (Carol Main)
Cappella Nova play Glasgow Cathedral on Fri 29 and Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh on Sat 30.
Out of the shadows
Ever encountered music that embraces polar opposites, absorbs conflicting sensations to an unsettling degree? More specifically, how about music that encompasses a closeted, womb-like (sorry, had to be said) comfort and a sweeping, unbounded grandeur? Glasgow’s Passkeepers have been pulling off such feats for over three years now. They work in a confined area — a cramped, sound-proofed unit in bassist Gerry’s flat- but they allot themselves all the working time that patience will allow. They create repetitive, claustrophobic laments, even sing of constricting relationships, but their music ebbs and
i flows with a plangency that commands
liberating chunks of space. And
7 another contradiction to least your ears
on —there’s a brooding menace rippling underthat pacific, languorous
beauty. The Passkeepers are so far ; from ordinary that sometimes you feel
they could do with a good gritty dose of
‘ Eastenders to sharpen their awareness
of pedestrian existence. All of which
; may come as a surprise to the band,
reluctant as they are to analyse their motivation and the haunting results of
writing. I can compose theoretically.
but I prefer to be inspired, to hear the music from inside, and to be moved spiritually in that way.‘
The Bheki Mseleku Trio play at The Queen ’3 Hall on Fri 22.
Beaming back down to Planet Pragmatic for a moment, let’s clarify things by saying The Passkeepers fashion atmospheric, folk-influenced melancholia punctuated by singer
i Michael‘s plaintive Scots tones. And they take a very long time over it. In the
past eighteen months their profile has
The Passkeepers been virtually subterranean. ‘lt’s proved quite difficult for us to get together and make a concerted effort,’ guitarist Owen understates. However, the time spent cocooned has produced a batch of new material and a renewed
l desire to play live — an all-too-rare
‘lt’s not as if we‘ve only played about three or four gigs,’ says Gerry. ‘We’ve actually played about 25. But the kind of stuff we do is not really suited to playing in a pub.’
‘I think it's because we‘ve got six of
‘You can‘t really have six people
playing in a pub without it sounding crowded.’
Ra! Claustrophobia strikes again. Move over mere mortal, and give their escalating genius room to breathe.
The Passkeepers play the Slow Club | The Apollo, Glasgow on Fri 29.
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