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Derek Gripper

Derek Gripper is a South African guitarist and composer. His music ranges from original versions of music by Toumani Diabate and Egberto Gismonti, to a wealth of new compositions based in the sounds and silence of the Western Cape and beyond.

About Me

Derek Gripper (born November the 14th, 1977 in Cape Town) is a South African composer and guitarist.

Derek Gripper began his formal musical training at the age of six on the violin. After studying classical music for the next thirteen years he began to look further afield for musical inspiration. This search took him to India where he studied South Indian Carnatic music. On his return to South Africa he decided to focus on the guitar, trying to find a new direction for the instrument. He was attracted to the use of multiple layers in the music of Oliver Messiaen, the African-influenced structures of Steve Reich, as well as to guitar arrangements of the music of J.S.Bach. But it was when he met up with Cape Jazz trumpeter Alex van Heerden that he started to see that his previous studies could be used to find new directions for the music of the Western Cape. The two musician's first recording in 2002, Sagtevlei, laid the groundwork for an entirely new Cape music, a music that the press called �avant-goema.� Here for the first time the compositional techniques of contemporary classical music where used to support the melodic and improvisational nature of Goema, the carnival music of Cape Town. This recording laid the groundwork for his first solo album, Blomdoorns, a series of compositions on an experimental eight- string guitar. Here the rhythms he had heard in India combined with Cape style melodies and cyclical motives in a simplified guitar language that was entirely unique yet unmistakeably influenced by the Cape's rich and diverse musical history. Over the next few years he further developed this musical language, switching to the traditional six-string guitar in 2004. After exprimenting once more with the possiblities of classical music, he settled into performing only this New Cape music, using a guitar by the great German Luthier Hermann Hauser III. The 2008 CD �Ayo� documents the first series of compositions for this instrument, exhibiting the influence of musicians such as Brazil's Egberto Gismonti and Mali's Toumani Diabate. It could be said that the music that Gripper creates is South Africa's answer to musicians such as Gismonti and Heitor Villa Lobos: classical trained musicians from the �South� who have used their skills to develop new directions in the music of their home countries. It is also interesting to note that many of the European or American composers that he was initially attracted to were profoundly influenced by African music, using its complex cyclical structures and collectivity as the basis for new movements in twentieth century music.

Derek has collaborated with tabla player Udai Mazumdar in a new CD called “Rising.”

Discography (all available from

Sagtevlei 2002 Blomdoorns 2003 Ayo 2008 Songs for the Swans Left Behind 2008 vinyl Ale!x 2009 Blomdoorns remaster 2009 Kai Kai 2009 Rising 2010

Derek Gripper has performed in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, India, Namibia and all over South Africa.

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