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Derek Gripper

Derek Gripper is a composer and guitarist from the Western Cape of South Africa, merging "the imagery and mystery of the rural areas of the Cape" with the techniques of classical guitar and the string music of Africa (uhadi bow, umrhubhe, kora, guitar). Derek calls this new evolution of music New Cape describing it as a “rethinking of the Cape’s transcultural heritage.”

Derek’s solo performances draw on a wealth of original compositions, as well as works by J.S.Bach, Ali Farke Touré, Toumani Diabaté, Dembo Konté, Egberto Gismonti, Heitor Villa Lobos, Benjamin Britten, Toru Takemitsu, and Luis de Narvaez.

To date he has recorded four solo CDs and three collaborative CDs with Alex van Heerden (SA), Udai Mazumdar (India) and Brydon Bolton (SA). He has performed concerts in Holland, Denmark, the U.K., Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, India, Namibia, and all over South Africa.

In 2010 Derek Gripper started New Cape Records, a music label dedicated to releasing the best of Cape music. Notable releases include Madosini, Alex van Heerden, Gramadoelas, as well as Derek’s own catalogue of compositions. www.newcape.co.za

Bio from www.derekgripper.com

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.

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Multiple Reviews

Peo Alfonsi e Derek Gripper: chitarra classica, tra musica colta e popolare

Read "Peo Alfonsi e Derek Gripper: chitarra classica, tra musica colta e popolare" reviewed by Mario Calvitti

Tra la musica cosiddetta “colta" di origine accademica e quella di matrice popolare probabilmente non è mai esistita una linea di separazione netta come molti (soprattutto in ambito classico) vorrebbero far credere. Troppe sono le influenze reciproche esercitate nel corso dei secoli, anche nonostante le diversità dei vari contesti storico-culturali che si sono avvicendati nel tempo. La chitarra è sicuramente uno degli strumenti più diffusi tra quelli utilizzati da entrambi i mondi musicali, e molto spesso ha consentito ...


Derek Gripper: Finding the New Cape

Read "Derek Gripper: Finding the New Cape" reviewed by Seton Hawkins

In 2002, Cape Town-based guitarist, violist, and composer Derek Gripper began a musical collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Alex van Heerden. In doing so, the two men sparked a musical partnership that would, in only a few months, smash through stylistic boundaries on their debut recording Sagtevlei > (New Cape Records, 2010). Drawing upon the rich ghoema musical tradition of Cape Town, Sagtevlei proved to be a haunting and magical journey into the artistic legacy of the Cape, and showcased two young ...

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Performance / Tour

Derek Gripper - Kora Guitar at DROM on September 10th

Derek Gripper - Kora Guitar at DROM on September 10th

Source: Scott H. Thompson

Derek Gripper - African Kora For Guitar First Time Ever Sept 10 - at DROM - One Night Only - 8pm Come see the music of the African string-instrument, the Kora, performed as never before - on the guitar! This is unique music from a rich culture that will broaden your personal musical horizons. South African Derek Gripper is the world's first guitarist to successfully translate the music of the 21-string West African kora onto solo ...

"an open-minded fusion of classical and indigenous" [Art South Africa]

“exciting visionary…thrilling, vibrant.” [Argus]

“consistently fine and immediate.” [Mail and Guardian]

“Listening to Blomdoorns is being granted a moment of very intimate discourse, a glimpse of secret audio-emotional imagery…the songs are simple, modest and touching, a gifted artist.” [MR]

“Should go down as a classic of Cape music. Gripper follows in the footsteps of Steve Newman, Tony Cox, Abdullah Ibrahim and all the best painters of the Cape’s aural landscape.” [Julian Jonker]



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Self Produced






independent release




Soweto Gospel Choir
band / ensemble / orchestra

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