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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


(2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz - Shane Cooper. Pic by Adam McConnachie)

The 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, Shane Cooper (27) understands the difficult terrain of the music industry and why an award in the music sector can be the ideal incentive for career advancement. Working as a bassist, composer, producer and educator, Shane Cooper originally from Port Elizabeth is now based in Cape Town.

“When I was about 16, I realised that playing bass and making music was the most enjoyable thing for me to spend my time doing,” said Cooper, who decided to move from high school to home schooling so he could spend more time practicing bass and studying music. “Being able to create worlds and stories with sound and music as the medium was the ultimate journey for me. Jazz was one of the best vehicles for me to do that with the freedom it gives through the element of improvisation.”

Cooper has performed and recorded with some of the leading jazz artists and bands in South Africa including Zim Ngqawana, Kyle Shepherd, Feya Faku, Bokani Dyer, Marcus Wyatt, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Babu and more. With some of these groups he has toured around Europe, India, Africa and the US.

“One of the best aspects of being a musician is the collaborations you work on. The jazz world is especially built around different artists working on new projects together and creating shared visions,” said Cooper. “When the groups that I work with have a chemistry together we can create things that wouldn't happen outside of that unit. If the projects I'm involved in (whether playing my compositions or others') can continue to pursue new ideas, take on sounds without being bound by rules, and grow with the individual members, I will be happy.”

Cooper performs his original instrumental jazz compositions with different groups in and around Cape Town. He has also composed original music for theatre, film soundtracks (including co-composing the SAFTA award winning soundtrack for Visa Vie), and television. He also produces and releases electronic music under the name Card On Spokes.

He mentions Graham Beyer, Gerard O'Brien and Carlo Mombelli, as a few of his musical heroes. “Also Zim Ngqawana, whose presence as a musician, improviser and band-leader on stage was immense, with his absolute commitment to every note and having intention attached to every moment of sound and silence alike,” said Cooper.

When he’s not making music, Cooper enjoys hanging out with his dog, cooking, travelling, and playing a bit of squash and ping pong.

“In the music industry, right now, it's very hard to get any financial support from record labels, while gig fees haven't increased or have gone down. There are less jazz venues, and more musicians. Having time to focus on practicing and writing jazz music has become less viable financially. Receiving an award like this is an honour, because it is recognition for a difficult road to travel, and I have a lot of respect for the artists who have won before,” said Cooper. “It is an opportunity to get more out of the time I spend working on my music which is great. For the artists I would say this support is very important, and can do a great deal to help push one's career forward. This kind of support for the arts can help cultivate more creativity, and exploration, and I would love to see more institutions doing this kind of thing in South Africa.”

The winners of The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize. For more information on the National Arts Festival, click on the banner advert at the top of this page.