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Monday, July 7, 2014


(Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the National Arts Festival)

An enjoyable, relaxed and sincere show which is well worth a visit. (Review by Keith Millar)

South Africa has an abundance of very talented guitarists across all genres. Whatever your taste .in music you are sure to find at least one local exponent of the guitar who will thrill you and blow your mind.

Many of these great artists are performing at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year and that makes it difficult to choose who to go and see.

Eventually my choice fell to a Cape Town based acoustic guitarist, Philip Malan, whom I had never seen perform. After an hour of his music at the Rhodes Chapel all I can say is that I am ecstatic with the choice, and I now know of another guitarist I can talk about with awe.

Malan plays in the finger-picking style and is technically very accurate and dexterous. He also makes liberal use of percussive sounds he extracts from the body of the instrument. The influences of artists such as Steve Newman and Tony Cox are evident in his performance style.

In a programme of his own compositions, Malan’s music was gentle, moody and melodic for the most part. He tells stories with his guitar and has a strong descriptive and atmospheric quality about his compositions. Malan admits to singing occasionally but this programme was all instrumental.

Malan also made very effective use of Loop tracks to add texture and depth to some of his items. His use of this tool was nicely subtle and not overstated as sometimes can be the case with musicians experimenting with this technology.

Tracks to look out for among others are Wings of the Morning which describes a crisp clear Cape morning, Kwela for South Africa, an up-beat number with repetitive maskandi rhythms and a nod to the National Anthem, On the Run which alludes to a someone running from society and trying to find their own identity and Sherriff Joe, has a nice western vibe.

Philip Malan presents an enjoyable, relaxed and sincere show which is well worth a visit. He’s in the Rhodes Chapel tomorrow (July 7) at 12h00. Hopefully he will consider a visit to Durban before too long. – Keith Millar

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