(Ben Voss & John van de Ruit appear in “Mamba Republic”)
Arts and entertainment lovers should keep their eyes peeled for a series of early booking opportunities for this year’s National Arts Festival. For the first time, popular shows will enjoy a limited release ahead of the May 9 online box office opening and full programme reveal. This will allow Festival-goers a chance to secure some top shows and start shaping their Festival experience. Details will be released on social media.
To date the Festival’s main programme has been announced and fans are currently digesting numerous reasons to make 2017 a big Festival year.
SERIOUS ABOUT COMEDY
The National Arts Festival is tearing up the comedy stage this year, starting with international comedian Stephen K Amos on the opening weekend. The globe-trotting laughter master will perform his new show World Famous on July 2 and 3 only. Tickets are now available so fans should grab them while they’re hot.
Together with the Brighton Fringe, the National Arts Festival has brought It’s Only Birds to the 2017 Festival; Louise Reay’s trail-blazing language experiment in non-verbal communication. “You’ll understand it but won’t know why”, says Chinese-speaking Reay, who was recently won awards in Brighton and at other World Fringe Alliance events in Adelaide and Edinburgh.
Home-grown talents John van de Ruit (Spud) and Ben Voss (Beauty Ramapelepele) are reunited for a savagely funny look at all that is wrong with the ‘Rainbow Nation’ in Mamba Republic. Topics such as fees must fall, state capture, online dating, the economy, sport, technology, casual racism, an alternative national anthem, and even the most unusual football match in living memory, are given the once over by the duo. Succeeding its predecessors Green Mamba (2002) and Black Mamba (2005), the show will run from July 2 to 8.
Trailing endless accolades and endorsements from international festivals– including the Brighton and Cape Town Fringe 2016, the UK’s The Pretend Men will present Police Cops; an action-packed hour of adrenaline-fueled physical comedy, cinematic style and uncompromising facial hair. Runs daily throughout the Festival.
There’s also the return of the ever popular Very Big Comedy Show (July 5), a one-night only comedy gala evening, produced and emcee’d by Rob van Vuuren. This year’s show will include Loyiso Gola, Tats Nkonzo, Mojak Lehoko, Alan Committie, Louise Reay, Nik Rabinowitz and Virgil Prins. Expect to see plenty more exciting comedy reveals and familiar names as the Fringe programme goes online.
MUSICAL GENIUS LIVE
It’s an exciting year for music on the Festival’s Main stages as Featured Artist, Neo Muyanga, leads the charge through a programme filled with tradition, innovation and experimentation.
Muyanga’s solo work, Solid(T)Ary Work, promises a survey of the tradition of protest song in the global south: moving swiftly between the chanted chorales of Soweto and Salvador to the laments around the squares of Tahrir and Meskel, the presentation is a musical contemplation of modes of resistance in a world hit by flux. Muyanga will also present a collection of songs and music through a trio comprising Andre Swartz, Peter Ndlala and Eastern Cape-born artist Msaki.
Msaki, recently nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA), also performs with her band the Golden Circle in Platinumb Heart, an exploration of trauma and its ability to ossify, alienate and elude one into thinking one is coping. “The heart merely becomes numb as we move on to the next #trending issue without a chance to mourn or the time to heal,” says Msaki.
The Standard Bank Young Artist for Music in 2017, Abel Selaocoe, celebrates a much-anticipated return visit to South Africa after an extended time spent playing on top international stages. Abel’s Festival offering will explore the virtuosity of the cello and his diverse musicianship ranging from Debussy's poetic and vivid Cello Sonata to James Macmillan's spiritual reflective music - ending with foot stomping klezmer and African style inspired pieces. Catch him on July 5 and 6 only.
Off the back of the release of their debut number 1 charting collaboration, Kahn Morbee and Karen Zoid will present one concert only (July 3) of We Could Be Divine their new collaboration and a song writing process Kahn describes as “organic and effortless”. Festival audiences are well advised to book now for what is sure to be an early sell-out show.
Another Festival favourite is the Gala Concert; taking place on the closing weekend of the Festival this year (July 8) it will feature the Cape Town Philharmonic, conducted by Richard Cock, with soloists Abel Selaocoe (cello) and Luis Magalhães (piano).
Double platinum selling a cappella group The Soil will present two concerts on June 30 and July 1. Defined as ‘Kasi Soul’, their music is a blend of contemporary township style and an eclectic mix of urban contemporary, fusing beat box and soul. This show has been opened for limited bookings, visit the box office to check availability.
Ragtime Plus (July 1 & 2) is an informative and highly accessible programme about ragtime music. Presented in France and Switzerland to great audience and critical response, it’s an ongoing and ever-evolving project, which changes as creator Liza Joubert finds different pieces and new information to present to different audiences.
The debut production by the award-winning Charl du Plessis Trio, Baroqueswing, returns from sold-out tours in Europe and the Far-East, to perform in a series of Grahamstown concerts with famous melodies from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Bach’s Air on a G String and Musette and Minuet from Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena, amongst others (June 29 and 30).
The Children’s Concert is a great way to introduce children to music and the orchestra with a relaxed and interactive concert of popular classics and South African favourites – children can meet the musicians in the National Youth Wind Orchestra, and a few familiar (or unfamiliar) instruments. Catch it on July 7.
Another inspiration to children – and adults – everywhere is Pendo Masote, a 13 year old violinist who will play with a small string ensemble. Born into a richly musical environment, Pendo is proof that classical music has a bright future. See him perform on June 29 and 30 and July 1.
Jimmy Nevis whose hit songs include Elephant Shoes, Heart Boxing, Balloon, 7764, Misscato, All About It, and his breakout new single Don’t Wanna Fight will perform on June 30 only.
A journey through time and place, exploring new genres for the violin such as film and gaming music, is how Naomi Tagg describes Neolektra. “I wanted to break away from classical ideas of the violin and to present it in a light that was accessible to many more listeners than just the classical world,” says Tagg. Made up of 5 string players, a DJ/synthesist and a percussionist, audiences can expect a dramatic show that pushes boundaries, and disrupts ideas of where instruments traditionally fit in. Two concerts only on July 3 and 4.
Together with the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, the National Arts Festival 2017 presents Desmond and the Tutus and Opposite the Other in a double bill. Desmond and the Tutus have been touring their infectious shape-shifting brand of kwela-indie-punk for just on ten years. The band’s latest album Enjoy Yourself won the SAMA for Best Rock Album in 2016. Other highlights on the Jazz stage include Judith Sephuma, James Morrison Quintet (Australia), Estafest (Netherlands), Michael Pipoquinha (Brazil), Marcus Wyatt’s Bomb Shelter Beast, Africa Mkhize and Kyle Shepherd among others.
While front man Sam Burger has, over the past years, established a solid YouTube following with over 200,000 hits, the band Opposite the Other was only founded in late 2015. Since then their star has risen fast. Their performance at Rocking the Daisies 2016 saw them voted one of the Top 20 acts at the festival and their first single Ride Away organically reached the Top 10 on the Spotify Global Viral 50 Chart (peaking at #8). Notably, it also made its way into the Top 10 in the US and Top 5 in both Australia and New Zealand.
The double bill with Opposite the Other is on June 29, whilst Desmond and the Tutus play their own gig on June 30.
Early bird shows now open for booking can be found at https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/events/
The National Arts Festival is grateful to: the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture and the Office of the Premier, and Standard Bank of South Africa. Media partners include MNET and City Press.
NB: To link direct to the NAF site click on the large banner that runs across the top of this blog