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SA’s Abel Selaocoe to play the Mandela cello for audiences and aspiring musicians alongside Austrian percussionist
Bernhard Schimpelsberger

Abel Selaocoe

What happens when an award-winning cello virtuoso from Sebokeng meets a percussion maverick from Austria? An explosive meeting of musical minds and a breaking of new creative ground, setting the scene for a series of genre-defying performances and workshops to celebrate Freedom Month.

This April, the Quartet of Peace Trust presents three unmissable concerts in Gauteng and the Western Cape by South African cellist (and 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music) Abel Selaocoe and Austrian drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger. They will be accompanied by a constellation of the country’s most exciting string musicians and traditional percussionists.

The shows will take place in Johannesburg, Stellenbosch and Cape Town between 10 and 16 April 2019.

The two friends will also be heading outside the city borders to Lungisisa Indlela Village (LIV ) in Lanseria and Darling, (on the West Coast, courtesy of satirist and community upliftment champion Pieter-Dirk Uys) to bring the vast possibilities of rhythm, voice and dance to young people with little access to instruments or music education.

Pushing musical boundaries
Ever since these two versatile musicians from opposite sides of the world met, they have conspired to inspire and challenge each other musically, having fun exploring the parameters of voice and rhythm.

Their South African performances and workshops promise to be infused with the same energetic spirit of improvisation and playfulness, resulting in an exhilarating mash-up of musical roots and influences.

Selaocoe, who grew up in the Vaal township of Sebokeng is regarded as a rising star on the international classical and jazz scene after clinching a scholarship to attend the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Recently, he performed at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and as a soloist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Supported by the Quartet of Peace Trust, which has helped fund his international music studies, this exceptional young crossover cellist will be returning home this month to perform and give back to the community through his exceptional musical gift.

Selaocoe is grateful to have been enriched by his family’s deeply embedded culture of song and music. Studying in the UK was “life-changing”, he says, adding: “I understood that there are no limits to what one can create through playing with artists ranging from classical and folk to jazz.

“This has inspired me to work with drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger to bring a world of rhythm, voice and string instruments to create
genre-defying music to show that with a blend of different music styles, we can create something special, much like the rainbow nation we aspire to create in South Africa.”

Schimpelsberger draws his inspiration from a pan-continental palette of percussion influences. Schooled in the Western classical and jazz traditions, his approach to rhythm and music was honed by his years of study under a tabla master in India. Today, he imbues his compositions with the poetry and intricacy of the Indian rhythmic system, transcending genres, boundaries and boxes.

“Rhythm is everywhere,” observes Schimpelsberger, whose natural curiosity as a composer and percussionist has led him to collaborate with artists spanning genres and cultures.

“Rhythm is the most inclusive and universal language in the world – a language that connects us with our ancestry, yet enables us to begin conversations about the future. I have been fortunate to experience this in my interactions all around the world.”

He is looking forward to working with Selaocoe to inspire others in developing their visions, particularly aspiring musicians and children, and “to bring together everyone and create an uplifting celebratory experience” during their concerts.

Bernhard Schimpelsberger

African music meets the world
This eclectic world-music pairing will be exploring and redefining the synergies between global musical traditions during their South African shows, performing their own compositions and traditional favourites.

The Quartet of Peace concerts will have a unique and rich resonance, coming in the 25th year since South Africa attained its freedom. Selacoe will be playing the Mandela “Hope” cello, which was one of the exquisitely crafted instruments commissioned by the trust to commemorate each of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Other local string musicians will have the opportunity to play the “Freedom”, “Peace” and “Reconciliation” violins and viola that make up the quartet.

The concerts will include the world premiere of Quartet of Peace, specially commissioned for the Quartet of Peace Trust. The composition blends Western classical and contemporary sounds with African traditional music.

It will feature Schimpelsberger and Selaocoe as soloists, as well as a South African string octet (four of whom will be playing the Quartet of Peace instruments) and three traditional South African drummers.

The Quartet of Peace tour details are as follows:

● Wednesday 10 April 2019 at 7.30pm at Northwards House, 21 Rockridge Road, Westcliff, Johannesburg. Tickets cost R200, available at Quicket

● Friday 12 April 2019 at 7.30pm at Erin Hall, 8 Erin Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town (featuring a special guest appearance by the legendary Dizu Plaatjies, of Amampondo fame). Tickets cost R120, available at Quicket

● Tuesday 16 April 2019 at 1pm at Fismer Hall, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbsoch – free concert for students

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