Venue: Cafe de la Creme, corner 4th Avenue and 7th Street, Melville. A coffee shop and bakery that has been there for a long time, trading under the same name. A new owner now, Frano, Telephone 079 878 3567. They make a decent pot of tea (with a teabag) and serve it with cold milk. Suits me perfectly.
There is an old musical joke about a man who is lost and running late for a concert at New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. He stops a man carrying a music instrument, sure that he will know, saying “Excuse me, can you tell me the way to Carnegie Hall?” The man responds “Practice, practice, practice”.
Wouter Kellerman, a Grammy Award-winning South African flautist has, amongst many other important gigs, played two concerts at the famous Carnegie Hall, one in October 2014 and one in October 2015. He points out that he still practices his full technical scales and long notes routine every single day whether he is working towards a classical or a crossover concert or not rehearsing at all. Wouter Kellerman epitomises the truth that it is long years of hard work and long days of meticulous attention to detail which has made him the internationally successful artist that he is.
Kellerman still plays classical concerts today, most recently with the Samson Diamond String Quarter at the University of the Free State, but he is best known for his World and Roots music, as well as his crossover classical and contemporary work. Over the years Kellerman has played in many parts of the world and at many important events, not least of which have been at the 2010 Soccer World Cup closing ceremony, the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, China, at the opening of the Midem (world’s biggest music conference) in Cannes, France, at the closing of the World Flute Convention in Eau Claire, Wisctonsin, the Woodford Folk Festival n Australia, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival in India, and for television audiences of more than 200 million people. He has also appeared at South Africa’s premier jazz festival, Joy of Jazz.
Johannesburg based audiences have the opportunity to hear Kellerman play in a collaboration with contemporary dancer/choreographer Gregory Vuyani Maqoma and jazz artist Simphiwe Dana entitled Joys of Sharing at the Lyric Theatre on 21 and 22 October 2016. I asked him about this. (This was the actual purpose of us meeting for tea.) He met Gregory Maqoma and his Vuyani Dance Theatre at an Africa Day concert in 2015 and was most positively impressed by the superb quality of work, both in spiritual vision and in physical execution, that he was seeing. Simphiwe Dana came on board with this collaboration and between the two of them they have brought their established body of works to the production, and adapted that, as well as added new compositions for the show. The creative team workshopped the production, sparking off each other’s creativity as they went along.
Kellerman says that he is always impressed at the sheer excellence of most South African artists when compared with their international counterparts. We talk about other South African creatives for a while – dancers, comedians and musicians.
This leads us back to his work. He has an impressive disography. Kellerman’s latest album Love Language (2015) received a Grammy Nomination for the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, one of the broadest of all the categories. It won a SAMA for Best Instrumental and/or Classical album. In 2014 Kellerman received a Grammy Award for his 2014 album Winds of Samsara (Shanti Samsara), a collaboration with Indian composer and producer Ricky Kej. This also won SAMAs. He has also won an Emmy for the music on the movie Eye of the Leopard soundtrack. Older recordings are Mzansi (2013), Half Moon (2012), Two Voices (2010) and Colour (2007).
The Grammy winning album, Shanti Samsara, is all about climate change, and other forms of environmental consciousness. Shanti Samsara was launched by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi &. President of France François Hollande at the United Nations COP21 (Paris). Kellerman has just returned from the USA where he played at screenings of the documentary videos associated with this in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
We talk about his next project, a joint effort with the world famous Grammy Award winning Soweto Gospel Choir. Kellerman is carried away with enthusiasm and over-shares. No, he says, that’s not all for publication yet, but the CD is due to be released in mid-2017 with a host of guest artists, making it another international collaboration.
We return to the forthcoming concert, Joys of Sharing. It will be filmed and that will be used as a marketing tool. Hopefully this will involve an international tour. I ask him what his favourite work in it is. He tells me it is their improvisation on Ravel’s Bolero. I can’t wait to hear it.
Joys of Sharing is on at The Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City, on 21 and 22 October 2016.