Earlier this month I took my first trip up to Oudtshoorn for the annual Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK)/Klein Karoo National Arts Festival. I was booked to play bass in two productions which showed every day; equalling a total of nine shows at the end of the week long festival.

The show that received the most positive reviews was Cussons 90: As Jy Luister, which made use of poetry written by legendary South African poet Sheila Cussons. This year would have been Cussons’ 90th birthday had she still been alive, but I think the authors of the show – Lou-Ann Stone and Frieda van den Heever have done well to celebrate her legacy with such a well rounded artistic offering. Apart from the beautifully crafted songs and the innovative use of jazz to underpin Cussons’ emotive narratives (which in the Afrikaans language is an almost unheard medium), was the impeccable use of multi-media projections from the life of the poet herself. That, combined with the hypnotic drone of Gregorian-type chants at the onset of the show made for one heck of a catharsis – even if I say so myself. And what a catharsis it was! Audience members were in tears after almost every show, and when Steve Hofmeyr gave his positive feedback; I knew the show was well on its way to becoming a hit. With 3 out of 4 standing ovations and a slight miss on a Kanna award (due to technical problems at the 2nd show, which also happened to be the show that was being assessed for the illustrious award), demand for the show in other parts of the country is on the rise. We have been invited to perform at the Greyton Poetry Festival in June/July and there is talk of a recording as well.

Here is a review of the show in the festival’s own Krit newspaper:

Cussons praat met ons in musiek

The 2nd show I played bass for was a cabaret called Deurbraak, which showcased the self-written material of various drama graduates. The aim of the show was to create exposure for these young artists with a focus on leveraging further opportunities.

I stayed with the cast in a school hostel. Staying with drama graduates has its pros and cons, in that there is truly never a dull moment with a bunch of people as exhuberant and colourful. Sometimes this exhuberance becomes quite annoying when combining  excessively resonant school hallways with a rowdy bunch returning from a wild night at the festival’s VIP spot Club Al Capone (where every celeb and wannabe-celeb hang out at night).

Deurbraak was moderately attended, but the show itself maintained a fine balance between melodrama and comedy which worked together exceedingly well. I enjoyed playing what sounded like the bassline to Bach’s Canon in D repetitively in almost every 2nd song; while its descending chord progression proved once again to be a tried and tested tear jerker.

Here is the Krit review of Deurbraak:

Deurbraak knap gedaan

All in all, KKNK proved my preconceived notions about the festival wrong. I was told that it was an arid, Afrikaner infested place of limbo where old tannies in flowered blouse designs clapped their hands unremittingly to the nauseating pound of Nicholas Louw music – which it was; to an extent. I found that there were some genuine art appreciators around, and some even better artists. I also made a lot of new friends; which I am grateful for. Perhaps I’ll see you next year KKNK. Until then.

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