My Cape Town: Kyle Shepherd
He plays the piano, saxophone and xaru, has been called a musical savant, and the architect of modern Cape jazz, but you won’t hear Kyle Shepherd singing his own praises. Here, he turns the spotlight on his influences and sources of inspiration – the artists that came before him.
“Living in Cape Town is like being plugged in to the source.” Kyle Shepherd
Where do you go to get plugged in to this inspiration? To be honest I don’t have any specific place. For me there’s a personal connection to the whole – whether I’m in the confines of my studio or on Table Mountain, or driving – it’s a connection that’s beyond a physical location. Cape Town as a whole is not just the geography, but also the CV
Straatwerk has job rehabilitation projects for men and women. 021 425 0140 The Haven’s vision is to get the homeless home. 021 425 4700 The Homestead provides residential care and family integration for boys. 021 461 7470
culture, people, communities, families and everything else that makes this city unique. Whenever I leave the country and look back at the city with an outsider’s eye, I start seeing the beauty all over again – specifically in the people. There is a distinctly Cape Town flavour to your music. How does your latest album, South African History !X reflect this? Musically it ties in with my longstanding interest in the history of South Africa and Cape Town. I’ve always found the truth behind our history mysterious because in the past it was suppressed and buried alive. For instance, when my parents were at school, they learnt that Cape Town ‘began’ when Jan van Riebeek arrived. But when you do the research, you realise that a whole culture of people existed here for many years before the Europeans came. If this history had been taught, we’d have a completely different idea of who we are. Instead, we’ve been conditioned to think that anything from elsewhere is better; we have a very deepseated inferiority complex. CV
CV This sounds similar to the Afrikaaps project that you were involved in? Yes, for the Afrikaaps project we researched and investigat-
Ons Plek provides residential care while undertaking reunification process for girls. 021 465 4829 The Carpenters Shop provides rehabilitation services and skills training for adults. 021 461 5508 Salesian Institute Youth Projects provide education, skills training and rehabilitation to vulnerable youth. 021 425 1450
ed the origins of Afrikaans. In the project we brought to light that the language, apart from the Dutch influence, was really a language created by the people who spoke it – which is a completely different take on the apartheid view of Afrikaans. When we did workshops with and performances for children in the Cape Flats and shared this insight, it was like a weight was being lifted off their shoulders. CV You’re building on a longstanding legacy of Cape jazz, and your personal relationships with the legendary Abdullah Ibrahim and late Zim Ngqawana. How have you incorporated these histories into your album? It’s not something that I think about when making music, so it’s difficult to talk about. The way I play wasn’t a decision. I grew up with musical elements around me in the community, which influenced me when I started playing jazz and improvisation. My mother is a violin player and she played for Abdullah when I was very young. As a single parent, she took me everywhere with her. I’m thankful for that because to sit in on Abdullah rehearsals as a kid … I mean, I never sat down and had any lessons with him, but just seeing Abdullah with his piano and
Photo: Marwhaan Lodewyk
CV Kyle, good music like yours must be a passport to the world. You’ve already mesmerised audiences across Africa, Europe and Asia, so what is it that makes you stay in Cape Town? Living in Cape Town is like being plugged in to the source. I might have to leave at some point, so I’m charging my batteries now. If I have to leave, I will always be plugged in to this thing called Cape Town. I’m trying to fill myself up: trying to know this place, to understand it; trying to understand my family, my culture, my people; and trying to understand the music on a deeper level. I’m not sure I will leave, but if I have to, I will always be fundamentally connected to Cape Town. I’ll always be here.
hearing him talk had such an effect on me. It all sticks, and I’m very grateful for that. Zim had a profound impact on me too. I studied with him at his school – Zimology – and lived with him in Johannesburg, and played and travelled with him. Abdullah got me started, and Zim moulded me. I can’t begin to attach any sort of value to what I got from them. CV You recently performed on St George’s Mall and Church Square as part of the Infecting the City festival. How was it? Apart from the pleasure of playing there, the main thing I’d like to say about that is: Why doesn’t it happen more often? Cape Town is such a beautiful city and we have such beautiful summer evenings. It’s absurd that we don’t have more outdoor festivals. In Europe, if they had half of what we do, they’d use the space more.
How would you describe the sound of Cape Town to a foreigner? It’s difficult to describe it without hearing it, but I would say that the sound of Cape Town stems from the city as a whole. It’s a feeling you get when you arrive, or the vibration that’s around us. It’s an honest sound; it’s a sound that could not have come from anywhere else. CV
Kyle’s latest album – South African History !X – is available for digital download from www.sheersound.co.za and other major digital stores, and as a CD at leading music stores across SA. For more information visit www. kyleshepherd.co.za.
Catch it live The Mahogany Room is Kyle’s favourite place to play in Cape Town. Modelled on some of the world’s greatest jazz clubs, it operates on a pay per set basis (R60 for one set, or R100 for two). Catch The Kyle Shepherd Trio featuring Kyle on piano, Shane Cooper on double bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums, there from Wednesday 2 May to Saturday 5 May at 20h30 and 22h30. Booking is essential. The Mahogany Room 79 Buitenkant Street T: 076 679 2697 @TheMahoganyRoom
Many children and young adults living on the streets have severe drug addiction problems. More often than not, the money they receive from begging is used to buy their next “fix”. The CCID therefore requests that members of the public do not give money or handouts directly. If you would like to help, please contact one of the listed organisations mentioned. Contact the Central City Improvement District’s (CCID’s) Social Development Department for further information or assistance.
Pat 021 419 1881 | Dean 082 928 3862 Headman Sirala-Rala 082 262 0113 Mark Williams 082 262 0112
Discover Cape Town as a historic city in the May 2012 edition of City Views