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Posted by Nielen on Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'm fortunate to be performing as a guest artist with David Kramer's Breyani band this Christmas - see pics in my photo album, below.  David invited me to join them for the show after I told him I'd like to try some Scruggs picking with his music.

He has accumulated a vast knowledge of the musical heritage of the Western Cape, South Africa, which draws some influence from Europe but most from the music that we have inherited from the slaves who came here during the slave-trade that flourished in the Indian Ocean basin during the Portuguese and Dutch colonial eras.  Another major influence was the visit of the Christy Minstrels from the USA in the 1860s and a lot of the local Dixie-style banjo emanates from that.  There are musical similarities to the Calypso and Creole styles of the Caribbean and the Southern and South-Eastern USA.  

David writes his own material, sometimes collaborating with local musicians and has also produced musicals and taken his acting troupe to London's West End and to Broadway.  He's done amazing work helping local artists to promote their music and themselves.  For example, he's the guy who discovered Hannes Coetzee, of Slide Spoon Guitar fame (I see that YouTube site is still getting hits).

It was a challenge to get the Scruggs style to work with his music and I had to develop some special rolls to play this stuff.  I found myself having to weave rhythm as well as melody into the Scruggs rolls to get the right feel.  Some of the slower numbers have a kinda Calypso sound and they work quite well with syncopation, or 'bounce', as we call it.

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