Derek Gripper Composes Cape Town’s musica-cultural heritage

Derek Gripper Composes Cape Town’s musica-cultural heritage


Derek Gripper is a South African musician born in Cape Town. He plays instruments like the guitar, and the violin. Plus, he uses unique techniques and instruments only unique to places in Africa like Mali and the Cape. There’s the kora (a west African guitar with 21 strings), the uhadi bow (a large bow that looks like the weapon itself), and the umrhubhe (a smaller wooden bow with a brass wire). 


His Early Life

Derek Gripper was born in November 14, 1977. He started to learn about music and about the violin at first since he was six years old! He has been sharpening his skills doing South African music, mostly classical and jazz types for the next 13 years before he wanted to go explore.


He hasn’t just been practicing African music, he wanted to go to foreign areas. He went to India and experiment and learn about the music over there. 

When he came back to South Africa after his studies, he started to try and hone his skills for guitar again. He has been inspired by musicians with the multi layered music that Oliver Messiaen made, and the exclusively African techniques Steve Reich used. He also admired Johann Sebastian Bach.



 In 2008, he has made his first groundbreaking album called “Ayo” with songs like “Spore”, “Egberto,” and “Toru’s Blood.” He has been still trying to blend his music in with foreign influences. He has loved Brazilian music and admired Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti. He used Gismonti’s guitar music along with his additions for his 2012 album, “The Sound of Water.” 

He has also been in love with Malian music as seen from his ninth album, One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali in 2012. Gripper has made new guitar techniques out of Mali’s fascinating and ancient music culture. Mali has been getting his attention at the time probably because the Mali civil war has started in 2012 where Mali culture has been getting destroyed by extremists. His album utilizes the kora. 

He still makes albums today such as, “A Year of Swimming” in 2020, and “Saturday Morning in Boston” (collaborated with Mike Block)

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