A photo of Derek Gripper performing

Derek Gripper's Career & Fusion of African and Global Music

 

 

 

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).

 

 

Early Life

 

Derek Gripper was born on November 14, 1977. He first started to learn about music and the violin when he was six years old!

 


He sharpened his skills by making South African music, primarily classical and jazz, for the next 13 years before he wanted to explore.

 


He hasn’t just been practicing African music; he wanted to go to foreign areas. He went to India and experimented and learned about the music there.

 

When he came back to South Africa after his studies, he started to try and hone his skills in guitar again.

 


Musicians have inspired him with the multi-layered music that Oliver Messiaen made and the exclusively African techniques Steve Reich used. He also admired Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

Career

 

In 2008, he 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 loved Brazilian music and admired Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti. He used Gismonti’s guitar music and additions for his 2012 album, “The Sound of Water.”

 


He has also been in love with Malian music, as seen in 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 was getting his attention at the time, probably because the Mali civil war started in 2012 when extremists destroyed Mali’s culture. 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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