Music from the strings of Mali

Globally renowned South African guitarist Derek Gripper is headed to Malmsbury next week. Photo: Simon Attwell

Globally renowned South African guitarist Derek Gripper is bringing his immersive concert experience, Music from the Strings of Mali, to Malmsbury this month.

Gripper’s Australian tour promises an unforgettable show featuring a unique blend of West African rhythms, timeless classical, and inspiring melodies from Toumani Diabaté, Arvo Pärt and Bach.

Music from the Strings of Mali will visit Australia’s major capital cities, plus a number of shows in regional Victoria and Western Australia. 

The upcoming tour follows a string of successful sold-out shows in the United States of America, including back-to-back performances in Washington, plus tours in Europe and South Africa. It will be Gripper’s first Australian tour since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Derek Gripper has gained international acclaim for his groundbreaking work in transcribing and recording some of the most intricate compositions of the kora, a 21-stringed West African harp, onto acoustic guitar. His groundbreaking technique of translating these sounds offer music lovers a unique immersive musical exploration that bridges continents and genres. 

Gripper said returning to Australia was a special moment for him. 

“The Music from the Strings of Mali tour is a celebration of the rich African repertoire that I’ve been honoured to bring to the classical guitar,” he said. 

“I look forward to sharing the magic and cultural diversity of this music with Australian audiences.”

Gripper’s transformative journey began with the release of his first album, One Night on Earth, his initial venture into kora translations. The album drew praise from celebrated classical guitarist, John Williams, who proclaimed it “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it”, while kora maestro Toumani Diabaté asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing. 

Both invited Gripper to collaborate with them: He performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali. His 2016 Carnegie Hall debut paired him with Mali’s Trio da Kali, and the UK’s Songlines honoured him with best album in Africa and the Middle East for his 2016 album Libraries on Fire.

Gripper’s groundbreaking exploration continues through recent recordings such as A Year of Swimming, Billy Goes to Durban, and Sleep Songs for My Daughter, introducing original compositions and improvisations, each a testament to his dedication to evolving and challenging his musical style. Moreover, his Bach recordings have been a fascinating study in the symbiosis of African music and early European melodies, revealing an uncanny natural simplicity within their intricacies.

Music from the Strings of Mali reflects Derek Gripper’s transformative compositions, challenging conventional ideas and exploring the boundaries of musical interpretation. It promises Australian audiences a raw, authentic experience – a musical expedition that embodies the human spirit in its highs and lows, its mastery and its quest for learning.

Gripper performed to a sold out audience in Malmsbury in early 2020. He had such a warm reception and enjoyed the intimate vibe of the space.

He will perform in the Malmsbury Town Hall at 7pm on Wednesday January 24.