Hemispheres 12

Derek Gripper

Wednesday 15 August 2018
Derek Gripper is a classical guitarist who has taken a unique path. As a South African classical musician he found limited by the music of the traditional classical guitar and so went on a journey through different musical styles, returning always to the guitar to find ways of bringing what he learned onto the instrument. 

It took Derek Gripper untold hours of painstaking work to transcribe note-for-note the complex compositions of Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and find a way of playing them on classical six-string guitar. The results appeared on his ninth album, One Night on Earth, marking a meeting point of the written tradition of Western classical music and the oral tradition of the West African griots.

Critical acclaim was quick to follow. Classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it”. Toumani Diabaté himself asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing one guitar. Both immediately invited Derek to collaborate with them after hearing his recording “One Night on Earth” and its follow up “Libraries on Fire” which won the Songlines Award for “Best Album Africa and Middle East.” Derek performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symetroc Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali.

Photos: Maree Laffan