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Cape Town will enjoy a musical fusion this Youth Day when French and SA music combine in French ballroom, Latin and Cape jazz sounds.
The internationally acclaimed Paris-based quartet The Elephants, featuring French jazz musician Braka, have united with young South African musicians to make up an 11-piece brass band chosen from the Delft Big Band, Little Giants and Imad.
This is called The Big Time project and forms part of a collaboration between the two countries concentrating on culture and the arts.
The arranger and composer of the repertoire, Braka last toured SA in 2010, when he performed with Marcus Wyatt.
It was during this period that he and his French friends conceived the now-popular quartet The Elephants.
“After we played gigs in clubs, people asked for a name. We were in Plettenberg Bay near a game reserve for elephants and we were like, okay, let’s call it The Elephants,” says Braka.
With a love for brass bands, Braka later “proposed that the French institute come up with another project involving children from the townships”, the intention being to raise a big band around the music of the quartet.
“I was searching for the right orchestra and the right man and came into contact with George Werner.
“I was here in March to check the levels and range of what I could expect. For instance, I know the trombones can go high and so too can the bass trombone, so I know I can compose for that level.
“There is a strong tradition of brass bands here. The coons and Dollar Brand music in the sixties were based on many horns.
“That’s why I chose Cape Town – there are a lot more young musicians playing horns here than in Joburg.
“The level (of competence) is high compared to French amateurs, and you don’t need too much time to grasp this complicated repertoire.
“They are strong rhythmically, sound nice and blow in tune. In France it’s not the same. Everything is simple.
“Because these children live in the townships and have family situations, they can be completely broken. Yet they are here and have the will to play to improve their (performance) levels.”
The French Season in SA will continue until November and will be followed by a South African season in France between May and December next year.
During that period, The Big Time band will play in France.
Open rehearsals for the Big Time take place today at the Artscape.
Young musicians from Cape Town will be able to participate in the horn and vocal technique workshops while also being exposed to rehearsals for a professional show.
• See The Big Time at Artscape’s Opera House on Saturday at 3pm. Tickets are R70 – pensioners pay only R60.