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Music and meals have a lot in common. At least according to the revered musician, James Grace.
A man famous for his flair when it comes to classical, Latin and Spanish guitar, Grace will perform an intimate recital at Plaisir de Merle on Sunday. But if this were an alternate reality and he never fell in love with a guitar when just seven years old, Grace says: “I would probably be working in the kitchen as an executive chef”.
“I love cooking and creating food,” he explained, “and I think musos are the same. If you paint or just create things it means you are adding flavours, textures. With food, I get to be chopping things up, creating different tastes and that’s similar to making music. I’d definitely be a full-time chef at the Mount Nelson or something.”
He laughs when I remark that he immediately chose the word “executive” which means he doesn’t suffer from lack of ambition.
“You’ve got to think big,” he told me. “I’ve always believed you must try to be the best at whatever you do.”
What does he consider to be the best music to cook to? “
I have Putumayo world music (CDs), Mexican or Latin on when I cook.”
With five albums under his belt, Grace is cooking up something special for his fans this weekend. In addition to the signature tunes that have made him a pleasure to watch live, he’ll add a few Beatles songs to the mix.
“This year is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first hit song, Love Me Do,” says Grace before singing me a taste of the famous song, “and that was pretty much the start of their huge career. So this year, a lot of people have done tributes to them because of that.
“The Beatles were a huge inspiration to me and others in terms of live music so I’ll be putting a few of those songs into the programme.”
Aside from working on his sixth album in the last quarter of this year, Grace will also be working on the finishing touches of his Stringwise Young Artist’s Trust. This “is an idea I had a couple of years ago and I’m still in the process of setting it up,” he says.
The Trust will offer “financial assistance to students who are at the beginning of their careers. To help them to buy instruments, study further, or get a recording done,” says the UCT head of classical guitar studies, whose Stringwise Records has recently released three albums by South African musicians.
Grace says he wants “to be able to do that with younger and upcoming artists.” But first up, a serving of his live music this weekend.
• Catch James Grace at Plaisir de Merle wine estate in Paarl on Sunday. Tickets are R170 and can be booked by calling 021 809 8345 or 021 809 8106.