Sheraaz’s rich harvest of tunes

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TO sheraaz1 SPIRITED PERFORMANCE: Sheraaz want to speak through their music. Picture: Elro Brown

As a member of the popular DNA Strings, Herman Steyn knew when they disbanded that he would come back to this world of making music.

As someone who loves instrumental music, he also knew it would be in that genre – one of the toughest to crack. But this energetic violinist is nothing but determined to make music – and do it his way. With the help of some friends of course.

World music is the thing he wanted to pursue and this time he wanted more than strings. He wanted the band to embrace different cultures and wanted the music to do exactly that too.

“I aim to explore different styles,” he says.

The important thing is that this still young band, Sheraaz, want to speak through their music. Even if they don’t use lyrics to express what they feel, that’s their objective.

The band members are five diverse musicians. Herman, the one who instigated it all, is best known for his electric violin playing but he will be including other instruments such as piano, guitar, bass guitar, penny whistle and even a ukulele!

“One of our songs has a Hawaiian flavour,” he says, and it’s their determination but also versatility that allow them to reach far and wide, no longer playing safe with much-loved Irish folk tunes.

Michael-John Anderson is the band’s drummer but also plays Spanish guitar, which gives him the chance to emerge from behind his drum kit and display some of his flamboyance. He is also a qualified chef. In fact, it was while he was studying at Steyn’s Culinary School (Herman’s mom’s establishment) that they met and he was invited to join the band. He is also proudly the baby of the group.

The band’s guitarist, Timo Brown, plays both the acoustic and electric guitar. He also plays bass and piano for the band. Herman met Timo while he was studying guitar at Copa (Campus of Performing Arts). He’s the quiet one but then, in a group of five, not everyone gets a word in.

Kgaogelo Makgata (KG) is the band’s percussionist. Herman met KG while working backstage at the State Theatre. He discovered that among other accomplishments, he was a natural percussionist and nagged him to join the project. KG also plays drums and acts, participating in various industrial theatre projects.

The newest member of Sheraaz is Anel Truter, who is the band’s lead bassist with architecture as her day job. She also does backing vocals as well as guitar for the band and has a very deep love for the blues, something she’s determined to introduce into their music.

They’ve already launched their first album and when performing, they more often than not play original music. “We do the odd cover, but prefer to compose our own music,” says Herman.

For the first album – and because they needed music – Herman did most of the composing, but now everyone is involved and the music is often organically created.

That’s also why violin perhaps takes precedence on this album The Traveller, but that will change with their next recording.

While most people think of an instrumental group as challenging, Sheraaz believe it helps because they’re not limited by language.

“We can travel anywhere and speak anywhere,” says Herman, and that is what they’re determined to do. They’re also interested to collaborate in future and emphasise that they like music that unites.

Currently they switch from reggae to Scottish sounds. There is some strong Soweto String Orchestra nostalgia in one of their CD songs, but there’s also a Romanian gypsy ring to one of the other numbers.

Having seen them rehearse, I have an idea of their dynamics and when speaking to the four boys and a girl, I know this group will rock on stage. The enthusiasm and energy are catching.

Whatever their intention and imaginative approach, they will have to be innovative to establish a sound that is different and one that’s constantly evolving. They are going to need that edge and a drive to keep pushing to survive.

They have been invited to perform at Splashy Fen Music festival in March and will tour Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam later this year. They are also planning a possible tour to South Korea where Herman taught for a few years. Their show Sheraaz – World Wide will be at the Atterbury Theatre tomorrow.

And the name? Yes, it is related to the wine but they played around to turn it into something unique, a taste they hope will be acquired.

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