Collab a rhapsody in brew

By Therese Owen Time of article published Nov 23, 2011

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It was with pride and much interest that I learnt of Black Coffee’s Africa Rising, which re-interprets his music with a 24-piece orchestra. It couldn’t get any better than this!

Well it could, if you factor in that Black Coffee asked Brendan Jury to arrange and conduct the orchestra.

While our darling Black Coffee needs no introduction as the country’s most famous deep house export, producer and DJ, here is a brief history of Jury.

He and Chris Letcher were the foundation of the revolutionary 1990s Durban group Urban Creep. They fused sweeping landscape pop songs with African rhythms and influences, all of which was pro-pelled by Jury’s sensual voice and his haunting violin and keyboard skills.

After the Creeps split Jury experimented with dance music (Trans.Sky), but made it darker by throwing in some industrial, rockier sounds and then it got even darker with his violin. Again, it was music that was way ahead of its time.

Jury turned to creating music for corporates and is now one of the go- to men for adverts and theme tunes.

In the meantime, he hooked up with Arno Carstens and played a pivotal role as a multi-instrumen-talist in Carstens’ band New Porn. His stage presence also added a strong visual element to their live performances.

Jury’s most recent project was as music arranger for The Parlotones’s landmark 3D show, Dragonflies & Astronauts.

Durban-born Jury is one of those exceptional musicians who are not only excellent singers, but as multi-instrumentalists, they know their instruments well and their under-standing of music generally is remarkable.

Black Coffee and Jury first met in Durban in the 1990s when Black Coffee was studying at UKZN, of which Jury is also a BMus graduate, and was starting out with Shana.

“I’ve always loved Black Coffee,” says Jury. “He is my favourite composer. He’s sophisticated, but he’s got that street cred. I loved that Massive Attack, London sound in the 1990s and he has that some-where. He is a world of art and abstract ideas.

“He told me he was interested in adding a symphonic orchestra to his music and asked me to help out. He is all about the music. So it will be him and a 24-piece orchestra. The scope of this is so big.”

The debut of Africa Rising will take place at The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on December 16 as part of the Vodacom Unlimited Festival.

Besides what should be a magni-ficent concert, there will also be top DJs playing. These include Oskido, Vinny da Vinci, Ralf Gum, Rocco and Christos.

“For me, it’s more about trying to grow as an artist,” explains the gentle Black Coffee. “I was slowly getting bored. Through this I am taking my brand to another level. The concept is to present my music with a 24-piece orchestra. I studied jazz and sang classical music so that will also be infused.

“But it needs to be carefully done,” he continues. “The styles are different, but I don’t want to take away from either of the genres. For me it’s a very special project. It marks the growth in our house music scene.”

Jury agrees: “The one big challenge for me is that it’s deep house. Rhythmically, deep house is subtle, yet dynamic. However, it is minimalistic when it comes to harmony. Then I am working with an orchestra of western music which does not have the same groove. It was a beautiful challenge. I had to get into a circular rhythm because house music has a funky, circular rhythm,” he says.

“The orchestra brings a lot more melodic and harmonic complexity. Another challenge was to bring drama and big, brooding sounds. The sound was already there, in a way. This is a beautiful job to have because it’s all about empathy.”

Africa Rising will include guest spots by the Soul Brothers’s Black Moses, Zakes Bantwini and Zonke.

Black Coffee also gave us a sneak preview by saying Bucie will close the show with their international dance hit, Superman.

A DVD and live CD will be recorded and released at a later date.

Black Coffee sums up the aspirations of the project: “The bigger picture is to be able to do big events locally and internationally and take it to theatres for a few weeks. I definitely want to tour Africa Rising.”

lOn December 16, the gates for the Vodacom Unlimited Festival open at The Moses Mabhida Stadium at noon. Get tickets at Computicket or the gate.

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