Derek Gripper: Music from the Strings of Mali
Music from the Strings of Mali
Derek Gripper – Guitar
Across the broad spectrum of Earth’s many musical talents, Derek Gripper remains a standout artist. A classical guitar virtuoso from South Africa, Gripper was inspired by the recordings of legendary Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté to painstakingly adapt the music of the 21-string kora onto his own 6-string guitar. The results are intimate and breathtaking, bringing a wealth of critical acclaim to Gripper and leading the guitar into an uncharted musical realm that must be truly heard to be believed.
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 six-string guitar. The results appeared on his ninth album, One Night on Earth, recorded with an orchestra of crickets (whom he didn’t invite). The album created an unprecedented meeting point between the written tradition of Western classical music and the oral tradition of the West African griots, and more importantly allowed Gripper to make many friends in the streets of Bamako without being able to speak a word of French or Bambara.
Critical acclaim was quick to follow. Classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought such a performance was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it”, while Toumani Diabaté himself asked for confirmation that the recording was indeed just one person playing one guitar. Both of these musical masters subsequently invited Gripper to collaborate with them: he performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival in Bamako. Gripper has also performed with Trioda Kali at Carnegie Hall and won a Songlines Award for the best album in Africa and the Middle East. He tours regularly in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Europe, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, Australia, Malaysia, India and Mali.
Aside from his kora transcriptions, Gripper has also created original music from his diverse artistic influences stemming from Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, as well as the composers Arvo Pärt and Egberto Gismonti. He has also spent many years performing and recording his own adaptations of Bach’s violin and cello music, infusing his interpretations with the lessons of Africa’s oral traditions.
Gripper’s works for string quartet, larger ensembles, and installations have been performed or exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival in the U.K., and in films such as Five Fingers For Marseilles.