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Hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as “a genre unto herself,” composer and guitarist Kaki King is a true iconoclast. Over the past ten years, the Brooklyn-based artist has released six extraordinarily diverse and distinctive albums and performed with such icons as Foo Fighters, Timbaland, and the Mountain Goats. She has also contributed to a variety of film and TV soundtracks, including the Golden Globe–nominated work on Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, and played to an increasingly fervent following of music lovers on innumerable world tours. In addition to her own solo work, King sometimes performs accompanied by the string quartet ETHEL, based in New York City. She also recently premiered a classical piece commissioned by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang at Carnegie Hall.
Derek Gripper began his formal musical training on the violin at the age of six. After studying classical music for the next thirteen years, he began to look further afield for musical inspiration. This search took him to India where he studied South Indian Carnatic music. On his return home, he began to focus on the guitar, trying to find a new direction for the instrument. After a host of groundbreaking albums that redefined the landscape of South African music, Gripper began to incorporate the music of other composers in his performances. His longtime fascination with the music of Brazilian Egberto Gismonti led to a project to transcribe this musician’s guitar music, a composer that Gripper describes as “the Heitor Villa Lobos of our time.” The Sound of Water, Gripper’s recording of the music of Egberto Gismonti, was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) as the Best Classical and Instrumental Album of 2012.
Gripper began studying the playing techniques of the traditional Malian compositions on the kora, and two years later he had a breakthrough. By using the simple textural language of the Spanish renaissance lute (called vihuela), it was possible to play the highly complex kora compositions of the great Malian virtuoso Toumani Diabaté on the six-string guitar, without omitting a note of the original performances. Derek Gripper’s project to create an African repertoire for the classical guitar, based on transcriptions of works by some of Africa’s greatest musicians, resulted in a growing collection of outstanding African guitar arrangements, with works by Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Ali Farka Touré, Amadou Bansand Jobarteh, South African bow player Madosini, and others. He has brought the guitar and the music of Africa to life in new and exciting ways.
With her latest album, she’s found yet another new way to do what she always seems to do—to find great music in a guitar and play it like very, very few people can.
New Guitar God.