South African pianist and composer Mervyn Africa was born and brought up in the notorious District Six area of Capetown, South Africa and has pursued a varied and eventful musical career. Having studied music at Capetown University, his first professional success found him with the group 'Oswietie'. With the jazz/funk group 'Spirits Rejoice' he received a 'Sarie' (South African Grammy) award in 1980 for his arrangements for their classic album 'Paradise Road'.
Like so many of his predecessors Mervyn Africa found the South African political regime completely incompatible with his multi-cultural approach to music. In 1981 he left to settle in England where he soon found himself working in the bands of fellow exiles such as trumpeter Hugh Masekela, saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and percussionist Julian Bahula.
With drummer Brian Abrahams he co-founded the Afro/jazz group 'District Six' and with Thebe Lipere he co-founded "Out Of The Window", touring and recording six albums with both groups. He played piano in the late Dudu Pukwana's township jazz group Zila and recorded two albums with them. In 1988, he joined singer Carmel as pianist and contributed compositions to her album 'Set Me Free'.
Mervyn Africa has established a strong reputation as both solo performer and bandleader. His quartet as heard on the album 'Mellow Mayhem' blends a natural combination of African Township music and jazz. He has toured extensively.
Mervyn has been commissioned to write music for tv documentaries, dance, drama and string quartets by British and South African producers and a concerto for a symphony orchestra as part of the crossover concert by GLA 1990. Mervyn has taken his small and large groups to many European jazz festivals and clubs and performed with the likes of David Murray, Johnny Dyani, Louis Moholo, Jean Toussaint, Courtney Pine and others. He is the pianist for The South African Gospel Singers and Pinise Saul.
Mervyn Africa is one of the leading composers today. He draws upon influences ranging from South Africa's carnival songs to township jazz to classical.
Mervyn has become well known for his moving and distinctive piano style, which led to a highly successful solo piano tour in Britain in 1988. A prolific composer, Mervyn has composed and recorded for TV documentaries and dramas. His music represents a synthesis of African and European, traditional and modern, his distinctive 'percussive' piano technique has its roots in the repetitive rhythmic patterns of the Southern African Mbira, African percursor of the piano.
For this concert Mervyn Africa will be presenting his quintet: drums, bass, percussion, saxophone.
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