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Derek Gripper: A New African String Theory

Sat 29 June 19:00 - 20:30

Derek Gripper is one of South Africa’s leading guitarists whose love of the kora set him transcribing and recording some of its greatest works, changing the face of classical guitar…

When Gripper released One Night on Earth, his first album of kora translations, classical guitar legend John Williams thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it,” while kora maestro Toumani Diabaté asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing. Both invited Derek to collaborate: Derek performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali. His 2016 Carnegie Hall debut paired him with Mali’s Trio da Kali, and the UK’s Songlines honoured him with best album in Africa and the Middle East for his 2016 album Libraries on Fire.

Since these two recordings put kora/guitar translations on the map, his recent recordings A Year of Swimming (2020), Billy Goes to Durban (2021) and Sleep Songs for My Daughter (2022), have incorporated elements of his kora explorations in original compositions and improvisations, captured on tape in the field and in studio, while his Bach recordings have shown that African music has a lot to teach us about recapturing the natural simplicity of early European music.


“Five stars… Gripper has brilliantly transferred [the kora] repertoire onto a regular six string guitar. He sees [Toumani] Diabaté as the Segovia, or indeed John Williams, of the kora, championing it as a solo instrument. And Gripper brilliantly takes it back to the guitar. He’s opening a whole new repertoire of classical guitar music… bringing African guitar into the classical mainstream.”  Simon Broughton, Evening Standard

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Date and Time

Sat 29 June
19:00 - 20:30
£35 (early bird £25)


SJE Arts
St John the Evangelist church, 109A Iffley Road
Oxford, OX4 1EH


Derek Gripper
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