The South Africa Panjazz Project: Students' Commentary
marimbas come to Portchester Ė amazing!
by Laura Chappell - Portchester Community School - Year 10
Back in March 2007 I went with Sounds of Steel, Portchester Panyard and the Portchester Taiko group to Southampton to compete in the National Festival of Music for Youth. While we were there, we were lucky enough to see and hear an African percussion group perform and, as a result of hearing that group, our school decided to purchase something similar Ė a set of marimbas perhaps? Affording a set was one problem, but getting them over from Cape Town, South Africa was likely to add too much to the budget. Quite by chance, one member of Sounds of Steel has a dad in The Navy. He was able to persuade HMS Endurance to carry them back as cargo, whilst stopping off in Cape Town on its way back from Antarctica. To cut the story short, in early June, the marimbas arrived in Portsmouth Dockyard, to be transferred to their new home at Portchester Community School.
Over the next month, I took a keen interest in the new marimbas as I loved the sound they made. As a result of my interest, I became the marimba player in the South Africa Panjazz Project. In July 2007, Andile Siyo, a leading marimba player and our marimba maker in South Africa was invited by the schoolís Headteacher, Roger Matthews, to visit England for a week. Andile accepted the invitation and, on Saturday 7 July, he flew into England to work with budding marimba players in Portchester.
The next day, Andileís birthday, was The Pan Festival and this was Andileís chance to meet the members of the Pan Project. Throughout the next week, Andile led marimba workshops with students of diverse ages from 9 - 26 and all of them learnt how to play the marimba.
On Wednesday 11 July, there was the first Panjazz concert, in which Sounds of Steel, Brookfield Jazz Orchestra and the fusion of both groups Ė The Panjazz Project performed. The evening proved a huge success, with Andile soloing in a composition called ĎAfricaí that Pete Beadell, Head of Music at Portchester Community School composed. Andile also introduced the audience and players to a new kind of sound - the African Kalimba. This was a lovely sound and he had composed a beautiful song that brought tears to many peopleís eyes.
He then travelled up to Birmingham the next day to the finals of The National Festival of Music for Youth with the Portchester Taiko group and Sounds of Steel. On the Friday, he came to watch the Portchester Arts Festival in which a wide range of music and songs were performed.
Sadly, for the many people he had made friends with that week, he had to fly back to Cape Town on Saturday 14 July. However, that is not the last we will see of him as, hopefully, Sounds of Steel, Brookfield Jazz Orchestra and the Panjazz Project will be visiting South Africa in March 2008. We look greatly forward to this and canít wait to carry on building up the link we have with South Africa. Meanwhile, the marimbas have just started to come out again in time for us to start practising so we are able to enter next yearís National Festival of Music for Youth.
Laura Ė Marimba and Double tenor pans
The South Africa
The Panjazz Project! Absolutely brilliant! Itís great how the two very different styles of music blend together in an amazing fusion, which I personally think sounds fantastic. It mixes the exotic, relaxed sounds of the steel pans and marimbas with the powerful feel of brass instruments and Western jazz rhythms. The combined sound is truly magical. The music that is made from the group is mesmerising. I love it!
Firstly, as a jazz musician, I like improvising, especially when the improvising is based on call and response. In this setting the ideas just bounce off everyone. Itís amazing! Someone creates a little melody and suddenly everyone is adapting it and using it in their own solos! Itís crazy!
When I first heard about the idea of the Panjazz Project, I wasnít quite sure whether the combination of different instruments would work. But the musical instruments were being used in so many ways with each time something new being tried, which worked perfectly. The great bit is that there are so many possibilities Ė itís just going to get better and better!
I must admit, itís been hard work, especially trying to get the project off the ground. Weíve had quite a few long rehearsals (5 hours!) but Iíve enjoyed every time that the group has come together. Everyoneís friendly and the environments are perfect for playing in. But now that the project is in the air, it feels a bit more relaxed and I think we can experiment and explore more with the project, which I am really looking forward to.
One thing that really helped the project launch, I think, was working with Andile (a South African marimba player). Just him being there really helped and it was great just working with him, listening to him making music. It was amazing!
To me, this is a great experience. I think that Panjazz could become a style in its own right because the music thatís being created is like nothing Iíve ever heard before. It is truly spectacular and I canít believe that Iím actually a part of it! Cheers Panjazz!
Dan - Trombone
from the Scottsville Secondary School Choir
"I would like to thank you for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am very excited about the Panjazz Project. We are busy practising and loving to meet you."
Garth Isaacs - Grade 12
"It is a honour to participate in the Panjazz Project. It is a wonderful experience. Singing is my passion and through this project I am realising my dream of learning and expressing myself through music. Thank you for making me part of this project."
Claudia Isaacs - Grade 12
"I am thrilled to work in a group, with other schools and people from other countries. We here at Scottsville canít wait to meet all of you."
Farren Jarret - Grade 11
"Music is a important part of my family life and this project is an opportunity to show my friends and family that I am a good singer. I am proud to be part of the Panjazz Group."
Chesna Lategan - Grade 10
"I am grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be part of a very special project. I love working with everyone within the group. It is a wonderful experience!"
Inger Smith - Grade 11
"It is a privilege we have to be part of this project. We must all do what is expected of us in order to make a success of it."