Going back to the roots of music

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By Theresa Smith

WHAT IS the link between seaweed and jazz? Pedro Espi-Sanchis has a story about that. The storyman has a story about pretty much everything, but this one makes a musical kind of sense.

Espi-Sanchis is more well known as the Music Man who teaches children all about various musical instruments, especially the seaweed flute. The way he teaches it, the hollow piece of seaweed is the first wind instrument to be used by modern man, the wellspring for modern day flutes and clarinets so beloved of jazz musicians.

Add to that the natural walking beat which first taught mankind about rhythm and you can imagine the San walking down the beach, playing on a seaweed flute while creating a polyrhythm with clapping hands and stomping feet.

Especially since Espi-Sanchis is stamping (and clapping) out a rhythm, seated at the wooden table and chair outside the V&A Waterfront Market on the Wharf, where we are conducting the interview.

The people at the table behind him are staring open-mouthed as he demonstrates the concept of two independent rhythms being played at the same time.

Improvisation of a tune over various rhythms led to jazz, and you can stretch the link to the seaweed.

All of this is a topic of conversation because Espi-Sanchis will be performing with legendary bow player Madosini in the quartet Madojazz.

Madojazz started six years ago when Robert Brooks commissioned The Songs of Madosini for the 2007 Miagi Festival and for this particular performance they take several of her compositions and extend them into the jazz idiom.

Madosini and Espi-Sanchez will play the uhadi musical bow (the earliest string instrument created by man) and the lekgodilo flute (the earliest wind instrument), while Hilton Schilder will man the keyboards and Jonny Blundell will play the guitar.

The instruments play mostly in the Lydian mode, one of the favourite modes of jazz, which means they work well with the piano and guitar within a jazz style.

Each musician gets a chance to improvise at the beginning of the show, before bringing Madosini on to the stage and then playing together as a quartet.

“Even though I don’t speak Xhosa, our instruments talk to each other,” explained Espi-Sanchez.

The show will be structured around Madosini’s story, since both of them are storytellers and each of the tracks refers to some point in her life.

In addition to rehearsing for this particular show, Espi-Sanchis is also preparing for a new children’s music theatre piece in time for the March school holidays, Cowboys and Tortoiseshells.

He’s also creating a musical intervention for the Infecting the City Festival for mid March.

But, first, seaweed jazz for Kalk Bay.

• Madojazz play at Kalk Bay Theatre on Sunday at 8pm.

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