Indulge in a celebration of culture with Luke Van der Merwe and Gerben Grooten
By Annabelle Lombard ǀ LetsJamCloud
The legendary South African musicians, Luke van der Merwe and Gerben Grooten, will treat fans to a livestream concert on 16 December. Stream their on-stage performance at the Infinity theatre. Tickets available here @ R100
Luke is best known as the lead guitarist in the TV series “Noot vir Noot”. Currently, he is the worship leader and music director at Hatfield Christian Church. Luke is an arranger and freelance musician that collaborated with most South African artists. During a delightful interview, Luke told us what the audience can expect and shared his views on music, life, and Corona.
Gerben is a world-renowned musician, conductor, trainer, facilitator, and mentor with a wealth of knowledge from his 40-plus years in the industry. At present he is a faculty member, lecturer and conductor at University of Pretoria, Principal conductor at Pretoria Bach Choir, director at Hatfield Arts Centre and worship arts director at Hatfield Christian Church.
They chose the concert date carefully to celebrate the Day of Reconcilliation on 16 December to represent and celebrate many cultures. This talented duo both believe in the power of music to reform. In a recent interview Gerben (who is born in the Netherlands) said: “I can’t think of another country to live in that would give me more joy than South Africa.
About the concert
The upcoming concert is a celebration of human experiences, traditions, and cultures across the globe. The ancient harmonies and unusual instruments will send chills down your spine. It touches every sense and evokes a spectrum of emotions. Luke van Der Merwe and Gerben Grooten will, amongst others, transport you from Pygmies in the forests of Central Africa to the mystical and mysterious Nomadic people of the Bedouin – the Berbers of Northern Africa. In a song called ‘To the ends of the earth’, you are able to get a sense of how people lived for thousands of years. Particularly the Oud instrument will take you away from reality and take you across deserts while reaching across music into undiscovered places and unknown sensations and experiences.
The show is packed with lots of different music on a variety of instruments. Music represents an expression of the culture around the world. There is music from Africa, Europe, The Middle East, The Americas, and Asia. It is inclusive of an amazing tapestry of sound and culture that encompasses a variety of genres and styles. It is impossible to put a label on his music; therefore, they will go with the term “world music”.
The duo will be playing different types of guitars like; mandolin, a Middle Eastern “oud”, traditional classical flutes, ethnic flutes, Irish whistle, percussive instruments, the Russian harp, xylophone, angklung, and vibraphone to name a few. Read more about the instruments below.
Get a taste of what to expect: World in a Suitcase Promo – YouTube
Find out more on our website http://www.letsjam.cloud
The Instruments to be used in the ‘World in a suitcase’ concert
People appreciating music and traveling to experience new cultures and strange regions can look forward to an unusual and magical concert from the talented duo: Luke Van Der Merwe and Gerben Grooten. They passionately believe music to be an expression of culture and faith that can bolster cultural interaction, understanding, and respect between nations.
Through ancient rhythms and unusual tones, they want to give you a window to human experiences in different times and places. In upcoming blogs, we will introduce our readers to some of the instruments, the duo will be using in their production of ‘World in a Suitcase’.
The Angklung – promoter of social harmony
The Angklung originated from Indonesia and has been played by the Sundanese for many centuries. It became an important part of their cultural identity. Angklung is an instrument made from joint pieces of bamboo. It consists of two to four bamboo tubes suspended within a bamboo frame, bound with rattan cords. The tubes are carefully whittled and cut by a master craftsman to produce certain notes when the bamboo frame is shaken or tapped.
In 2008, there was a grand celebration in the Thai traditional music circle to mark the 100th anniversary of the introduction of Angklung to Thailand. Both the Thai and Indonesian governments supported the celebration. UNESCO recognized the instrument in 2010 as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and encourages the Indonesian government to safeguard the craftsmanship and promote performances.
It is believed to be played from the 7th century and the oldest surviving Angklung was made in the 17th century. One of the first modern-day performances in an orchestra happened in 1955.
This unusual instrument gets its name from the movement of the players and the sound the instruments make. Another theory suggests that the name originated from Balinese words that mean incomplete tone. Each Angklung produces a single note or chord, so several players must collaborate to play complete melodies. Playing this instrument as an orchestra requires coordination and cooperation. The Angklung is popular throughout the world and is believed to promote the values of teamwork, mutual respect, and social harmony.
The Angklung evokes strong emotions and it could be a combination of sacred sweetness and sadness. In ancient time it was used in ceremonies and during battle. The soothing harmony of an Angklung also symbolizes human life. In the same way, an Angklung cannot consist of only one tube – humans need each other. Large and small tubes also illustrate the development of human life. The small tube illustrates that every person has dreams and desires to become someone ‘greater’, as symbolized by the large tube. As the Angklung is shaken, both tubes create a harmony illustrating life (as it should be).
The Oud – the king of instruments
The Oud – also spelled ʿūd, in Turkish, is a string instrument and the ancestor of the European lute and the guitar. Oud means ‘strip of wood’ in Arabic. It is the most central instrument in the Middle Eastern music tradition. The oud has been played by several civilizations in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Iran, and Arabia. According to some specialists, the origins of the oud go back to Persia as early as 3500 BC, when it was called a Babat. Historians found documents and oral traditions claiming the oud as the king, sultan, or emir of musical instruments.
To the untrained eye, the oud may look like a pear-shaped guitar with a broken neck. Lightwood is used because the bowl is supposed to reverberate when it is struck. It has a fretless fingerboard and short neck and bent-back pegbox. Usually, the oud has 11 gut strings that are fastened to a bridge on the instrument’s belly.
The hollow body has 1-3 sound holes, which usually remains decorated with purfling. This is a narrow decorative edge inlaid into the top plate and often the back plate of a stringed instrument. Originally it is made from laminated strips of wood, often contrasting in color as a visual accent. Sometimes paint is used to simulate it. In the middle of the front section called the chest, there are two small cavities on the sides called “roses”.
Arabic oud is maybe the most popular type of oud instrument because of its rich, deep sound. It has been described as romantic and almost poetic. The oud remains the number one instrument in Turkey and it is still played in Iran, southern Spain, and Greece. Many feel the notes of the oud are steeped in emotion and therefor it often accompanies singers.
“It’s a very inspiring instrument. It has something related to the culture and it’s familiar to the ears of the people here in the Middle East. I believe also it has a very warm sound that touches the heart. We are here in the Middle East; people are so romantic and sentimental, yes emotional. So I believe anyone who doesn’t know the oud, when he first listens to it, he gets touched one way or another. That’s why it’s very near to people’s hearts here,” Musician, Michael Onsy.
The Russian Harp – ancient voice of the wind
The Russian harp, also known as Gusli, is considered Russia’s oldest-known multi-string instrument. It played an important role in their music culture. Gusli is mentioned in Greek writings as early as the 6th century. Its origins are unknown, but it is believed that the Gusli is related to the ancient Chinese instrument, the guzheng.
A Gusli, that has been recovered from various archaeological digs, had anywhere from one to 12 strings. The strings are graduated in length and tightened around a rod to vary the tension. There’s no bridge on a Gusli. The instrument is placed on a lap or table, so that the strings are horizontal. The body of the Gusli is typically, either helmet-shaped or wing-shaped.
The term Gusli is thought to simply refer to any generic stringed instrument. Similar instruments can be found in many countries all over the world, with different names. This East-Slavic string instrument belongs to the zither family. A Gusli was used in religious ceremonies where the instrument was played on an alter table, or used for courting, playing music using the walls of a home as the sounding board.
The Gusli was almost forgotten at the turn of the last century, but the instrument, its music and culture, were preserved in time. The world experienced a reconstruction and the rebirth of old forgotten traditions. Nowadays it is used as an accompaniment to songs, especially folk tales. Folklore players with different shaped harps could be playing music together during a jam-session, at a dance or a drinking session at the same time.
The root of the term Gusli comes from the word ‘to make a sound in the wind’. The Gusli has a strong, resonant, sweet, and even silvery sound. Its amplitude, just like most other chordophones, depends on how hard the string is plucked and its pitch is high with a long sound duration.
Flutes – instruments full of surprises
Luke will be playing mainly on the Xiao vertical flute. The Xiao is an ancient Chinese instrument usually made from bamboo. It is noted for its mellow and melancholy tone. Practitioners and poets say its sound resembles the sweetness of the Phoenix’s call. In Chinese believe it is the king of birds.
The Xiao’s soft volume and graceful sound are suitable for both solo playing and blending with other instruments. It is also used in small chamber music ensembles. The earliest known Xiao is made of bird bone and dates back to roughly 6000 BC. What a privilege to listen to a flute that has been around for 8000 years!
Another flute that you can look forward to is the vertical Bansuri. This bamboo flute is one of the oldest and most known instruments from India. This instrument is associated with cowherds and the pastoral tradition. The Bansuri is a very sensitive instrument; almost all the delicate graces, curves, embellishments, and shades of classical music can be performed to perfection upon it. The bansuri is made of a single hollow shaft of bamboo. It has been used extensively in folk music. The flute can be a part of the musical orchestration for dance forms.
Luke will treat the audience with the Irish tin whistle which is one of the world’s most popular musical instruments, also known as a penny whistle. It is best associated with Celtic music. Most traditional musical compositions by musicians in Ireland and Scotland contain this beautiful instrument, and it has become a huge part of their culture. This woodwind instrument became so popular within households much like the commonality of a harmonica. It was eventually called the penny whistle since it could be bought for a mere penny in most stores. It was considered a children’s toy until it was picked up by Celtic and folk musicians and became a serious, mainstream instrument that we know today.
The craze surrounding kwela in 1950’s South Africa, caused sales to skyrocket well over one million instruments. This versatile flute can easily jump between captivating sadness and contagious joy through its ability to play upbeat, jazzy leads.
Whirly Tubes – the theatrical swinging instruments
Possibly one of the most interesting and modern devices is Gerben Grooten’s electric pink, blue, and yellow tubes. He really gets the audience’s attention when he starts spinning them over his head. The room quickly fills with a loud melodic tone that can go higher the faster he spins it.
I was curious about what appears to be swimming pool pipes or spare parts of a plastic children’s toy. Gerben explained patiently and even offered us a quick lesson. It seems whilst some percussion instruments take years to master, this one can be perfected in 20 seconds flat! Although I doubt, I will be able to do it in time, under pressure in an orchestra.
So here is what I gathered on this unusual and entertaining instrument:
Whirly Tubes are also known as a sound hose, a corrugaphone, or bloogle resonator. In the 60’s and 70’s, it was sold as a Free-Ka. It started out as an experimental musical instrument which consists of a corrugated (ribbed) plastic tube or hose (hollow flexible cylinder), open at both ends and possibly wider at one end, the thinner of which is rotated in a circle to play. It may be 91 cm long and 5 cm wide.
While you swing it, it sucks air molecules that cause it to vibrate when air molecules are moving through it. The molecules start to vibrate together and it becomes a musical party. The pitch, loudness, and tone depending on the tube’s length and diameter, the distance between ridges, and the speed at which you swing it. The faster the air can move through, the higher the pitch gets. It can produce only 3 or 4 different pitches.
The whirly tube produces discrete harmonic notes and can be included in the percussion section for sound effects, such as chains, clappers, and thunder sheets. The tubes can only play notes which sound good together and it has been described as quantum music for the way it behaves like the electron in an atom which jumps between energy levels.
An ensemble of whirlies produces astounding musical patterns of vibrant clear pitch, sometimes hauntingly beautiful, sometimes dramatic, sometimes soft, sometimes strong and robust, but at all times inspiring and thought-provoking. — Northern Territory News, Dec. 1984
Gongs – ancient touchers of the soul
The gong is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and originates from East and South East Asia. Archaeologists have discovered that gongs were built almost 4 thousand years ago.
The Indonesians also developed a style of playing many of their gongs at once, in a percussion orchestra, known as a gamelan. In gamelan, bossed gongs are usually different sizes, with each one tuned to a different specific pitch. Gerben Grooten will be using bossed gongs from the Chinese and Indonesian traditions of gong playing.
Gongs were used in ceremonial functions such as weddings and funerals. Certain gongs were struck and used to announce royalty or important leaders or to call men to battle. In Asian families, the gong was an attribute of wealth and served as a status symbol. The more times it was struck, the higher the person’s status. During gong meditation or gong bath, it is a relaxation technique in which the gong is played while participants, lying on the floor, experience the vibrations of the gong.
Touching a gong is in certain religions believed to bring you fortune and strength. In rituals of the Far East, the gong has retained its special significance to this day. As a musical instrument, the gong was used as an orchestral instrument in the music of the Asian high cultures at concerts and theatrical performances.
Gongs come in a variety of sizes, styles, and shapes, such as the suspended, bowl, and bossed or nipple gongs. Sound is produced either by striking the gong or rubbing it. It can be played with a mallet or bamboo stick or rubbing the rim with the finger. Gongs are constructed of hammered metal. It is a valuable musical instrument made through the skillful craft and experience of the gong maker. Only a few families knew the tradition of gong making as it was passed from generation to generation. The art of making gongs was veiled in a sense of mystery. Gong makers believed that a gong could only succeed with the help of higher powers and that they were exposed to forces higher than ordinary humans.
The Gong is believed to be one of the most powerful and oldest therapeutic instruments. The vibrating tones can reduce tension, stimulate circulation, and remove fear. It has been described as calming, centering, and energizing.
Gongs are more popular today than ever before, proving the greatness of this unique instrument. A gong is a skilled work of art that carries its quality across many lifetimes. It is indeed an instrument of change and great power.