Derek Gripper is a classical guitarist from Cape Town, South Africa. In 2013 he released a groundbreaking album called One Night on Earth: Music From the Strings of Mali, translating the multi-layered harp music of West African virtuoso Toumani Diabaté onto solo classical guitar for the first time ever.
This recording was heard by classical guitar legend John Williams who invited Derek to perform with him in a series at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. They repeated the collaboration the following year with a series of duets based on the music of Great African Composers, closely followed by two sold out shows at King’s Place in London. John Williams said that he “thought it was impossible until he heard Derek Gripper do it” and that Derek’s playing was “the most interesting thing (he) had heard on guitar in twenty years.” The Evening Standard reviewed the concerts saying that Derek was “...opening a whole new repertoire of classical guitar music.” Soon after this Toumani Diabaté himself heard the recording and said he couldn’t believe it was one guitar. Toumani and Derek played together at The Festival Akoustik Bamako in 2016.
Derek continues to be a musician who is as comfortable improvising with classical Indian virtuoso Debashish Battacharya as he is played a Bach Sonata or collaborating with a classical string quartet. His solo shows, which have taken him from Carnegie Hall to Bushfire Festival, Swaziland, are an effortless exploration of the space where classical music meets African music, improvisation and great guitar playing.
“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]
“Gripper has cracked it…his playing has a depthless beauty, which does full justice to the complexity of Toumani’s compositions. To do so without any hint of the music being dumbed down is a staggering achievement on solo guitar.” [Nigel Williamson, Songlines Magazine]
“More than a labour of love, Gripper has brought a new purity to the dream-like improvisatory nature of these compositions. My recording of the year, so far!” [Tim Panting, Classical Guitar Magazine]
”The result is astounding, not just for its technical brilliance, but its musicality. Gripper executes these pieces with the precision and attention to detail one might expect from a great classical musician…It’s hard to imagine a more impressive and passionate rendering of Malian music on classical guitar.” [Banning Eyre, Afropop Worldwide]
“A true synthesis and a great album.” [Ian Kearey, fRoots]