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Video: South Africa's 'Silent Gig' Band


It goes without saying that the sound and experience of music is continually evolving and being enhanced thanks to technological advances. Enter TONIK, a South African band that explores concepts of innovative musical experiences through live performance. Comprised of musical savants Jann Krynauw and Ronan Skillen, TONIK specializes in “silent gigs in unconventional spaces.”

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The concept of a “silent gig” is mildly foreign, but gorgeously simple. Each member of the audience is equipped with a pair of state of the art AKG wireless headphones that allows them to tailor the sound to their own taste using personal volume control. A practically interactive but personal environment is what results, incredibly different from the same vibe thought to be created when an artist plays acoustic to an audience in an intimate space. A variety of musical instruments including the piano, accordion, the Australian didgeridoo and various percussions are played between Jann and Ronan, providing the foundation of the individual inception of a beautiful melody by each audience member.

TONIK has collaborated with many local and international artists including Freshlyground, Johnny Clegg, and Cherif Sisokho from Senegal. They also have a South African Music Award for Best Instrumental Album 2008 under their belts from a collaboration with Guy Collins. TONIK has also showcased repeatedly at the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland (2011 and 2012), and are geared for the Moving Poets in Berlin in August 2012.

 

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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