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Wouter Kellerman Debuts on the CMJ New World Chart and the New World Top Adds Chart

Sep 16, 2013

Flutist Wouter Kellerman, who hails from South Africa, creates world-fusion music that is African-influenced and that fits squarely into the World Music genre, because he brings together global musical elements to form a powerful, jubilant and universal sound.

Kellerman’s music is available worldwide on CDs and as digital downloads at on-line sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic and many other outlets.  In addition to Mzansi, Kellerman also has released the acclaimed albumsColour, Two Voices and Half Moon.

Wouter Kellerman (pronounced vo-tur) has become one of the leading musical ambassadors from South Africa with his recordings and tours that have included performances in Africa (at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, for example), Australia (the support slot on Johnny Clegg’s Down Under Tour), China (at the Shanghai World Expo), Germany, France (at MIDEM, the world’s biggest music conference), and the United States (including the Kennedy Center in Washington and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas).  He also performed at the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Closing Ceremony to a global television audience of 700-million people.

At age 10, Wouter went to a classical music concert where he became enchanted with the flute and soon began taking lessons.  He became one of his country’s top young flautists, won first prize in the RAU Talent Festival, played in the SABC Junior Orchestra (and toured South America with them), was named the principal flautist with the South African National Youth Orchestra, and was chosen to appear as a soloist with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra.  He went on to be featured in several other South African orchestras and received many accolades and awards including the Perrenoud Foundation Prize at the 1997 Vienna International Music Competition.  Kellerman has studied abroad with some of the world’s top flautists.  But eventually he turned to creating his own original music that incorporated his passion for improvisation and incorporating styles that he enjoys listening to from around the world.

His first CD, Colour, immediately showed his diversity and fusion of world sounds.  It included an Argentinian tango by Astor Piazzola, a unique version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Celtic “Irish March,” the Brazilian-influenced “Buenos Aires,” and a tribute to his Afrikaans roots on “Al Le Die Berge.”  Kellerman regularly mixes traditional songs such as “Greensleeves” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with songs about herding cattle in rural Transkei and an Afrikaans “liedjie” (“Ek Verlang Na Jou”) as well as tributes to Nelson Mandela (“Madiba” and “The Long Road”) and Martin Luther King (“Up To The Mountain”).

Kellerman also is passionate about teaching young people, and helping them find a better life.  For the past decade-and-a-half, he has sponsored the living expenses of 10 children and financed building projects in SOS Children’s Villages in his homeland.

Kellerman’s Two Voices recording won the 2011 South African Music Award (the SAMA is that country’s top musical honor) for “Best Instrumental Album” (he had been nominated several times previously and the prior year had won a SAMA for “Best Instrumental DVD”).

Both in the studio and on-stage, Kellerman works with some of South Africa’s most talented musicians and singers.  “When I collaborate with someone, I try to adapt to what they are doing musically and get out of my comfort zone which allows for really interesting discoveries,” states Kellerman.  Wouter’s latest offering represents a culmination of vast experiences musically and personally, this depth is reflected in the many textures, subjects and rhythms contained within the heartfelt masterpiece Mzansi.

“Mzansi represents the voices of my influences — African and otherwise,” explains Kellerman.  “Being influenced by different styles and cultures, and working with musicians who bring their own energy to the project, make this a very varied album — from traditional Senegalese songs to South African and Celtic influences.  The last few years have been filled with inspiring collaborations.  I have really been happy to work with different and very talented musicians and singers.”

Mzansi begins with the cross-cultural tune, “African Hornpipes.”  “I have always enjoyed Irish hornpipe tunes, and combining this traditional Irish melody with African vocals was a natural step for me,” explains Kellerman.  He selected the song “Malaika” because “when I was young my parents had a Miriam Makeba album that I listened to every day, so I’ve loved listening to her version of ‘Malaika’ most of my life.”  This sad love-song is sung in Swahili, but when translated into English the heart-wrenching lyrics include the phrase: “I would marry you, angel, but I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have.”

“Mama Tembu” is a well-known South African song, but Kellerman’s band changes it around by doing a reggae version with a rap intro and an alternate melody sung between verses by the Senegalese singer Lamine Sonko.  The ballad “Cape Flats” was written by Wouter and his guitarist friend Paul Carlos one day after they had done yoga (“I had one of those passionate, plaintive Cape songs in mind.”).  “After Hours,” another gentle song, begins with a long flute solo.

The album features several out-of-the-ordinary tunes such as the upbeat, joyous “Khokho” that is primarily vocal sounds, vocal percussion and wordless vocalizing (with some flute and percussion).  The soft and sad “Sylvia” features the use of “water percussion.”  “In The Moment” and “Fire Drill” are flute showcases written and performed by Kellerman in which, at times, he sings sounds into the flute as a percussive effect.  “I was at a British Flute Society Convention and Greg Patillo was kind enough to show me how he does his beat-boxing on the flute.”  “Fire Drill” also includes a rap interlude by Mongezi Mbele.  The album’s title tune was written by Kellerman and Carlos in an effort to mix dissonance with harmony “which is indicative of Jo’burg, where there is harmony and discord living next to each other, but the beat of the city carries on regardless.”

Several pieces on the CD show West African influences.  Kellerman explains that “‘Miniamba’ is a traditional song of love and sacrifice from the Mandinka people of West Africa.”  “N’Jarinu Garab” was written and originally recorded by the great Sengalese singer Cheikh Lo.  “Samami” was written by Lamine Sonko of Senegal.  All three are sung by Sonko and feature him playing Latin-style classical guitar with Erik Paliani also on acoustic guitar. Source: