BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN-RAISED performers including Dan Chiorboli and Neill Solomon are among musical talents involved in an exciting new project that celebrates freedom songs via a new triple album and a one-off Johannesburg concert. Known as The Liberation Project, it features talent and liberation songs from South Africa, Italy and Cuba.
Scheduled for release on May 25, the album, titled Songs That Made Us Free: South Africa, Italy, Cuba, will contain 36 songs over three CDs. It will highlight 142 musicians from 18 countries who performed for this project in 17 studios all over the world.
A Liberation Concert will be presented at the Nelson Mandela Theatre, Johannesburg, on May 25. Hosted by The Liberation Project as the house band, the concert will also pay celebrate to the lives and music of the late Ray Phiri and Hugh Masekela, both of whom used their voices to campaign against apartheid, playing significant roles towards the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
Masekela’s Soweto Blue and Phiri’s Brothers in Freedom appear on the new album, the latter featuring Phiri’s vocal and guitar work, recorded for the album a few weeks before he died.
The Liberation Project Band comprises Giuseppe Cotumaccio (musical director and on keyboards and vocals), Neill Solomon (vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano), Tebogo Sedumedi (vocals and bass), Dan Chiorboli (percussion), Peter Djamba (drums) and Tony Cedras (accordion, trumpet and piano).
The band also features Keeran Eshwarlall (Sufi vocals, harmonium and bul bul tarang), Zoe Modiga vocals) and Pu2ma Tiso (vocals), as well as a horn section including Dan Selsick (trombone), Neil Engels (trumpet) and Mthunzi Mvubu (saxophones). Ernie Smith also appears as a special guest on guitar and vocals in a duet with Cyril Neville.
The Liberation Concert is conceptualised and produced by The Joburg Theatre, National Arts Council, Consolato GeneraleD’Italia and Department of Arts and Cultur,e with Roshnie Moonsamy and Dan Chiorboli.
Tickets cost R150 and can be booked on Webtickets (www.webtickets.co.za) or directly at the Joburg Theatre accommodating The Nelsom\n Mandela Theatre (011 877 6875 or 0860 670 670).
The entire Liberation Project was a concept developed by Italian-born Chiorboli and his long-time musical partner, multi-award-winning South African composer Solomon, together with renowned guitarist-producer Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music, David Gilmour and Pink Floyd) who, having grown up in Cuba, experienced the height of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.
Chiorboli, Solomon and Manzanera – with the guidance of Cuban bandleader and musical icon Juan de Marcos (of Buena Vista Social Club fame), South African recording Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and human rights campaigner N’Faly Kouyate – produced the album. It was co-produced, co-arranged and mixed by Maurice Lotz.
Among Durban artists featured on the album are Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Roger Lucey, Vusi Mkhize, Nibs van der Spuy, Dawn Selby, The Drakondale Girls Choir under the direction of Judith Hawthorn, Barry Thomson, Mike Slavin, Richard Haslop, Iain ‘Ewok’ Robinson, Vishan Ramlakken and Keeran Eshwarall. Musicians from France, La Reunion, Guinea, Burundi, the US, Brazil and the UK have also contributed.
“Throughout history, music and protest songs have inspired and celebrated social change. This record includes well-known and traditional songs on the liberation theme, together with newly penned ones which share the same subject matter,” explains Chiorboli.
“The project is dedicated to the countless thousands of South Africans, Cubans, Italians and others all over the world who have died for their beliefs. The reaction thus far internationally has been great, so hopefully we’ll get a long life out of this project”.
Chiorboli, a composer for film and TV who is also noted for pioneering work in rock and world music with groups including The Passengers and Uptown Rhythm Dogs, points out that interest has already been received from France’s Alliance Francaise and the Pôle Régional des Musiques Actuelles of Reunion Island.
Also, the Conakry Cultural Festival in Guinea is keen on the project, while it is also being promoted via Steve van Zandt’s network of 181 syndicated radio stations in America, These opportunities will be followed up in due course.
“Music played a key role in both driving change and creating harmony during the apartheid regime in South Africa. Music communicated messages through lyrics that had politically subversive meanings. It also allowed international audiences a view into the injustices suffered by the oppressed racial groups in South Africa,” says Chiorboli.
“It is with great pride that this project offers us an opportunity to showcase our fight for liberation to the world.”
Chiorboli says he would have loved to have staged the concert in Durban, “but unfortunately just couldn’t find anyone to buy the concert due to the financial aspect. The NAC, DAC and Joburg Theatre jumped on to it in a flash.
“However, I am speaking to some potential sponsors in Durban, including the Playhouse Company, and we may well be able to do something similar towards the end of the year.”
By the way, note that Chiorboli and Solomon are scheduled to perform at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre from August 15 to 19 with popular local band The Reals. The event will include some songs from The Liberation Project.