New England debut by South African guitarist Derek Gripper at Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts on Friday, November 4, 2016

New England debut by South African guitarist Derek Gripper at Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts on Friday, November 4, 2016

Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and Music Department present
Derek Gripper
Concert on Friday, November 4, 2016 will be
New England debut by South African guitarist

Middletown, Conn.—The 42nd annual Crowell Concert Series presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department continues with a concert by South African guitarist Derek Gripper on Friday, November 4, 2016 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall located at 50 Wyllys Avenue on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown. This concert is also be part of the sixth annual Performing Arts Series.

Derek Gripper conjures anew a centuries-old musical heritage, interpreting kora (21 string harp) compositions for solo classical guitar. He has created a repertoire of arrangements of African music, based on transcriptions of works by Toumani Diabaté, Ali Farka Touré, and others. Other influences on Mr. Gripper include the multiple layers in the music of Oliver Messiaen, the African-influenced structures of Steve Reich, and guitar arrangements of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Tickets are available online at, by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to each ticketed performance, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University,” and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount to select performances – please call (860) 685-3355 for details. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges. Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change.

About the Artist
Derek Gripper began his formal musical training at the age of six on the violin. After studying classical music for the next thirteen years, he began to look further afield for musical inspiration. This search took him to India, where he studied South Indian Carnatic music. On his return home, he began to focus on the guitar, trying to find a new direction for the instrument. When he met up with Cape Jazz trumpeter Alex van Heerden, he started to see that his previous studies could be used to find new directions for the music of South Africa.

In 2009, Mr. Gripper began studying the playing techniques of the instrument by learning traditional Malian compositions on the kora, and two years later had a breakthrough: by using the simple textural language of the Spanish renaissance lute (called vihuela), it was possible to play the highly complex kora compositions of virtuoso Toumani Diabaté on the six string guitar, without omitting a note of the original performances. Mr. Gripper’s project resulted in a growing collection of outstanding African guitar arrangements, including works by Ballaké Sissoko, Amadou Bansand Jobarteh, South African bow player Madosini, and others, bringing the guitar and the music of Africa to life in new and exciting ways.

After a host of groundbreaking albums which redefined the landscape of South African music, most notable being the visionary Sagtevlei with Mr. van Heerden, Mr. Gripper began to incorporate the music of other composers in his performances. His long-time fascination with the music of Brazilian Egberto Gismonti led to a project to transcribe Mr. Gismonti's guitar music, a composer that Mr. Gripper describes as “the Heitor Villa-Lobos of our time.” The result is a constantly growing collection of Mr. Gismonti’s scores and recordings, many of which have only been recorded by Mr. Gismonti himself. The Sound of Water, Mr. Gripper’s recording of the music of Mr. Gismonti, was nominated in 2012 for a South African Music Award for “Best Classical and Instrumental Album."

Mr. Gripper released his ninth album One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali in 2012, which was recorded in one all-night session. The United Kingdom’s top world music publication Songlines called One Night on Earth ”a staggering achievement,” and selected the recording as a "Top of the World" album in 2013.

In 2014, Mr. Gripper was commissioned by Botkyrka Konsthall in Sweden to compose and record a sound installation for two exhibitions linking architecture and art: The Venice Architecture Biennale and Fittja Open, a new biannual in Stockholm. The installation has been released as the album Cassette Locale After Masanobu Fukuoka.

Interpreting kora compositions on solo guitar is a feat which classical guitarist John Williams said he thought was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it.” Mr. Gripper's “guitar has found the Kora-playing spirit, he captures the magic bound up in the way it is played,” said Mr. Williams, who invited Mr. Gripper back a second time to collaborate in “The John Williams Series” at London’s Globe Theatre in 2015, where the two musicians performed duets based on Toumani Diabaté’s kora works.

Mr. Diabaté invited Mr. Gripper to collaborate with him in Mali, and perform at the Acoustik Festival Bamako in 2016, the first international festival held in the country in four years.

For more information about Derek Gripper, please visit

About the Crowell Concert Series
The Crowell Concert Series at the Center for the Arts features a wide array of world-class musicians. Past artists that have performed as part of the Crowell Concert Series include Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Amelia Piano Trio, American Brass Quintet, AnDa Union, Anonymous 4, Ahmad Jamal, Balfa Toujours, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Bill Frisell Trio, Boston Chamber Music Society, Brooklyn Rider, Bulgarian Bebop, Calefax Reed Quintet, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Charles Lloyd Quartet, Cherish the Ladies, Claude Frank, Crooked Still, David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness, Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, Don Byron: "Jungle Music for Postmoderns," Donald Berman: "Celebrating Chopin’s 200th Birthday," Dünya, Eddie Palmieri, eighth blackbird, Eileen Ivers, Entrequatre, Ernest Dawkins, Eugenia Leon, Fernando Otero Quartet, FleytMuzik, FLUX Quartet, Henry Threadgill, Hugh Masekela, Ignacio Berroa Trio, Joshua Roman, Juice Vocal Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, Le Vent du Nord, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Lionel Loueke Trio, Lionheart, Margaret Leng Tan, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Maya Beiser and Anthony de Mare, Midori, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, "Music at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello," Near Eastern Music Ensemble, Nicholas Payton Trio , Omar Sosa, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Otis Taylor, Parthenia, Paul Brady, Pedro Carboné, Peter Serkin, Randy Weston, Regina Carter Quintet, Riffat Sultana and Party, St. Lawrence String Quartet, San Jose Taiko, sfSoundGroup, Shanghai Quartet, Stanley Cowell Quartet, The American Piano, The Assad Brothers, The Baltimore Consort, The Hilliard Ensemble, The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Drepung Loseling Monastery, The Nile Project, Thomas Mapfumo/Blacks Unlimited, Tiempo Libre, Tokyo String Quartet, Toumani Diabaté, Trio Globo, Turtle Island String Quartet with Stefon Harris, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist Vadym Kholodenko, Vieux Farka Touré, Vijay Iyer Trio, Voices of Afghanistan, Wu Man, and Zakir Hussain and L. Shankar.

About the Music Department
The Wesleyan University Music Department provides a unique and pioneering environment for advanced exploration committed to the study, performance, and composition of music from a perspective that recognizes and engages the breadth and diversity of the world's musics and technologies. As an integral part of one of the nation's leading liberal arts institutions, the department has enjoyed an international reputation for innovation and excellence, attracting students from around the globe since the inception of its visionary program in World Music four decades ago.

Recent annual music festivals in partnership with the Center for the Arts  have brought to campus a diverse array of artists, including Max Roach, Pete Seeger, Zakir Hussain (India), Thomas Mapfumo (Zimbabwe), Boukman Eksperyans (Haiti), Boogsie Sharpe (Trinidad), and Hugh Masekela (South Africa).

A recording studio, a computer and experimental music studio, the Center for the Arts media lab and digital video facility, the World Instrument Collection (which includes the David Tudor Collection of electronic musical instruments and instrumentation), and the Scores and Recordings Collection of Olin Library (which includes the World Music Archives) offer many learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

For more information about the Music Department, please visit