| at the courtyard | presents Derek Gripper

Sun May 1, 18:30 - Sun May 1, 21:00
| at the courtyard |


Derek Gripper is known for his groundbreaking technique for evoking the West African kora on the guitar. He has transcribed the complex music of Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and infuses his interpretations of Bach’s music with lessons from the oral traditions of Africa. He has performed with Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra and classical guitar legend John Williams, and tours worldwide.

Since his two recordings documenting his translation of the works of Toumani Diabate, “One Night on Earth” (2011) and “Libraries on Fire” (2016) Gripper has been creating a body of original work around the theme of extended cyclical structures. Taking his cue from the improvisational language of West African griots, as well as returning to his early work re-inventing South Africa’s own cyclical ‘koortjie’ tradition, Gripper continues to expand the guitar’s harmonic and expressive potential inspired by the simplicity of the acoustic guitar, one of music’s most personal instruments. 

His recent recordings, including “A Year of Swimming” (2020) and “Billy Goes to Durban,” (2021) dovetail between original compositions, spontaneous improvisation and recitations of works by composers like J.S. Bach, Arvo Pärt, Salif Keita, Fanta Sacko and Baaba Maal, bringing seemingly disparate traditions and musical practices together in a seamless guitar experience like no other.  

As a teacher Gripper combines the techniques of oral tradition learning with the pedagogy of Maria Montessori and FM Alexander and teaches workshops online and in person as well as hosting a global guitar group online with nine lessons a week and numerous online courses.


It took Derek Gripper untold hours of painstaking work to transcribe note-for-note the complex compositions of Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and find a way of playing them on six-string guitar. The results appeared on his ninth album, “One Night on Earth.” The album created an unprecedented meeting point between the written tradition of Western classical music and the oral tradition of the West African griots.

Critical acclaim was quick to follow. Classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it.” Toumani Diabaté himself asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing one guitar. Both invited Derek to collaborate with them: Derek performed with Williams in London’s Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s Place, and with Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali. His 2016 Carnegie Hall debut paired him with Mali’s Trio da Kali, and the UK’s Songlines honoured him with their award for the best album in Africa and the Middle East. 

“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.”


“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.”


“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!”


“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.”


“A true synthesis and a great album.”


Additional information

Age restriction No under 18s
Refund policy No refunds


| at the courtyard | presents Derek Gripper
| at the courtyard |
44 Voortrekker St, Mcgregor, McGregor, 6708, South Africa
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