As one of two finalists in the Jazz Category of the prestigious annual Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) Overseas Scholarships for Composers Competition, UKZN Master’s Music student Mr Riley Giandhari is flying the University’s flag high.
One performer in each category will claim a top prize of a R200 000 scholarship to pursue postgraduate music studies or professional development overseas. This is an opportunity for the winner to accelerate their journey towards artistic and creative excellence.
‘Being one of the Jazz finalists is nerve-wrecking as nobody knows what to expect,’ said Giandhari. ‘Although nervous, I am also very excited as I get to interact with some great composers and musicians that are involved in the competition. As a Jazz performer, I am looking forward to forming my own bands and having my compositions played and recorded as I have developed a great love for it over the past three years,’ he said.
At the finale, Giandhari will be attending as a composer working with a Big Band which will play his composition titled Answer the Call. He will rehearse with the band the day before.
‘The sheet music of my composition had to be written for the band and had to be specific in terms of articulation, feel, and structure. I spent a bit of time making sure that the sheet music was accurate for each instrumental part,’ said Giandhari.
Other than making music daily, he plans on developing as a composer and performer overseas under a mentor. ‘If I had to choose a mentor, it would most definitely be master pianist Chick Corea. He is one of my biggest influences as a composer. I also have a lot of music that I plan on recording. I just want my music to have a positive impact on the world. I would also like to open up a music school for underprivileged up and coming musicians who want to pursue music,’ he said.
Giandhari is doing his Master’s in music composition which focuses on different genres of music that have inspired him as a composer and a performer. His final Master’s portfolio will be titled: ‘Music and the Music in between’. It is a mix of the different genres he has been playing and listening to.
‘The goal is to reach a larger audience and introduce them to Jazz music through the use of different elements from different genres. After all, Jazz is the foundation to my entire Master’s degree and compositional process. In line with this, I have formed a few bands that will perform my music from the Masters portfolio’, added Giandhari.
The first band he put together is called The Riley G Collective which features UKZN Jazz Lecturer Professor Salim Washington on tenor saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, Ethan Naidoo on guitar, Sanele Phakathi on piano, UKZN alumnus Prince Bulo (Samro Overseas Scholarship Winner 2014) on bass and himself on drums.
Four finalists – two from each of the categories of Western Art (“classical”) Music and Jazz – will compete for the top prizes on 18 August at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg.
This thrilling final round, which is open to the public, features live accompaniment, special guests and performances of a selection of musical works.
‘Always do what you love and be yourself,’ advised Giandhari’s to other musicians. ‘Learn as much as you can. Respect and appreciate all styles of music. Music can heal, so in order to be a musician or artist, you have to be responsible at all times. There will be a lot of obstacles, challenges and pressure from all sides, but just remain humble, be teachable and stay true to who you really are. There will never be another you,’ he said.
Mr Riley Giandhari is a finalist in the Jazz Category for SAMRO Overseas Scholarships for Composers Competition.
Photographer: Kelton Rajoo