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Review: Mzantsi Nights at the Juilliard School, Paul Recital Hall

New Music South Africa Bulletin (Lukas Ligeti)

Opening the second half of the concert, Robert Fokkens’ Mzantsi Nights, also written for this concert, was perhaps the most intriguing piece on the programme. Inspired by a wide range of music across the spectrum from classical to popular and Western to African, Fokkens has evolved a personal vocabulary that includes a quarter-tone-based tuning derived from Xhosa bow music and strongly original approaches to ensemble writing. In Mzantsi Nights, the musicians are instructed not only to play, but also to shout brief syllables; while such theatricality might seem contrived, it blends very well here with the interlocking, hocketing instrumental parts. This is a highly individual work, perhaps a tad brief considering the wealth of ideas presented, but highly successful in the way it walks the tightrope between African and Western soundworlds.