Monday, September 06, 2004

Pearl Jam go EP

"African voices will merge with the guitar riffs of US grunge rock when members of a Port Elizabeth township school choir join forces with one of the world's most famous rock bands.

Twelve members of the Walmer High School choir - who until recently had never left Port Elizabeth - have flown to the US to sing with the band Pearl Jam after a personal invitation from the group. The choir was discovered by chance after a group of academics from Washington State University, visiting Port Elizabeth in April, saw them perform on a visit to Walmer High School. Someone in the group videotaped the performance and it later fell into the hands of one of Pearl Jam's publicists. The publicist thought the sound would fit well with the band's unique rock style and Pearl Jam, known for their community outreach efforts, invited the songsters to Seattle.

The choir has learnt from scratch to sing three Pearl Jam tracks, Loveboat Captain, Pepperman and The Long Road and have rehearsed them "to perfection" according to their teacher and the Rotary International members who are supporting them. The children also hope to take part in a studio jam session with the band, although this has not yet been confirmed. Shortly before leaving for the airport yesterday, beaming Grade 10 pupil Lindezwa Mkrakra, 18, said she had never heard of Pearl Jam before the project. "When I first heard their music it was a bit strange, but I have been listening to it quite a bit now and I really like it," she said. "I'm excited to meet the band and I'm also excited to fly on a plane. I'm looking forward to the whole experience." Fellow choir member, Grade 11 pupil Siphokazi Majola, 18, said the choir had been rehearsing the songs for the past three weeks. "I can't wait to sing with them."

A feature of the rock scene for more than 14 years, Pearl Jam have built a cult with iconic tracks such as Evenflow, Alive and Last Kiss. Wielding the baton is choir mistress Nomalengelo Timba, who said she hoped they would be able to get a recording of the children singing with the band, so they could bring it back to South Africa. "They sent us the three songs to work on - one track is old and the other two are new. We have performed them as choral music and it goes well with the band's sounds. I think it will make a nice collaboration of choral and rock. "The children are so excited. It's such a wonderful opportunity for them. There is even talk of us perhaps cutting a CD with them, but nothing has been confirmed."

As part of the service organisation's Active Schools programme, Rotary members from Port Elizabeth raised money for the group to travel to Cape Town last week to fetch their US visas. Their sponsors on the US trip are more or less the same people who came to see them in Port Elizabeth - a diverse group of 15 residents of the capital of Washington state, including the dean of the University of Washington, doctors, academics, teachers and businessmen, have funded the children's flights and hotel accommodation - a cost of more than $25 000 (R162 500). "It is an eye-opening experience... because some of them come from a very disadvantaged background and this will change their lives forever," said Walmer High School principal Lunga Dyani."

Eastern Province Herald

Thanks to Tiger Cohen...again. Strangely enough, I was belting out a rip-rollicking rendition of "Betterman" last night in the shower. Maybe if I dubbin myself up and brush up on my Xhosa, they can find a spot for me in the choir?

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