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The music and motivation of Karendra Devroop

This March sees the return of RMB Starlight Classics which features, among many others, musician, researcher, and South African Music Outreach Project founder, Professor Karendra Devroop. Creative Feel caught up with Devroop to find out more about his origins as a musician, his dedication to musical outreach, and what to expect from his debut RMB Starlight Classics performance.

Karendra Devroop RMB Starlight Classics music concert saxophone
Prof Karendra Devroop at the Amersfoort Jazz Festival in the Netherlands in 2016

Many will know of Professor Karendra Devroop through his work with the South African Music Outreach Project, his extensive research, or his internationally renowned career as a performing jazz saxophonist. Devroop’s history with music, however, stretches all the way back to his childhood days in Pietermaritzburg.
     ‘My father took an interest in music from a young age,’ explains Devroop. ‘He began to play informally and eventually formed a band. What used to happen was they would rehearse in the room where my brothers and I used to sleep. It was a small house and on a Tuesday and a Thursday evening we could not go to bed until the band had finished rehearsing. We were forced to stay up until 21:00 and watch this band rehearsing. At this point, I became attracted to music.’
     It was when his father passed away that Devroop, only 10 years old at the time, began to play. His older brother – one of four – had been performing in their father’s band and, at that point, prompted him to do the same. Devroop took to playing keyboard in the band, rehearsing and performing without any formal training, but playing at weddings and recording new music with the band, constantly.
     These foundational experiences would lead Devroop to pursue a degree in music – first in the recorder and later in jazz piano – in order to become a music teacher. ‘The jazz bug kind of bit at that point and when I was about 20 I picked up my dad’s old sax. I never took any lessons, I just started playing. Everything was wrong, the sound, the equipment. It didn’t work well, but I had a good idea of what a sax should sound like, so I just learned informally,’ he explains.
     This year’s concert will see Devroop collaborating with a number of the performing artists, as well as performing his own arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’ and a few songs from his latest album, The South African Jazz Songbook.

To read more about Karendra Devroop and the line-up at this year’s RMB Starlight Classics, purchase the March 2019 issue of Creative Feel or continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture industry by subscribing to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year!

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