Performance Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 7:30 PM

A Distant Drum

Zankel Hall
South Africa’s Volksblad called A Distant Drum, “world class …” and said its musical score is “breathtaking and fits the production perfectly.” This remarkable multimedia music theater production about iconoclastic South African writer Nat Nakasa’s journey from Johannesburg’s Sophiatown to New York City during the turbulent 1960s receives its US premiere at Carnegie Hall. The production features violinist Daniel Hope with a libretto—called “a literary work in its own right” (Volksblad)—by his father Christopher Hope. Arranged and composed by Ralf Schmid, the music features African, European, and American musical styles with live electronics, creating a soundscape that reflects the bizarre world of Apartheid and its impact on a brilliant life. Heartbreaking and at times darkly humorous, A Distant Drum, is unforgettable.

Part of My Time, My Music.


  • Daniel Hope, Artistic Director and Violin
  • Christopher Hope, Libretto
  • Ralf Schmid, Music Director, Composer, and Keyboards
  • Vincent Segal, Cello
  • Jason Marsalis, Percussion
  • Michael Olatuja, Bass
  • Nat Ramabulana, Actor
  • Christiaan Schoombie, Actor
  • Mannie Manim, Producer and Lighting Design
  • Jerry Mofokeng, Director
  • Andrew Tracey, Music Supervisor
  • Themba Mkhize, Digital Choir-Recordings, South Africa


    A Distant Drum (US Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall)


  • Daniel Hope

    British violinist Daniel Hope has toured the world as a virtuoso soloist for 25 years. He is renowned for his musical versatility and creativity, and for his dedication to humanitarian causes. An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2007, Mr. Hope has earned numerous Grammy nominations, a Classic BRIT Award, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, and six ECHO Klassik awards.

    Mr. Hope regularly directs chamber orchestras as violin soloist, including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Camerata Salzburg, and Lucerne Festival Strings. He has performed at all the world's most important festivals, such as the BBC Proms, Hollywood Bowl, Lucerne, Ravinia, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Schleswig-Holstein, and Tanglewood. From Carnegie Hall to the Concertgebouw, Mr. Hope has performed in the world's most prestigious venues with the world's greatest orchestras. Highlights include appearances with the Boston and Chicago symphony orchestras and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as the major orchestras of Berlin, London, Leipzig, Dresden, Israel, Moscow, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, and Vienna.

    Mr. Hope has been associate artistic director of the Savannah Music Festival since 2004. He has also published three bestselling books and regularly produces radio and television shows around the world.

    Daniel Hope plays the 1742 "ex-Lipiński" Guarneri del Gesù, placed generously at his disposal by an anonymous family from Germany. He resides in Vienna, Austria.

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  • Christopher Hope

    Christopher Hope's novels include Kruger's Alp, winner of the Whitbread Award for Fiction, and Serenity House, shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His early poems were suppressed by the Apartheid censors, prompting him to leave the country in 1975. His first novel, A Separate Development, was banned on publication in South Africa and won the David Higham Award for Best First Novel in the UK.

    He has published three collections of poetry, short stories, and the memoir White Boy Running, which won the Central News Agency Literary Award (South Africa), as well as the children's book The King, the Cat, and the Fiddle with Yehudi Menuhin. Additional credits include the Travelex Travel Writer of the Year and the PEN Silver Pen Award.

    In 2007, Mr. Hope founded the Franschhoek Literary Festival, which he directed until 2010. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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  • Ralf Schmid

    Ralf Schmid has studied classical piano, jazz composition, and film music in Stuttgart, New York, and Los Angeles.

    As an arranger, producer, and pianist, Mr. Schmid has a strong musical vision that goes beyond stylistic boundaries. He has worked with Ivan Lins, Whitney Houston, Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Randy Brecker, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, Nana Mouskouri, and Eliane Elias, as well as the Budapest Stuttgart philharmonics and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra in Los Angeles.

    Mr. Schmid co-founded the record label ObliqSound in New York in 2001. In Germany, he conducted the radio big bands of Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt, and also produced three award-winning big band albums. With trumpeter Joo Kraus, he released six CDs, among others the ECHO-winning Painting Pop and the Michael Jackson tribute Songs from Neverland. In 2014, Mr. Schmid tours with bossarenova trio-which comprises himself, Kraus, and Brazilian singer Paula Morelenbaum.

    Ralf Schmid is professor at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg.

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  • Vincent Segal

    Vincent Segal is a French cellist who lives in Paris. While training classically, he immersed himself in a variety of music traditions, including improvisation, rock, jazz, Indian, and folk. In 1999, he formed Bumcello, a duo band with Cyril Atef, with whom he has recorded six albums. In 2006, they won a Victoires de la Musique for Electronic/Dance Album of the Year. He has performed and recorded with a variety of artists, including Blackalicious, Naná Vasconcelos, Cesária Évora, Brigitte Fontaine, Sting, Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, and Ballaké Sissoko. He has played solo cello for several movie soundtracks, such as Ang Lee's Lust, Caution and John Curran's The Painted Veil, which won Alexandre Desplat a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Mr. Segal is the composer of original music for many films, including I Am Josh Polonski's Brother directed by Raphaël Nadjari and Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante directed by Nathan and Claude Miller. In 2010, the duo album Chamber Music with Sissoko was named one of the top releases by Le Monde, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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  • Jason Marsalis

    From a tender young age it was clear that Jason Marsalis had what it took to be great. He is the son of pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis and his wife Dolores, and the youngest sibling of Wynton, Branford, and Delfeayo. Together, the four brothers and Ellis comprise New Orleans's venerable first family of jazz.

    Jason Marsalis is well known for his prodigal drumming. Working with the Ellis Marsalis Trio as well as the Marcus Roberts Trio, he has fine-tuned his playing in two of the most demanding settings in modern jazz. Since 2000, he has also been a mainstay on the New Orleans scene as a bandleader from the vibraphone chair, performing at Snug Harbor, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Jazz Playhouse, and Satchmo SummerFest.

    Mr. Marsalis has also appeared at jazz venues throughout the US and Canada, and has toured to Europe's summer festivals. His playing is unique; drawing from a wide range of influences, he performs original music as well as many hidden gems in the jazz literature and beyond.

    As a drummer, Mr. Marsalis collaborates frequently with his brothers, in addition to Marcus Roberts and Ellis Marsalis. When he is not filling the drum chairs in these groups, he performs as a vibraphonist with such artists as Shannon Powell, John Ellis, Roland Guerin, Irvin Mayfield, and many others, as well as leading his own quartet.

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  • Michael Olatuja

    British-Nigerian bassist, producer, composer, and arranger Michael Olatuja released his debut album, Speak, in 2009. It collectively highlights musical influences from locations around the globe of personal significance to Mr. Olatuja, including his childhood in London and Lagos, Nigeria, and professional years in London and New York.

    Mr. Olatuja incorporates hallmarks of traditional African music while working comfortably with musical vocabularies more familiar to Western ears. His 2004 move to New York gave him the impetus he needed to put it all together. "As a writer, New York encouraged me to be original because there are so many artists out here," he says. "Jazz encouraged the freedom to improvise, soul encouraged me to do it from the heart, R&B encouraged an undeniable deep groove, and world music encouraged me not to forget my roots. Gospel gives it all a sense of purpose; it inspires and uplifts."

    Mr. Olatuja's extraordinarily creative musicianship has been called upon by Spike Lee, Angélique Kidjo, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Terence Blanchard, Patti Austin, Lisa Stansfield, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Lionel Loueke, Gretchen Parlato, and Kurt Elling. He is currently the house bassist for Motown The Musical on Broadway.

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  • Nat Ramabulana

    Nat Ramabulana hails from Venda royalty, though much of his life has been spent in Johannesburg. He completed an honors degree in dramatic arts; while studying, he earned the Richard Haines Prize, awarded to a student with exceptional ability in any aspect of the dramatic arts who also demonstrates a commitment to his craft within the South African context.

    Mr. Ramabulana has gone on to win numerous awards, including a South African Film and Television Award and Naledi Theatre Award. One of his career and personal highlights was being selected as one of Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2011.

    Mr. Ramabulana continues to be passionate about the arts in South Africa and hopes to contribute more as a writer and creative producer. To date, he has penned two plays with fellow actor Atandwa Kani that were premiered at the National Arts Festival: Hayani and ID Pending. Hayani went on to claim top honors at the 2013 Naledi Theatre Awards when it was named Best New South African Script. Recently, Hayani was performed at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

    Mr. Ramabulana has enjoyed many exciting roles in both international and local films, as well as on television, the highlights of which include sharing a scene with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio in BloodDiamond and Ryan Phillippe in The Bang Bang Club.

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  • Christiaan Schoombie

    Having watched Laurence Olivier's rendition of Richard III while a third grader in South Africa, Christiaan Schoombie knew early on that acting was what he wanted to do. The chance to be central to the telling of a story made every other career option seem quite mundane. After finishing high school, Mr. Schoombie set out to pursue his drama studies and was accepted at the University of Cape Town's drama school, but still the dream of studying overseas gnawed at him. He auditioned and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2010, where he excelled in classical and contemporary roles and was awarded a scholarship to complete his second year. In the Off-Broadway short play Old Man River by Corey Pajka, he played an Australian loosely based on the life of actor Heath Ledger in his last days. Mr. Schoombie is honored and humbled by the opportunity to be a part of this unique production with such an astounding team of artists.

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  • Mannie Manim

    Mannie Manim has left indelible imprints in the arts and entertainment industry throughout South Africa and around the globe. He co-founded The Market Theatre in 1976, opposed to segregation in both society and on stage.

    Mr. Manim's association with writer Athol Fugard started in 1970. Since then, he has lit and produced all the first South African productions of Fugard's plays, as well as the international tours to London, Toronto, Australia, and Singapore. He also worked with Mbongeni Ngema in Mama as a co-producer and lighting designer for its Australian and New Zealand tour.

    Among the many highlights of Mr. Manim's career as a lighting designer are Cape Town Opera's Show Boat in Sweden, I Am My Own Wife and The Tempest at the Baxter Theatre Centre, the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Sheila's Day and John Kani's Nothing but the Truth at The Market Theatre.

    He was also responsible for the lighting of The Magic Flute and A Christmas Carol at the Young Vic; Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at London's National Theatre; Nothing but the Truth at New York's Lincoln Center and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; and Janet Suzman's production of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon. Other productions include The Island at the National Theatre and Old Vic in London, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and BAM; and Carmen and The Mysteries at the Queens Theatre and Wilton's Music Hall in London and Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York.

    In 1990, Mr. Manim was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In 2004, he was awarded the Naledi Lifetime Achievement Award in South Africa. In 2011, South African President Jacob Zuma conferred Mannie Manim with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his excellent contribution to the development of South African theater and in the field of creative arts in general.

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  • Jerry Mofokeng

    Jerry Mofokeng, the newly appointed artistic director of the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State, has enjoyed a wealth of performing experiences. Well known for his roles in films like Cry, the Beloved Country and the Academy Award-winning Tsotsi, Mr. Mofokeng's high standing in the artistic community was further confirmed when he was named the overall judging chairperson of the 2013 South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA). In 2012, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the same event-recognition of a career that has its roots in Soweto community theater during the turbulent years of the 1970s.

    Mr. Mofokeng studied drama at Wits Drama School and Columbia University, where he obtained his master's degree in theater directing while on a Fulbright scholarship. His expertise has seen him occupy various positions within South Africa's performing community, including associate artistic director at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre; chief director of Mpumalanga's Department of Culture, Sport, and Recreation; and artistic director of the State Theatre in Pretoria.

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Scene 1: Nat Nakasa’s desk at Drum magazine, the early 1960s. The skyline of Johannesburg, which Nat and many of his generation liked to think of as Manhattan—a place of dreams—in the veld, is seen in the background. Also present, a young white South African policeman who is Nat’s shadow and dueling partner. He unfolds Nat’s story and his own, as one ghost might comment on another. A blind fiddler conjures up the home Nat loves and loses.

Scene 2
:The arrival of Jack Thompson, all-American deus ex machina, who parachutes into Nat’s life. He takes Nat up into a high place and promises to make all his dreams come true: a fellowship to Harvard, the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, the magical downtown of Manhattan.

Scene 3: A warm summer night in July 1965, Jack Thompson’s seventh-floor apartment on Central Park West. Nat’s dreams have turned bad and New York is not what he had hoped. Jack has changed from fairy godfather to gatekeeper. Far below, the fiddler’s music draws Nat back to the home from which he is forever exiled.

Scene 4: Present day Johannesburg. The policeman, older but brutal as ever, offers an epilogue. He explains, to his own satisfaction, where Nat went wrong but why he survives. The blind fiddler provides a sardonic serenade to the cop’s convenient conversion.
Program Notes


Daniel Hope and collaborators discuss A Distant Drum

Lead funding for UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Mai Family Foundation, South African Tourism, and South African Airways.

UBUNTU is held in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa and the South African Consulate General in New York in celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy.
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