South African film Noem My Skollie is making waves on many levels, not least because it is the country’s official foreign language entrant to the Oscars in 2017. But, few know that the film’s moody and beautiful music was composed by recent Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Kyle Shepherd.
Kyle’s music career has been on a meteoric trajectory since winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2014. An established musician prior to winning the award – he had released three albums and worked internationally – in the two years following the award, Kyle has released a further three solo albums (including the soundtrack for Noem My Skollie), which will soon be released on iTunes.
Kyle Shepherd with Shane Cooper, Producer . Photo by Lindsey Appolis
One of the albums, titled Skyjack, was produced as a result of a collaboration between Kyle and two other former Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners, Shane Cooper and Kesivan Naidoo, as well as leading Swiss musicians Andreas Tschopp and Marc Stucki. The band, also named Skyjack, recently won a transnational competition in Switzerland, which enabled it to tour the country early in 2016 and record an album in one of the country’s best studios.
As if that’s not enough, Kyle has been invited by German national radio to do three concerts later in 2016, which will be broadcast live. He will be joined by world famous guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, who regularly plays for jazz legend Herbie Hancock, among others.
Composing the music for Noem My Skollie was an entirely new foray for this acclaimed classical and jazz musician, who is used to playing for live audiences. But at the same time, it was a continuation of what he does best.
“I have always thought about music in a very textured way,” he says. “I’ve never valued virtuosity and dexterity as the be-all-and-end-all. For me, it’s all about making sound and textures and taking people on an emotional journey. Working on a film is all of this, but in hyperdrive.”
The film, which is based on the real-life story of screenwriter John W Fredericks, who grew up in the hard-scrabble outskirts of Cape Town, known as the “Cape Flats”, has a bitter-sweet theme, namely that everyone has a calling, a unique talent, and sometimes that talent comes at a price.
Kyle says composing a film score is completely different to playing for an audience, because in a film, the music is an essential part of the story telling. It sits one step below the performance of the actors and the dialogue, but is essential to the narrative. For this reason, the composer has to work closely with the director. In Noem My Skollie, he worked well with first time feature director Daryne Joshua, and the two are planning future projects together.
The Orchestra (assembled by the booking agency, ONYX NOIR) with Conductor, Brandon Phillips. Photo by Lindsey Appolis
Film composition is also a complex process, requiring an entire team, including a live orchestra in this case.
“There is composition and production, but then there are also recording engineers and musicians. It’s quite a process to put it together. Before I did this job, I didn’t realise what went into making a film. There are many departments, from photography, to editing, grading, sounding mix, to playing the music. I’m not even sure why we do it. It’s quite an undertaking.
“I had never done anything like this before,” Kyle says. “I had to learn the software completely from scratch and I had to learn about audio production. It was the first time I had ever worked with an orchestra. A lot of firsts.
“The most memorable part was when everything came together. First, you compose everything and create electronic mock ups, then you get live musicians in to record. That’s when the music comes to life, because you are dealing with human beings. It was an emotional turning point for all of us.”
Kyle describes winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award as a “massive lift” in any artist’s career because of the exposure and media coverage artists get during the year. He says Standard Bank has continued to support him long after winning the award in the form of continued financial support for concerts and the publicity that comes with that. “Standard Bank tries to help its award winners as much as possible. It’s a massive award and a massive honour.”
The Standard Bank Young Artists Awards
The Young Artist Awards was established by the National Arts Festival in 1981 to acknowledge young South African artists who demonstrate outstanding artistic talent. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines – dance, jazz, music, theatre, visual art, performance art and film – affording them national exposure and acclaim.
Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and has presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over its 33-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and receive financial support for their festival participation, as well as a cash prize.
The 2017 winners will be announced on 26 October 2016.