The Sharp-Flat Label : On the Mountain

Jazz has been enjoying a huge resurgence, with its influence stretching to some of the most cutting edge music of today.The song structure and sound of South African house draws on this countries rich jazz heritage. On last year’s feted  To Pimp a Butterfly Kendrick Lamar collaborated with the cream of LA’s jazz scene, like pianist Robert Glasper, fusion bassist  Thundercat and saxophonist Kamasi Washington.  In turn, Washington’s three-hour debut album The Epic was one of the most acclaimed of last year- in any genre.  And directly inspired by Lamar, Davie Bowie recorded his final album with a jazz quartet.

The Cape Town based Sharp-Flat label is also mixing the classic and the contemporary with its line-up of releases.  With a name ‘’ inspired by the pointy tip of Devil’s Peak and the horizontal top of Table Mountain’’, its roster so far has pivoted around multi-instrumentalist and composer Hilton Schilder. Born into a family of musicians, he cut his teeth playing  everything from jazz to hip hop. One of his key early projects was The Genuine, an 80s band which fused political protest, punk attitude and Goema, a style of jazz pioneered in Cape Town.  And now through Sharp-Flat he has released Rebirth. Although the piano driven album is soothing and dream-like it was inspired by dark personal experiences.  In 2010, he lost a kidney to cancer. In hospital he had the inspiration for Rebirth while in a morphine-drip fugue. Waking up without instruments, he mentally recalled it by drawing his fingers across a imagined keyboard on the ceiling. Half a decade later, the result is a five part ‘‘sonic journey’’ which combines the personal and the universal and draws light from the shadow of illness and death.  Like jazz greats John and Alice Coltrane, he also takes inspiration from classical Indian culture, with the song ‘Fear of Flying’ getting its theme from the Rukma Vimana, a flying machine in Hindu mythology.

Schilder also appears on the label’s documentary Goema Symphony No.1. Appearing alongside Kyle Shepard and Ernestine Deane, the film is credited to The Cape Town Goema Orchestra.  It highlights the diverse origin of Goema, a mixture of Khoi-san, Malay, Xhosa and European influence, and was released with an accompanying soundtrack EP. With their releases, Sharp-Flat is keeping the folk style of Goema alive for the age of Gqom.




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