Creative Works Award for “Facing South” by Amanda Tiffin


Amanda Tiffin, jazz musician, composer and university associate professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT), received the UCT 2021 Creative Works Award for her jazz album Facing south – “an international collaborative recording that reflects the creativity and culture of four individuals in contrast”.

The Creative Works Award recognizes major works of art, performances, productions, compositions and architectural designs produced by UCT staff. Facing south brings together influences from Brazil, Cape Town and American jazz in a unique and modern setting. The work includes original compositions for voice, accordion and piano, acoustic guitar and double bass.

Associate Professor Tiffin heads the university’s jazz studies and heads the jazz vocals section at UCT’s South African College of Music. The award-winning album was produced in collaboration with Brazilian accordionist and pianist Guilherme Ribeiro, Anglo-South African guitarist David Leadbetter and Dutch bassist Hein van de Geyn, who each contributed to his extended creative collaboration over a period of four years.

“The UCT Creative Works Award recognizes the importance of artistic works within the framework of the academic project, which is particularly important [during] this time.”

“Receiving this award has been a real affirmation for me as an artist and scholar,” said Tiffin. “The COVID-19 pandemic has virtually wiped out the performing arts, with live performances in front of the public being a rarity. On top of that, this period also put tremendous pressure on academics to keep their students and programs under extremely stressful conditions.

“The UCT Creative Works Award recognizes the importance of artistic works within the framework of the academic project, which is particularly important [during] this time.”

UCT News caught up with Tiffin to find out more about his most recent work.

Niemah Davids (ND): How would you sum up Facing south, especially for someone who hasn’t heard of this job yet?

Amanda Tiffin (AT): The album brings together influences from Brazil, Cape Town and American jazz in a new and modern setting. The title of the work was chosen as an indication not only of the geographical location of the collaborators of the project, but also as an expression of affinity with the music of South Africa and South America.

“Winning this award reminds me of the importance of my work as a creative and puts it all into perspective for me. “

The work should be understood as an intersection of American jazz, Brazilian bossa nova and African influences, with classical and Western folk elements woven into the fabric of certain pieces. Harmonic language is mainly rooted in concepts of jazz. However, the melodic language makes heavy use of Brazilian and African elements. the Facing south The recordings provide a unique soundscape by combining these elements in a non-traditional format.

ND: Is this your first Creative Works Award and what does this distinction mean to you?

AT: Yes, this is my first and I am really touched by it. Over the past two years I have been overwhelmed by my academic work and almost forgot that I am first and foremost a musician, performer, composer and creator. Winning this award reminds me of the importance of my work as a creative and puts it all into perspective for me.

ND: What were the challenges you encountered along the way?

AT: Navigating the collective schedules of four employees who were also physically far from each other was quite a task. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we managed to coordinate our schedules and get together to work.

Also, finishing the voice recordings was a huge hurdle because it took so long. My teaching and administrative load at UCT was extremely heavy and finding the time and the mental and creative capacity to write the vocal arrangements and make the recordings was difficult, but still so rewarding.

ND: What makes this work unique?

AT: This album is unique in many ways. It’s mainly a jazz record, but we have mixed Brazilian, African and folk music into the songs in a unique way. Unlike most jazz recordings, we did not use a drummer, and the only percussion sounds are provided by Guilherme’s body and vocal percussion, and Dave’s vocal percussion. It gives the music a lighter and more airy feel.

ND: You have many reasons to be proud of this album, what are some of them?

“I am also especially proud of how these incredibly skilled and talented artists have come together to create this masterpiece.”

AT: I have to say I’m incredibly proud of the whole project. The collection of this beautiful composition is unique and the songs are beautifully recorded and mixed. I am proud of my vocal performances and my vocal arrangements. I love the watercolors that Romy Brauteseth produced for the cover of our album, and I’m also especially proud of how these incredibly skilled and talented artists came together to create this masterpiece.

ND: There is no doubt that you have had a lot of learning along the way. What has been the biggest to date?

AT: Oh, sure. I learned to trust my instincts and musical skills implicitly, and simply believe in my own creative process.

ND: Will this award have an impact on your teaching?

AT: Absoutely. It’s wonderful for students to see their teachers model the things they talk about during class for them. This award gives great recognition to my work as a musician, performer and composer, which is an important part of what I do and it is important that my students see it.




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