In Conversation With Durban born Cape Town based musician – Hezron Chetty

Every now and again you witness a musician perform live and you stop in your tracks to marvel at the incredible skill set they possess. You wonder how many hours of practice and dedication it took to be this good. One of these gifted musicians is former Durbanite, Hezron Chetty, who is now based in beautiful Cape Town.

Hezron Chetty is an internationally recognized violinist and songwriter, solo artist and is also a member of Cape Town bands – Jungle Book Birds and BRYNN while also being the string player for Medicine Boy.

Hezron has been involved in 7 studio albums and over 40 singles to date. He has shared the stage with world renowned bands and solo artists such as Incubus, Finley Quaye, Jeremy Loops, Francois Van Coke, Jack Parow, Viewe Farka Toure, BCUC just to name a few.

After spending a few years travelling around the world perfecting his craft and learning from incredible mentors, Hezron has created his own unique playing style and performs different genres of music not usually associated with the violin.

image of hezron chetty
Photography credit: Beatrice Petrini Asselta

Your music career has taken you all over the world, in which country is your favourite City or venue to perform at and why?
All the countries I have travelled to and performed in have been amazing. To single out a favorite city is very difficult because each represents its own colour, texture, smell and feel of the people that leaves me with great memories. For example, I jammed with punk rockers in Mumbai, with Flamenco musicians at Ronnie Scotts in London, played folk music outside the Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela in Spain where St James, one of Jesus Christs 12 Apostles is buried and played to a large audience in Mozambique as the rain and thunder came out of nowhere and poured onto my violin. I have many stories like this from around the world and that is why I cannot choose one as I love them all so much.

When you get up on stage and play, what does the whole experience mean to you and do you still get nervous before a big gig?
The whole experience for me has changed over the years. When I was in my late teens I would be a lot more shy and reserved with how I approached the performance, I was still in my baby phase as a musician then and was concentrating hard on making sense of all the notes I was playing on stage. I slowly started to develop my own sound in my 20’s and began experimenting with my stage performance and pushing the boundaries of what I could do and how I could stand out more. Now that I am in my 30’s, I’m more confident with my ability to pull out tricks on stage and understand how to control them. I always get nervous before I play and I think any musician who says he or she doesn’t get some sort of nerves before they get up on stage is either lying or is not playing real music.

You make playing the violin look effortless man. When did you first pick up this instrument and did you feel that this was the one for you or were there other options?
I didn’t have a very good feeling when I first played the violin! It is the violin after all, which is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments when you master it but the absolute worst when you start learning it. There are things I can remember like the first smell of the wood as I opened the case, the feeling of lifting this perfectly shaped instrument, the first sound that it made and the feeling of coating the bow with rosin. I was 8 years old back then and did not realize at that moment what an impact this glorious instrument would have on my life and how it would stick by me through the good times and the bad. I have dedicated my life so far to this instrument and I am constantly learning from it. There were no other options. All I ever wanted to do was understand the instrument and learn from it.

What do you think the Cape Town music scene needs most at the moment to flourish?
More venues definitely. Also better promotion from venues to get their audience from their database coming to shows and not solely relying on the artist. Lastly, more trust in other genres that push boundaries. Currently a lot of bands sound the same like either a bad Arctic Monkeys rip off or a some lame pastiche attempt at German electro/pop.

image of hezron chetty

What are you up to at the moment musically, do you have any plans for new releases and music videos in 2019?
My band Jungle Book Birds will be releasing our debut album in March 2019 along with music videos. We spent last year restructuring the name change from Hezron Chetty and The ZugZwang and working on our business model as well as our release strategy. The album is a masterpiece and I hope people enjoy the complexity, textures and beauty of the album.

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Llewelyn Screen Llewelyn Screen is a Cape Town based freelance music writer who is passionate about the underdogs, the up and comers and new age innovators pushing South African acoustic music to new heights.

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