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Poetry, storytelling and music

By Gavin Bonner

  • Duration : hour or so
  • Grade : R - 12
  • First language : English
  • Second language : English
  • Subject : Dramatic Arts, Music
  • Theme : Identity, Self-image, Life skills, Literacy, Choices, Group dynamics (peer pressure), Cultural diversity, Imagination, Creativity
A story has many feet, but poet, musician and storyteller Gavin Bonner, a Londoner living in South Africa, gives it wings.

Take a memory of being told a tale – your mother reading you a bedtime story or an elder telling you ancient anecdotes around the fire, and refresh that with a new approach.

With the audience forming an arc three rows in front of him, Bonner appeared out of the pitch black Glennie Fest Centre Hall for his last Grahamstown festival show at 10 pm with a drumming ritual.

His first tale was inspired by a Congolese friend and former band member. The next one came from the room. Much as a slam poet or rapper is often tasked with creating verses out of of a word or situation, Bonner asked for random words from the audience and turned them into an improvised tale rich in rhyme.

The improvisation may go all over the place and take many forms, from being funny to poetic, but it always returns to its starting point and essence.

Here, Julius Malema can be a closet guitarist and Mugabe can be dethroned by the double sting of a bumble bee. The novelty is that you are not only a listener but a collaborator too.
When you hear your word settling in its character a warm spread of pride dances in your belly.

The other stories Bonner told are learnt. Some have moral lessons, some are big and others shorter than a minute.

Some are his experiences from his travels around the world. The drumming he uses as interludes has stories of its own. He plays interesting percussion such as the Moroccan drum (Bendir) and the Riq from Egypt which resembles a tambourine.

Now living in Cape Town, Bonner has been telling stories in this way for about nine months and he’s been a musician and poet for most of his life.

He combines, honours and subverts genres and has created a delightful style of his own that connects simply yet deeply.

He is planning a national tour and will be hitting Joburg stages soon with his new brand of art. For more information go to www.gavinbonner.com and check out his Facebook group, Storytelling South Africa, whch includes him and other storytellers.

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