Updated: Jul 17, 2019
We are featuring Nina Fourie-Gouws, classical guitarist par excellence, with whom we are about to debut a collaborative work called LA FEMME! at the US Woordfees Festival on 6 & 9 March at the kykNET Fismer Hall in Stellenbosch.
It has been many years since I have agreed to do a collaborative show. The reason is simple: people are difficult … and then there’s artists!
Some artists have a special gift to bring their issues and egos to the creative space with an explosive manner.
Truth be told: some people have outright broadcasted that I am difficult to work with and there may be some truth to that: I personally think I just know what I want!
The trigger to do the collaborative show was when I heard Nina play Cuban Landscape by Leo Brouwer as part of her ‘100 days of practise’ series on Instagram.
It made my heart skip a beat with excitement: classical guitar, contemporary tune interpreted with ‘cojones’ (yes it means balls and commonly used in Spanish to highlight the verocious character which an action is taken).
All I knew at that point is that I wanted to work with her and a year later she contacted me with LA FEMME!
We were off to a good start when the girls all agreed after the first session: ‘WOW she is so niiiice and she plays SOOO well!’. There was a near disbelieve that those two attributes can be part of one person.
The collaborative process has given us a new SoloFLAMENCO friend, somebody who like us will admit to their fears, inadequacies, gripes and joins in when ugly jokes are made.
Ok and we admit, she scored big bonus points with the fact that she likes cats too.
So it would only be fair to interview a classical guitarist who is completely flamenco at heart.
Was the guitar love at first sight?
I was about 10 years old when our primary schools' "strum-and-hum" guitar group perform in assembly. It was love at first sight! It took some convincing but a few weeks later my parents finally gave in and bought me a guitar at the local pawn shop and I started with my first group lessons playing chords. One week later I performed for the first time in the school concert. I was like a duck to water. A few months later a family friend’s son played ‘Spanish Romance’ on my guitar, while he was visiting my parent’s workshop, and I was completely mesmerized! I copied what he played, note-for-note from memory and thus my journey as a classical guitarist started. I just loved the complexity and melodic nature of classical guitar.
If it was not the guitar, which would be your second choice of instrument?
I actually played flute as a second instrument in high school. Also recorder, violin, trumpet, trombone; pretty much whichever instrument they needed for the school orchestra! But if I had to pick a new instrument now I would love to play Cello. There’s this fantastic quote by Spanish concert guitarist Andrés Segovia: “The guitar is the instrument a man plays when he wishes to express his heart to a woman. If there is an infidelity, then the man plays the cello to his friend. If the friend is implicated in this infidelity, then the man plays the organ to express his sorrow to God...”
Besides being a concert guitarist, you also lecture at the Stellenbosch Conservatorium. What are the biggest challenges and highlights you experience when teaching?
I absolutely love working with talented young guitarists, helping them achieve their career goals. You have to have the patience of a Zen master, the discipline of a drill sergeant and the soul of an artist. It’s hard work but incredibly fulfilling to see them develop into fine young professionals.
How do you make your choice when selecting a new piece of music to your repertoire?
I play what I like! I also have a bucket list of piece that I would like to perform: it’s a long list…
We have discussed the moments we have before upcoming shows where we think each time we can no longer do live concerts and we are ready to retire with immediate effect. Do you think it is just part of the artistic process and the adrenaline required for the performance, or that your experience will change with time?
Let’s be honest, all performers get nervous but for us the drive to share is more important than dealing with nerves. With experience you learn to trust your own abilities.
We had the most brilliant and candid discussion during rehearsal the other day which really resonated with me. You mentioned that SoloFLAMENCO performs for audiences, not dancers. I’ve had some of the most fulfilling concerts playing for people that have never experienced Classical Guitar before, from playing Bach in a Bar to Piazzolla in a Grand Cathedral. For me concerts are 100% about the music, not about my ego. The audience members should fall in love with the instrument and the music, then I have done my job as a musician!
How many hours do you practise per day?
I actually don’t know exactly how many hours as my schedule changes daily. Ideally I’d like 4 hours under my belt a day but due to teaching responsibilities and travelling I sometimes have to make do with just an hour.
What part do you like least of being a concert guitarist?
That split second after the last note ends and the applause starts.
What do you do for fun?
I love spending time with my hunky husband and our crazy cats.
For more info on Nina: