Bokani Dyer is a multi-award winning Motswana-South African pianist, composer and producer. He was born in 1986 in Gaborone, Botswana, where many artists from South Africa, including his father, musician Steve Dyer, were living in exile during apartheid. Bokani moved back to SA as a child in 1990, and studied jazz at the University of Cape Town where he graduated with distinction. Following his graduation, Bokani was awarded two international scholarships facilitating training and masterclasses with world-renowned musicians and in 2011 he won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz. In 2013 Bokani received masterclasses with Swiss pianist and composer Malcom Braff, who he now returns to work with during his research residency in Basel, Switzerland.
Bokani has enjoyed a dynamic engagement with Swiss musicians during his career. He formed the Bokani Dyer Swiss Quintet with Donat Fisch, Stefan Kurmann, Norbert Pfammatter and Matthias Spillmann, who toured extensively in Europe and Southern Africa.
Bokani has recorded three jazz albums to critical acclaim. Alongside his jazz career, he also explores various other genres including electronic music. During his training he studied classical paino and played in a salsa band. These various influences have made him aware of the versatility of the piano as an instrument. “In my own compositions, I have consciously allowed all of the music which I have encountered to flow into my music to create a new idea of ‘world music’ where there is music with no borders,” he explains. This led to an interest in exploring traditional styles of music from Africa, particularly percussion rhythms.
ABOUT THE RESIDENCY
“My interest in this project is to further explore the ‘prepared’ piano, where one can place objects on the piano strings to manipulate the sound,” Bokani explains. He has been experimenting with basic prepared piano by placing paper on the strings to manipulate the sound and using a looping pedal to create layers of a piano ensemble. During his residency in August 2019, Bokani will explore musical styles and instruments from north, south, east and west Africa and translate these into music for the piano under the guidance of Malcolm Braff. Using this research into mbira, balafon, marimba and kora as a departure point, Bokani aims to create new works for the prepared piano and piano ensemble (up to three pianos) that retain an authentic sound as well as push a progressive scope. “The project has been an idea I’ve had for some years and I look forward to the next step in developing the idea of the ‘African Piano’,” he concludes.