Shane Cooper

Shane Cooper might still only be in his 20s but the young bassist and composer is considered one of the brightest talents at the frontline of a new wave of contemporary South African jazz. When he was announced as winner of a 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award, Gwen Ansell, the doyenne of jazz writing, was full of praise in her weekly Business Day column. “This is good news,” she wrote, “because Cooper has a long-time interest in original music and genre combinations that stretch the definition of ‘jazz’.” How true. An alumnus of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, Cooper grew up in Port Elizabeth and cut his teeth playing in small clubs and bars as a teenager. “When I was 16 I decided to pursue music,” he says. “My brothers played instruments and they influenced me.” Since relocating to Cape Town Cooper has been the mainstay of a number of innovative musical collaborations: Indian jazz outfit Babu, the Kyle Shepherd Trio, Restless Natives and experimental electronic jazz and hip-hop collective Closet Snare. He has also toured the world, sharing stages with luminaries such as the late Zim Ngqawana, Feya Faku and Louis Moholo-Moholo, the last surviving member of the Blue Notes. Channelling his alter ego, Card on Spokes, Cooper also found success as a solo electronica act, performing at Oppikoppi and Rocking the Daisies. In 2011 he released his debut EP, In You Go. His forays into film have also paid dividends. Together with the Restless Natives he composed the music for Visa Vie, which notched up a South African Film and Television Award for Best Music in a Feature Film. Cooper recently finished recording his debut jazz LP, Oscillations, which he’ll be releasing at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. — Bongani Kona