About Keenan Ahrends
Keenan Ahrends is a jazz guitarist and composer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Having started playing the guitar at the age of fifteen, he completed his undergraduate degree in jazz performance at the University of Cape Town and the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2009. In 2019, he completed an honours degree in performance at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. During this degree, he completed research into the life and music of prominent South African jazz guitarist Errol Dyers. During his tertiary studies combined, he studied under the likes of Jon Eberson, Wayne Bosch, Eckhard Baur, AlvinDyers, and Andrew Lilly.Ahrends has toured extensively both within South Africa and internationally. He has performed with prominent musicians such as Louis Moholo, Feya Faku, Thandi Ntuli, Malcolm Braff, Andile Yenana, Carlo Mombelli, Afrika Mkhize, Herbie Tsoaeli, Buddy Wells, Mark Fransman, Shane Cooper, SOMI, amongst others. Notable performances have been at the Birds Eye Jazz Club (Basel, Switzerland), the Amersfoort Jazz Festival (The Netherlands), the Cape Town international Jazz Festival, Reunion Island Ocus PocusFestival, the Joy of Jazz Festival, the Edge of Wrong festival, and the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival. He has also performed in venues and festivals in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Sweden, Norway, Mozambique and Nigeria.
In 2017 Ahrends released his debut album ‘Narrative’ (featuring Romy Brauteseth, Claude Cozens, Sisonke Xonti, Nicholas Williams) to critical acclaim. Beyond this, he is a featured sideman on numerous prominent recording projects including those by Carlo Mombelli, Zoe Modiga, Sisonke Xonti, Bokani Dyer and others. As a composer, he was written extensively for his trio, featuring Romy Brauteseth and Sphelelo Mazibuko but has also written for larger ensembles, such as the Cape Town Ghoema Orchestra (commissions in 2012, 2013, 2014). Ahrends is known for his evocative musical writing, his emotive improvisation, and his sensitive musicianship. He remains an important part of the emerging southern African jazz arena and his flagship sound can be heard on numerous albums and in a diverse plethora of projects.
Carlo Mombelli - Angels and Demons (2018)Thandi Ntuli - Exiled (2018)Keenan Ahrends Trio – Narrative (2017)Amandla Freedom Ensemble - Born to be Black (2017)Benjamin Jeptha – The Evolution of an Undefined (2017)Zoe Modiga – Yellow the Novel (2017)Tune Recreation Committee – Voice of our Vision (2017)Sisonke Xonti – Iyonde (2017)Nicholas Williams – Light and Dark (2016)Bokani Dyer – World Music (2015)Nomfundo Xaluva – From Now On (2015)Thandi Ntuli – The Offering (2014)Lwanda Gogwana – Songbook Chapter 1 (2011)
Keenan Ahrends Trio
Praise for ‘Narrative’ (2017)
“One of the most beautiful guitar releases of any recent year. […] ‘Narrative’ is the right title for an album that walks you through multiple sonic and personal meditations.”– Gwen Ansell
“Keenan’s compositional style is meticulous and comprehensive, each piece may have several bridges, different shades, varying landscapes, and contrasting tempos…”- Njabulo Madlala
“Ahrends expresses emotional whirlwinds from life experiences and shakes them off in “Here We Go Again”, a careful slow ballad that builds a story in a pure, soulful way. Ahrends stylistically switches from grunge to subtle South African sounds as in “Past” and “Stories Behind Expressions”. This is why ‘Narrative’ is listenable and reflectively memorable.”
- Carol Martin
Here We Go Again
Stories Behind Expression
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