• 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, Alvin Dyers, and Andrew Lilly. He was awarded a Pro Helvetia artist in residency in 2021 where he spent three months composing, recording and performing in Basel, Switzerland.


    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,, 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 Pocus Festival, 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. Ahrends released his sophmore album ‘Perseverance: live at the bird’s eye’ (featuring Romy Brauteseth , Sphelelo Mazibuko, Domenic Landofl, Lukas Thoeni) in 2022. Beyond this, he is a featured sideman on numerous prominent recording projects including those by Carlo Mombelli, Feya Faku, Thandi Ntuli, 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.

  • Discography


    Keenan Ahrends – Perserverance: Live at the bird’s eye (2022)

    Thandi Ntuli – Blk Elijah & The Children of Meroe (2022)

    Sibusiso Mashiloane – Music from my people (2022)

    Feya Faku sextet- Live at the Bird’s Eye (2021)

    Thandi Ntuli – Indaba Is (2021)

    The Texture of Silence (2021)

    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)

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    Keenan Ahrends Perseverence: Live at the bird's eye


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  • Praise for ‘Perseverance: Live at the bird's eye’ (2022)


    “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

    Praise for ‘Narrative’ (2017)


    “I’ve used the term ‘Metheny-ish’ about Ahrends instrumental voice before (he may hate it…). What unites these two guitarists from very different contexts and generations is the sense of exploratory emotional space in their music. They both play music with head and heart. Ahrends prefers to see where a theme takes him, rather than mechanically stating the head and marching in a straight line from there. There’s no rush to the conclusion of the tune’s home, but rather continual invention and reformulation along the road.”

    Gwen Ansell

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  • Videos


    'Perseverance: Live at the Bird's Eye' album launch

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    +27 74 200 6592