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Payne, Robert (South Africa)  
Pretoria-born Robert Payne started out learning classical piano at the age of six and went to on win many awards during his school years. From an early age he wanted to make a career out of music, but societal and parental pressures steered him away from what was at the time considered to be a bad career choice (music) in favour of "respectability" (civil engineering). This resulted in him living a double life during his university years, getting out and playing in jazz clubs and at various dances and functions throughout the five years of day-time study. Then, soon after starting out as a trainee engineer, it all became too much, and so he turned away from the engineering profession, turned professional with “The New Rising Suns” which took him to Durban, then Pietermaritzburg, and finally back to Johannesburg where he joined up with renowned guitarist Johnny Fourie's new band "Sound Department" featuring at The Branch Office in Johannesburg.

For the next five years Robert was active in the jazz, session and live music scene in Johannesburg, whilst also teaching classical music at a local high school. This period made up for the "lost" academic years in that he got down to some dedicated wood-shedding, learning as much as he could about melody, harmony, composition, sound synthesis, and in particular, in developing his keyboard technique. Thanks to Johnny Fourie he delved into George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept, and thereafter discovered the delights of various pentatonic scales derived from the two fundamental western diatonic scales (major and minor). It was during this time that his conceptual insights and composing abilities had their scope widened and their roots deepened.

piano, keyboards
Genre: jazz, African Jazz, classical
Robert traveled to London at the end of the seventies and set about pursuing his music dream - to play with the best. Through mingling with the working musicians in the pubs and wine bars he first met up with the local reggae and calypso musicians and played several high energy soca gigs with the band Tropicana in various London concert venues. Subsequently he worked with various South African musicians-in-exile including drummer Brian Abrahams and bassist Ernest Mothle, the latter introducing Robert to George Lee, a Ghanaian saxophone player with whom he started a long association leading to his becoming a founding member of the band Anansi. This band played the jazz clubs and wine bars in the capitol and recorded an album in 1984 which received much peer recognition but which eluded mass distribution.

During his London sojourn Robert continued his efforts towards musical composition, recording several tracks in his home-studio but never taking anything to market. Between bread-and-butter gigs he did a five-month stint with a touring nightclub band visiting Finland and Switzerland, was musical director for Eartha Kitt's 1983 UK concert tour, worked with jazz singer Salena Jones, and played the London colleges with afro-disco band Kabballa, not to mention the numerous free-lance gigs which provided an opportunity to keep fit musically speaking.

The 12 years following Robert’s return from the UK saw little tangible musical output other than appearances at Kiepies, The Bassline, and various low-key jazz venues in Durban and surrounding areas. But towards the end of the nineties Robert moved into a new era of composition and produced the album “Portraits” featuring a couple of his titles penned in the late seventies and early eighties, complemented by a series of pieces whose rhythmic, harmonic and melodic styles reflect the people and places experienced during the previous twenty five years.

Highlights of Robert’s musical career include being part of the Johannesburg jazz music scene of the seventies, working alongside Johnny Fourie, Johnny Boshoff and Tony Moore in the band Sound Dept at the famous Branch Office restaurant, followed by the larger group Profile (with Lofty Schultz, Eric Norgate, Lionel Kielly and Rene Veldsman) appearing at the Bela Napoli in Hillbrow. Robert produced two concerts at the Wits University Great hall which featured his own compositions, the former including the former members of Sound Dept. and the latter in duo format with George Wolfaardt on fretless bass. Art Kelly’s Singles club at the Casa Mia hotel in Berea also saw a long running duo effort featuring Robert and Johhny Fourie.His London tenure included a massive calypso festival gig at the Commonwealth Institute with soca stars Blueboy and Arrow, numerous appearances with Anansi at the 100 Club and Ronnie Scott’s (where they shared the bill with Chucho Valdez’ Irakere) and a concert tour of the so-called Frontline States including Mocambique, Botswana and Swaziland (1986), a one-day trip to an Antwerp peace festival appearing with Kabballa alongside Youssou NDour, a gig at Alexandra Palace with Hugh Masekela’s band celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and only recently, appearing with the jazz educators under the leadership of Marc Duby at Pretoria Technikon’s SAMRO-sponsored Pretoria State Theatre concert featuring original music (where two of Robert’s titles were performed).

Robert now resides in Cape Town.

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