Artistic Committee Member for Music Samson Diamond says 2018 will be an important musical year for the Eastern Cape at the National Arts Festival, which runs from 28 June to 8 July in Grahamstown – a fitting focus for audiences as the country marks the centenary year of the birth of Mandela in his home province.

WATCH: Music on the Main – ‘Giving a voice to the voiceless’

The music selection for this year’s Festival is a vital tribute to collaboration, curiosity and experimentation.

Standard Bank Young Artist for Music 2018 Guy Buttery presents his programme GUY BUTTERY: THE MENDING. Buttery’s endless movement towards a distinct musical voice has led him to distil heritages and traditions (as well as their contradictions and tensions) with de-colonialised elements into a new and highly innovative song form that combines the artist’s adoration for both Southern African musical traditions and ambient music forms fusing cinematic soundscapes within the context of South Africa.

Buttery will collaborate with artists across a number of works to produce a sound that is expected to include Indian Classical aspects and a capella vocals alongside a variety of strings instruments including a sitar and double bass, with Buttery on an improvised soundscapes, mbira and various guitars. The combination of this varied instrumentation creates a rich tapestry pioneering new musical terrain and will surely be something National Arts Festival audiences will remember for years to come.

Together with the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, the National Arts Festival presents AFROPOETS, a one-night only (6 July) phenomenon, featuring the fresh sounds of Urban Village – folk music layered with electric, funk and traditional influences – collaborating with the legendary ‘King of the Zulu Guitar’, Madala Kunene. They will be joined by The Brother Moves On, a South African performance art ensemble who critics have hailed as “the most important band in this country”, and the new face of Afro-Folk, Bongeziwe Mabandla, who is effortlessly able to entwine isiXhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings to create something uniquely captivating.

International singer/songwriter SUZANNE VEGA will be performing just two shows – wrapping up the Festival on 7 & 8 July. Grahamstown is her only destination in South Africa on this tour. According to Biography Magazine, Vega is “widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation.” Her debut record, Marlene on the Wall, was included in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980’s”, while her follow up, Solitude Standing, was nominated for three Grammys, including Record of the Year, and went platinum.

CHORAL CONNECTIONS celebrates the ways in which singing and choral music brings together people from all backgrounds, cultures, religions and societies. Performed by The Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge, the director Richard Pinel was previously the organist at Windsor Castle and enjoys an international reputation as an organ recitalist.

The ever-popular GALA CONCERT takes place on 1 July this year and will be performed by the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Conducted by Richard Cock, the concert will feature pianist Charl du Plessis as well as 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music Guy Buttery. The ECPO and Richard Cock will also present the CHILDREN’S CONCERT at noon on 1 July.

Also in partnership with the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, platinum-selling, proudly amaXhosa artist AMANDA BLACK will perform one concert on 7 July. It’s a homecoming for the multi award winning singer who is from the Eastern Cape, having been born in Mthatha and raised in Butterworth and Port Elizabeth before she moved to Johannesburg in 2016 to pursue her music career.

AFRICAN EXPLORATIONS: CHAMBER MUSIC BY SA COMPOSERS from Liesl Stoltz features a collection of chamber music works for flute, cello and piano. Stoltz teams up with well-known musicians Edward McClean (cello) and José Dias (piano) to present works by Adrian MoreJan-Hendrik Harley, Paul Hamner, Andile Khumalo, Bongani Ndodana Breen, Alexander Johnson and Hendrik Hofmeyr.

IF I LOVED YOU brings Federico Freschi, Christopher Duigan and David Salleras (Barcelona) together on stage for a programme of beautiful melodies from the world of popular song, classic musicals and the world’s concert stages. Included are selections from Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Camelot and Carousel, songs in Spanish including the showstopper Granada, inspirational moments and celebrated classical art-song by Faure, Tchaikovsky and others. In INDIGO, Salleras and Duigan perform their own compositions as well as a selection of work from Spanish composer/saxophonist Pedro Itturalde.

Zanta Hofmeyr (violin), Susan Mouton (cello) and Malcolm Nay (piano) are THE WITS TRIO PLAYS SCHUBERT. Schubert died young, at 31, his works for trio are characterised by their exquisitely beautiful melodies filled with joy and sorrow.

MAHUBE is one of the most exciting regional music collaborations and celebrations of Southern African music of the past 20 years. From the crisscross rhythms of Malawi and Zimbabwe down to the choral splendour of the south, Steve Dyer andBokani Dyer have assembled an ensemble of 10 award-winning musicians to form a new Mahube, two decades after the original line-up of some of Southern Africa’s most creative and respected musicians played in Grahamstown.