JAZZ is one of the best vehicles for Shane Cooper to create worlds and stories with sound and music – and now it has earned him the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz.
Cooper, originally from Port Elizabeth but based in Cape Town, is a bassist, composer and producer who swapped high school for home schooling so he could spend more time on his music.
"When I was about 16, I realised that playing bass and making music was the most enjoyable thing for me to spend my time doing," the 27-year old said.
And about a decade later, he has scooped one of the country's most coveted awards.
"Receiving an award like this is an honour, because it is recognition for a difficult road to travel, and I have a lot of respect for the artists who have won before," Cooper said.
"It is an opportunity to get more out of the time I spend working on my music, which is great. For the artists I would say this support is very important, and can do a great deal to help push one's career forward. This kind of support for the arts can help cultivate more creativity, and exploration, and I would love to see more institutions doing this kind of thing in South Africa."
Cooper, who has performed and recorded with some of the leading jazz artists and bands in South Africa including Zim Ngqawana, Kyle Shepherd, Feya Faku, Bokani Dyer, Marcus Wyatt, Louis Moholo-Moholo and Babu, said it was hard in the music industry to get financial support from record labels.
Gig fees were down, there were less jazz venues and more musicians, he said, but there was an upside.
"One of the best aspects of being a musician is the collaborations you work on. The jazz world is especially built around different artists working on new projects together and creating shared visions.
"When the groups that I work with have a chemistry together we can create things that wouldn't happen outside of that unit. If the projects I'm involved in – whether playing my compositions or others' – can continue to pursue new ideas, take on sounds without being bound by rules, and grow with the individual members, I will be happy."
Cooper, who has composed original music for theatre, film soundtracks and television, said Graham Beyer, Gerard O'Brien and Carlo Mombelli, were some of his musical heroes.
"Also Zim Ngqawana, whose presence as a musician, improviser and band leader on stage was immense, with his absolute commitment to every note and having intention attached to every moment of sound and silence alike," he said.