Growing up, there was always a guitar in the house - my dad's DIA that he bought somewhere in the '70s and that I still own. He played and sang sometimes and, looking back, was quite a decent rhythm player with a voice that I sometimes wish I inherited a bit of.

It wasn't until 1992, at 8 years old, that I started taking an interest and really started making an effort to make coherent music. Being lucky to have my father for some starting advice. From there I started to enjoy the way the guitar felt and how it felt playing it. I devoured every book or piece of advice I could get my hands on and joined in on my dad's occasional get-together to play with my uncle (on Bass guitar), my cousin (on Drums), and whoever wanted to join. For the next few years, that DIA and I got well-acquainted. 

In 1996 I borrowed some money from my brother to buy my first guitar from a newspaper advertisement. A black, Hohner ST Special, electric guitar. It was in boarding school that I found a teacher, Felix Reinders, who would travel to teach me. It was in the Classic, Flamenco and Fingerstyle genre, but I made do, as I was willing to learn anything and everything. It also exposed me to the existence of Music Grades and "levelling up" while making sure you cover all the bases of Repertoire, Technique, Theory and Ear Training while doing so. Being in the city, as opposed to the small, rural town I grew up in, I also had access to magazines like Guitarist, Guitar Player and Guitar Techniques. So I was quite happy to learn from both ends for the next five years. I was also playing with friends in the boarding school and sharing knowledge and ideas.


After finishing high school and with my newfound freedom, I found Dave Houghton as a teacher, who introduced me to Harmony and Jazz theory. I also had a very proficient and talented drummer friend who was willing to sit down with me until I understood all the Rhythmic concepts of music. During this time I joined my first serious, structured band. Rehearsing twice, sometimes three times a week. With our rehearsal space being at the back of a club, we became the resident band whenever there was an event or party that required it. It also came with the occasional teaching of a lesson to anyone who was interested. Apart from our local club gigs, we performed at every possible opportunity for the next two years. This continued until I completed my Master's in ICT and moved to the UK.

Living in England, I decided to visit the Academy of Contemporary Music on one of their open days. The doors opened to a wonderland and I immediately knew where I needed to be. After the tour and some time to explore the campus, I walked up to the reception desk and applied to study there. Needless to say that my time at one of the best music schools in the world was one of the most formative stages of my life and also the catalyst to what my life would be from then on.

During my time at the ACM, I was lucky enough to have amazing teachers with amazing backgrounds and experience. I studied under Georgio Serci, John Idan, Pete Friesen, Mike Goodman and James Betteridge. With workshops and masterclasses by Mike Stern, Jennifer Batten, Chad Smith and Len Arran.

After my dad's death, I decided to settle a bit closer to home and moved back to South Africa, landing and staying in Capetown for the next 13 years. My first port of call was the local music store, in search of fellow musicians and opportunities. The owner, Gavin Cannone invited me to play with his band and it all began. Along with the music store, Gavin was also the owner/producer at the local recording studio and started inviting me to do session work on various albums he was recording. I also put up a notice at the shop, with additional ads for guitar lessons and started teaching.

I went in search of a more frequently performing band and joined up with Night and Day. A duo with Bonita van Wyk and Monique de Jager. Bonita also played the guitar and I had a strengthening role. We must have played every pub, club and dive-bar in Capetown, taking almost every gig we can get. To this day, I am convinced that this is where I learned almost every road in the region. 

Park Lane

Jo Martin