The Modernettes

Neon signs flash through the darkness on a rainy night in the city. Halos form above dimly lit street lamps. From the rooftop ballroom of the Club Dahlia in 1940s downtown Miami, you’re listening to the sweet sounds of The Modernettes.

The Modernettes is a show/band concept that recreates the classic film noir genre of the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film Noir refers to mystery and crime drama films produced in that era. Movies of this genre were characteristically shot in black and white, and featured stories involving femmes fatales, doomed heroes or anti-heroes, and tough, cynical detectives. We set the scene in the Club Dahlia, where the Modernettes, a four piece band are the regular jazz/blues band. The repertoire is straight out of the 40s and 50s, but with a twist! Music from today is rearranged and performed to fit right into that classic era, so that the songs are recognizable but with a new spin.

The Performance

Technical (at clients request) can be involved to recreate stunning visuals (video footage of black and white movies involving car chases, the femme fatale, protagonist, detective etc), mood lighting and the odd intimation with set (streetlamp, office door, interior of a club). To carry the theme through, guests can be invited to dress in outfits of the era.

Modernettes 3

Our 4 piece band consists of two vocalists, Samantha Peo and Musanete Sakupwanya, John Fresk as MD and on keys, and Viwe Mkize on the bass . We supplement the more contemporary numbers with customized tracks and also present the option of a background set.

The Band

Samantha Peo

As a multiple Naledi Award winner for starring roles in Chicago and Cabaret, Samantha is no stranger to the stage. With her roots in musical theatre, she has played leading roles in many musicals including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, A Chorus Line, The Wizard of Oz, Crazy For You, Westside Story, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Chicago (for which she received the Naledi and Fleur Du Cap awards for Best Actress in a musical), Thoroughly Modern Millie (with a Naledi Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical), Aspects of Love, and Cabaret (for which she also received the Naledi and Fleur Du Cap awards for Best Actress in a musical). She has recently been seen on TV as Isabella in Erfsondes 2, as Laura in Ashes to Ashes, and on seasons 6, 7 and 8 of Strictly Come Dancing as a judge. She has also recently been the subject of celebrity profiles on Mela, Man Cave and Jou Ma Se Chef. Most recently she appeared in the original SA musical Calling me Home.

Modernettes 4

Musa Sakupwanya

Musa is a talented academic as well as a singer. He has shared the stage with Nataniel in Men Who Fly (2008), Magdalene Minaar in Eine Kleine Jazz Muzik (2015-present). He has also worked numerous times with Charl Du Plessis and the Charl Du Plessis Trio, with whom he has recorded an album called The Gershwin Songbook. He even had the privilege of being asked to sing the South African National Anthem (even though he’s Zimbabwean) at various Emperor’s Palace international sporting events; and has had the honour of singing Happy Birthday for the late, beloved Nelson Mandela at a special event for him. Currently, he is a lecturer at the University of Pretoria's Drama department where he teaches singing. And just for good measure, look out for Musa: he has a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do! He most recently appeared in the original SA musical Calling me Home. And will soon be seen As Nelson, in the Mandela Trilogies.

Modernettes 5

John Fresk

Classically trained, but with pop and jazz skills, American pianist, composer and producer John Fresk’s career spans 25 years of international performance. Among many accolades received throughout his career, John placed in the preliminary rounds in 2007 as a Grammy nominee for his work on an album entitled Heavenly Brother. He has performed for corporate clients such as Nike, Intel, Boeing, HP, Bidvest, SAB, and is a recognized Yamaha Artist in South Africa. He has also performed with Grammy-winning jazz icons Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, and with international artists such as Top 40 singer Meri Wilson, actress Judy Norton, Jimmy Dean and others. In South Africa, John has played with Lira, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Anna Davel, Timothy Moloi and works with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, the Johannesburg Big Band and accompanies many other artists.

Modernettes 6

Viwe Mkizwana

Viwe Mkizwana began playing the Classical Double Bass at the prestigious East London School for the Arts at the age of 17. In 2008, Mkizwana’s love of music led him to the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), where he began his studies in Jazz and earned a Grade 8 Certificate in Double Bass. During his time at TUT he was a member of the TUT Big Band and Footprints Trio Jazz Band. He later went on to manage and perform with Just Friends jazz band and formed the successful Mkizwana Ensemble in 2014. Through the course of his musical career, Mkizwana has played with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and served as the Principal Bassist in the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2009.

Modernettes 7

Technical Rider

The Modernettes consists of two vocalists, an acoustic piano (or a stage piano), an upright acoustic bass, accompanied by backing tracks which supply drums, horns and other enhancements.

MICROPHONES: Vocalists (Sam and Musa) and keyboardist (John) need wireless mics such as Shure BETA 58s. No Behringer, Samson or other off-brand, low-end mics. Other Shure, Electrovoice, Sennheiser, Audio-technica is fine. There should be a wired or wireless mic on a boom for keyboard as well.

BASS: If the performance is outside of the Joburg area (i.e. flying distance), backline will need to include an upright acoustic bass with a pickup. It may be possible for us to source one in certain areas if it's a problem. Please get in touch with us regarding that. We have a resource in Durban. If the performance is within driving distance, Viwe will provide his own upright bass & pickup and he can plug into a good bass amp or a D.I.

KEYBOARD: If the backline or venue includes an acoustic piano, that would be preferable. In the absence of an acoustic piano, and if the performance is in the Joburg area, John will provide a Yamaha CP4 stage piano. If a backline keyboard is provided, Yamaha is preferred as the predominant sound will be an acoustic piano sound. So a Yamaha stage piano or Motif will be fine. The Roland D700's are acceptable, but not preferred.

TRACKS: The backing tracks would ideally be run by the sound engineer. We will provide the mp3s on a flash drive, or they can be emailed ahead of time. If John needs to run them from the keyboard area from his laptop, a table or stand for the laptop, a stereo D.I. and the appropriate cable would be needed.

MONITORS: Four monitors are required, ideally with separate monitor mixes. Effects need to be present in the monitors. HK, Mackies, Yamaha, or D&B are fine or other comparable typical wedges. Ideally no Behringer, Fender, Peavey or similarly-priced “budget” monitors.

STAGING: The band requires stage space of approximately 2 metres in depth and 4 metres in width. The front line will consist of keys on stage left, Samantha and Musa on vocal in the front and bass on stage right, next to the keyboard.

LIGHTING: Please contact John if there is a specific question regarding lighting. As a general rule, there needs to be either enough light on stage to read music or stand lights for music stands.

GENERAL: Generally, a comprehensive sound check needs to be completed two hours prior to performance.


For a quotation please contact:

Samantha Peo


John Fresk

Download the 2017 Press Kit