“The Secret Castle” by Ben Okri (audio book)

Ben Okri’s short story as narrated by theDustySoul.

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An illustration of Ben Okri. Source: here

Love,

DustySoul

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour. Aristotle

water (part 3): Zaneliza – How the Water Moves

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I remember the year the Tsunami hit. It was the early 2000s, and we were in primary school. Suddenly we all had to discuss what a Tsunami is, why and how it happens, and how many people had died versus how many had survived. We were astounded at the determination of that tide, and the powerlessness of those running from it, weak in the face of such a frightening and mighty moving body of water.

But destruction is not water’s only expression. In thinking about Msaki’s latest offering, Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, I had this – the strength of water, and how it can take on a life of its own, and even (joy!) give you life – foremost in my mind.

So I called her up and we had a young chat about “loss, hope and the wave-like rhythms in between those two states of being”.

Dusty: Cool! How are you?

Msaki: I’m good. I’m (pauses) hectic. I’m trying to leave for Cape Town so I’m trying to wrap up things today. And I need a PA, so I’m tryna put out an ad.

Dusty: I was actually wondering, how do you survive? I hate admin, personally, and I’m like ‘How does she survive, how does she raise a baby, be a wife, be an artist –’

[Msaki is an independent artist and does all her own management and bookings through her company, One Shushu Day  Artistry. She’s basically superwoman. Jokes. But close 😉 She has also been featured on popular house tracks.]

Msaki: Am I surviving?

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: I’m up between 3 [AM] and 5 [AM], doing my stuff, like I said.

Dusty: Ja you can’t get me up at that hour for anything, except if the house is burning.

Msaki: (laughs) Ja that’s my time. I actually wrote a song this morning because I was just like uh-uh, need to block off all the nonsense of the admin that’s creeping up and I just had to sing.

Dusty: Yeah. (pause) Okay well the last time I wrote about you, I wrote about the EP [Nal’ithemba], this was when it had just come out –

Msaki: I love that blog post!

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: Ja, EP indala mfondini, what was it – like 2013?

Dusty: Yeah it was 2013, I remember because I was listening to it a lot in my last year at Rhodes.

[The EP sold over 3000 copies – all independently. Msaki plays for mostly smaller audiences, and prefers to connect with listeners this way. Her latest project was crowd-funded largely in part by her network of supporters, people she has met and connected with over the years, musicians and music-lovers alike, her “Golden Circle”.]

Msaki: For some reason when you’re playing to smaller crowds, it’s easier for people to want to buy at the end of the show, ‘cos they really get to connect, you know? Like I’ll do shows in someone’s lounge for 60 people, and almost everyone will walk out with the EP. Stuff like that happens, because it’s difficult to hide your soul, it’s difficult to hide the message [in that atmosphere]. The proximity physically also lends itself to a proximity spiritually because people are examining you from up close and the energy is right there. It almost beckons you to share the essence of the music more. I find that in small gigs I’ve got less disclaimers, I’m less stressed about what people think, you know? But in the festival gigs I’m always like, ‘Oh my gosh – are people bored? Am I playing enough upbeat songs?’ and I’m wondering if they’re not twiddling their toes waiting for Zahara.

Dusty: (laughs) So the message of the EP [the first offering] was hope and love – what’s the message of this [album]?Is it resistance, water …?

Msaki: Oh man (pause). I didn’t realise how much loss I was processing through this album, and trying to figure out how you express or share that without it being full of despair. Just thinking of the waves coming in and the lapses in between and the ebb and the flow – there’s something about the water, cleansing, that made the loss bearable. So the theme of hope is always there, it seems like it will be a central theme to all my work. At the same time this album…it kinda like leaves you in the middle of the sea there bobbing wondering if a rescue mission is coming or not, you’ve gotta sorta figure it out for yourself. (laughs)

Dusty: Ja.

Msaki: It’s more real life. There is a song full of hope but it’s also like, ‘What next? Where do we go from here? And what do I do with all the stuff that’s sore? It’s asking more questions, and I guess I’m imperfectly processing some of the things that make me sad about being young, about being in this country, about the reality of losing people and the reality of losing dreams and having to pick yourself up and do another day when things aren’t working out.

Dusty: The line “Living water for the war over your heart/ Waterfall” [from Weight (for the war] stuck out to me, and it gave me a sense of watering in your life, watering the dry spaces, watering the dryness.

Msaki: If you listen to the pressing of a waterfall when you’re right there against it, you can’t mistake the power that’s there. Continuing from the EP; even using the water metaphor, I spoke about how You are not my strength/ You rock the cliff, the edge, the drop, my landing of love, I almost pictured myself jumping into a waterfall, like free falling into a waterfall, when I wrote that. If you think you’re jumping from the cliff into water (and the water is meant to be a metaphor for love), you’re mistaken because you’re standing on love, the rock is love, the cliff is love, the water is love, the great force around you when you’re in the water…that was when I decided to become a musician full-time because I realized that grace had been covering me the whole way and it will continue to do so, and that love is ready to meet me if I take the leap. So that water theme extends itself into this album, but now it’s looking at the different qualities of water and also what that speaks to my heart. Waterfall, nyani – you realise that God is fighting for you. There are clues that are telling you this all the time. You’ve got your own inner turmoil but there’s an outer fight that also manifests itself on the inside. But there are so many clues on the outside saying ‘Look around, keep going’. That whole line, that’s kind of where it’s from. The waterfall was a very obvious sign that love is fighting for me. The power, the rushing noise, and…thing of a war cry. Hence that line that you’re talking about.

[Weight (for the war) is the first single off of the new album. It begins with Msaki chanting the words “FRIEND FIRE FREEDOM FEEL/ WISDOM WONDER WORRY WISH/ BLESSING BURDEN BROTHER BREATHE/ WAIT WAIT WAIT WEIGHT” acapella. In later verses, she changes the last line to the refrain, “WADE WADE WADE WADE”. The pause after the acapella intro is followed by a guitar playing a note suspended over a bar as she sings about the blues. Enter the drum, which together with the chorus, creates a marching sound that increases the urgency of the song. As it progresses, more instruments are layered in, until the point when the song reaches its dramatic turn, ushered in by a stripping back of all the instruments save for the urgent drum, and the subsequent introduction of a soaring orchestration. By the time my favourite line, “LIVING WATER FOR THE WAR OVER YOUR HEART/ WATERFALL” is sung; the battle has raged, and the war –punctuated by the rousing, rallying cries “ZIYADILIKA IZINDONGA!” and “MAKULIWE!” – is steady on the way to victory. An earnest ‘call to arms’ that’ll rouse the faith of even the most doubtful Thomas. If you haven’t already, listen to it below.]

Msaki: Can you hear Kwanda? She’s trying to pull off my ears, can you hear her in the background?

Dusty: (laughs) Yes I can hear her with her little sounds every now and then.

Kwanda: *indistinguishable baby talk*

Dusty: (laughs) She’s so cute.

Msaki: Hayi sana ubusy ubusy ubusy.

Dusty: (laughs) I have one more question. You were saying [elsewhere] that it is hard in the music industry, to keep the message central, to not get distracted by the machine. What are the things that you do to remind yourself that the message is important, and to keep the message intact inside of you?

Msaki: First thing is to surround yourself with a community that isn’t afraid to point out your blind spots to you. I’m in an industry where ego is king, and depending on who you’re working with, that kind of stuff can become more apparent than the inner journey. If I spend my time with like-minded people that know what music is for, and have a heart for artistry and creativity, and community, then I think I’m in a safe space to go explore, to go to different places and come back and know ba kukhona abantu that are gonna be able to tell me that I’m going astray. That’s sort of the outer section. But now…Like this morning I had to wake up at three and fight for my own union, you know? Because that’s what music started as for me – it started as a way of communion, a way of communing with myself and with God. It’s a space where I can also listen for what song is being played to me. It’s so easy to stumble into every day and completely be absorbed by your To Do List and everything that you’re chasing as well, and things like trying to organize an event for a friend. All those things can still be good and you’re busying yourself with things that are good, but it still might mean that you’re distracted and you’re missing out. Sometimes I need to reset, to listen to God even more than myself. And sometimes these songs are not even to be shared, they are just for me to get something, the things that I need to meditate on and think about and acknowledge as truth for myself. Especially with so many messages that are telling us that we’re worthless, that we’re unlovable – that’s pretty much a very strong message out there. ‘You’re only good as your next this…’ There’s so many things, and I have to fight for a space that’s more real, and that’s where I’m writing from. Uhm, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with writing from a point of confusion, or from a point of being hurt, or processing the stuff that’s out there, I think it’s really important; but my reality, wholeheartedly, should come from the secret place, or the place where I’m quiet. (laughs) I don’t know how to say some of these things, because even that, I’m exploring it through my music.

Dusty: (laughs) It makes sense. Thank you.

*This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

*Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, will be available in stores April 16th, 2016. If you struggle to find a copy, email oneshushuday@gmail.com to inquire.

Love and warm waves,

DustySoul

“The tides are in our veins.” ― Robinson Jeffers

“Though I walk through the valley low, I’ll fear no evil. By the water, fill my soul, no matter where I go.” ― SUTRA, The Water

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.”
― E.E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems

 

Just a Moment –

When we were students we would to trek up the hill of the University, get to the top and head to the Monument building, which overlooked the city. Once there we’d scream our frustrations out into the air, till our voices were hoarse or at least tired. Aaaaaaaah! We’d roar, ferociously. It didn’t solve our problems but it was the release that we needed.

I think I need a Monument Moment.

A question’s been bugging me for the longest: How do we mourn in an age that doesn’t appreciate humanity? How do we mourn when we’re saturated with concerns, causes, epidemics, craziness? How do we mourn? A life vanishes and we are forced to do business as usual. Like it was nothing, like it was Thursday.

I have no idea what it’s called, but there’s probably a name for it in some social science. I’m talking about being an intensely sensitive person. If you are sad, you feel it deeply, (depression, bleh). If you’re happy, you feel it with the heat of a fire that can turn coal to diamond. Sometimes, ‘feelings’ are how you know when something is right or wrong – you know, like when something about an interaction doesn’t ‘feel right’, or when you need to make a decision and a certain path ‘feels off’. Sort of like your gut, or intuition, discernment. The great thing about hypersensitivity is that you’re super aware of everything happening around you, and so nothing goes by unnoticed. The bleak thing is you tend to carry people’s ‘heaviness-es’ like they are your own, or you don’t apply wisdom and your emotions overtake your judgement.
The downside of empathy is having to cope with the weight of the world on your back.

There’s a little song by Laura Mvula, ‘Can’t Live With the World’, that I like. In it she sings:

You can’t live with the world on your shoulders
Take my hand and you’ll see love will find us
You’ve been lost in a dark place a long time
Come to me, say goodbye to your struggles
Remember how far you’ve come
From the start till the end
Depend on me
You can’t live with the world on your shoulders

It’s great because it’s a reminder that we can’t believe ‘the hype’ of our own feelings. Sometimes we’ve got to breathe, take care of ourselves. We can’t navigate any of it as though we were an island. It’s okay to reach out.

Audre Lorde said:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

We so desperately want to know that our living means something, to be part of something greater, but you can’t change your corner of the world if you’re weary. I’ve heard it said, that love is a revolutionary act. Yes. Love is activism.

It’s hard to mourn in an age that doesn’t appreciate humanity because there’s so much coming at us that we can’t keep up with it all. There’s so much wrong with it and we feel helpless. We can’t fix as much as we’d like to – is it any wonder that we even get desensitized to the pain?

Ever get fatigued sometimes, when you log onto twitter and all you see on your TL is more stuff to get angry about? Or when you’ve spent a little while confronted with challenges that won’t come right, and your frustration just keeps building?

For those who have the tendency to feel every hurt – don’t. Take a moment, a Monument Moment, and press the Off button. Then keep it off. Nurture. Find a way to love in this world that hurts and is hurting. Internalize that. Remember it. Press the On button. Reload. Then, as fiercely, relentlessly and compassionately as you can – love.

Love and light,
Dusty

“There she waits looking for a saviour, someone to save her from her dying self. Always taking ten steps back and one step forward. She’s tired, but she don’t stop…”
– Laura Mvula, ‘She’

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭3, 13‬ (ESV)

Baptised by the Jazz Horn

We rush in and make our way to the front, sit right before the front row seats on the carpet floor. Behind us, in the seats reserved for distinguished guests, we spot President Thabo Mbeki and Zanele Mbeki. Gush. The former President is here! He is so close we could touch him, but nerves have us hostage. So my friend tweets about it instead. I retweet it.
The MC says a few words to introduce the artist. We aren’t really listening. She gets off, people applaud, and then he walks onto the stage with his signature black cap pulled over his head, a black flap covering the sides of his face. He gets straight into the swing of things, singing about being baptised by the jazz horn, his band joining in, the horn taking the lead. The time has come, it’s Gregory Porter.

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He’s flanked by an orchestra that includes 11 strings, 2 flutes, 1 oboe, a French horn, 13 other horns, percussion, drums, piano…

The rhythm section is up first.

“There will be no love dying here,” he declares, the horn driving the point home. He scoops those low notes from down below, throws his voice in the air, then out towards us. Swoon. Once more, enter the horn.

Hey Laura,” they say, “it’s me.”The atmosphere in the auditorium pulsates with excitement. The piano, understated and subtle, is present the most in this one.

1960-whaat!” The drum, furious and fast, drives the beat of the tune. Acoustic bass, not willing to be left behind, marks its spot in the harmony. Again, the horn. Always the horn.

The strings are spectacular. They lift us up, and soon we are all in the air, flying with Gregory and his accompaniment. He growls like a Southern Gospel singer. Claps his hands like a man under a spell. It’s all very spiritual.

Some more songs, including the well-loved ‘Liquid Spirit’, then he does a tribute to Nina Simone – ‘Work Song’. He put a little swing in it, a little groove, a little attitude. Before we know it he waves goodbye, bows, and we exhale.

Love and light,
Dusty

“Jazz – it takes passion to make it happen!” ~ D C DowDell


Pictured: Gregory Porter at this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz. Photo credit: Babalwa Nyembezi

Wide open (a poem about love gone wrong)

Sometimes we leave ourselves open to hurting because of our desperation: when our guard is down and we’re in that resigned space, we accept whatever comes our way and forget to ward off the nasty. Here’s a little something about such situations. I’ve got the first verse down here for you, and the rest can be listened to right at this link. Enjoy.

My heart was ready for feeling lovely so when you came along it clamped to you like the hunger of souls destitute.

I was open wide.

I was wide open and when you came there were no mountains you had to climb – you went right in…

**I’m not much of a poet, but every now and then I try my hand at it. Whadya think of this one? Lemme know!

Love and light,

DustySoul

“It’s sad that love is the one thing that makes you feel magnificent but can also make you lose your damn mind. How’s that work?” ~ Terry McMillan

Nalithemba: On finding hope, daring to dream and beating despair

The way to measure the quality of any experience is to ask yourself whether or not you dread its end. If you’re counting down the seconds till it’s over, chances are it was a bad one; but if you dread its end, honey you probably got a good thing goin’.

This is how I rate most of my listening experiences: the best albums are those which carry me from track one to the last, through every interlude, pause, rise, climax, simmer; as though guiding me on a sweet and inspiring journey.

It’s that time of the year when those of us in the bubble that is Grahamstown begin to bemoan the confinement of our little town. We’re getting impatient to leave this space. We’re bored with the monotony of lectures and deadlines, and so we whip out our ipads and Blackberrys and make plans for the December and early January months, eager to start the vac. We’re on the phone with our parents and friends from back home on the daily, longing for a slice of home. We’re suffering from cabin fever! *pulls hair out*

It is in this shuffling-my-feet state that I have been moving day-to-day, restless for this phase to end. It’s full of so much uncertainty and it would seem, chaos. I’m constantly having to encourage myself, to spur myself to take on the day, to get out of bed. I’ve been looking for hope.

And fortunately, hope came to me when I least expected, but most needed, it.

The weight of despair is enough to anchor any dreamer into resignation, but if you’re like East London based singer-songwriter and artist Asanda ‘Msaki’ Lusaseni, you hold on to the hope that ‘one shushu day’ (one bright and hot day) things will turn out alright for you. She’s recently released her EP, Nal’ithemba, and it was this little four-track offering that sang away my doubt and despondency.

Asanda has been singing for a long while now, and she decided to take the plunge and focus full-time on her music career after being a student of law and art. Her movement, “One Shushu Day’, is, as she describes it, “a dreamer’s statement of hope”, an assertion that even in a world where ‘making it’ becomes harder each year, dreams still do come true.

“Harbouring Hope (Nalithemba)”, last track on the EP, captures what Asanda and the One Shushu Day Movement are about:

The sea is patient

The moon lights a path from her womb to the raft

Oh, we’re waiting

Believing in promises born in the dark warmth of dreams

Hope needs concrete

Believing is hard as her dreams turn to rust…

She prays for the dreams in her heart not to wither away

Please let these dreams sail

Burden is heavy …

Let these dreams sail

Dawn is breaking the sleep of the ones that are harbouring hope

Nali’ithemba

Nalo, naliya

Dear Wind, carry me now, beyond the limits of fear…

This hope anchors my soul

The sea has spoken I believe

I’m alive in the promise made for the deep of the sea…

 Her exhortation to hold on almost brought me to tears – the combination of her sound, her melodies and her lyrics came together to form something quite like a balm. To hear it is to heal.

All I wanted was for the listening experience not to end, for her guitar to keep playing in my ears; but as the old adage goes, all good things come to an end. The best things, however, never really end. They leave proof that they were there: and though “Harbouring Hope” marked the end of the EP, it stamped courage in me, I knew hope was worth the effort, and when she sang it, I knew I could trust Msaki’s encouragement to “Hope on bravely”.

**To order a copy of Msaki’s EP email oneshushuday@gmail.com

Hope and dreams,

DustySoul

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair

‘Qui audet adipiscitur.” (Who dares, wins.)

Ubuhle bendoda: on the beauty of a black man

The Black man is a beautiful thing. This assertion is a declaration of faith; because every day I am told that there is no hope for him – in the news, by the testimony of others, by media. I need to believe against hope that he is more than a burglar, an abuser, a lazy man, a rapist. This assertion is a reminder to myself that my Brothers are beautiful, despite the shame that has haunted them through the ages.

Yes. Indian, Chinese etc men are all God’s children too, but I write about the Black man now because he is the one I had lost faith in. He is the one I believed was built too weak to love. He is the one history saw systematically abused and de-humanised.

During the National Arts Festival I had the honour of sitting through the amazing Sibongile Khumalo’s concert, Reflect. Celebrate. Live.  at the Guy Butler Theatre in Grahamstown. The concert was the kick-off of a tour meant to look back on her journey as a singer and actress, to celebrate her achievements, and to appreciate those who have brought her through in her life. She has an impressive career spanning many years (it’s been two decades of a professional career), and as the “First Lady of Song” of South Africa, she has made a name for herself as an outstanding, talented, skilled musician to trump all others. Anyway, the concert was interspersed with anecdotes from her childhood and young adulthood; inlcuding stories of her family, her growing pains as a musician, and her lessons along the way.

One of my favourite moments of this concert came when she described going with her father to visit the homestead of Princess Constance Magogo Sibilile Mantithi Ngangezinye kaDinuzulu (1900–1984); composer, poet, singer, and authority on Zulu traditional music; in her youth. [click here to listen] She tells how she never knew, back then, sitting with Princess Magogo on the stoep of her hut, that she was “on a date with destiny”. She later represented Princess Magogo in an operatic role portraying the Princess’s life, masterfully written by Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo. uMam Sibongile Khumalo told how, as she sat at the feet of Princess Magogo, learning songs and watching her play her traditional instrument; she mused over many things, including that age old saying, “ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo”. Directly translated, and the Zulus will correct me if I am wrong here, the saying means that “the beauty of a man is his cattle”.

Before that evening I had always dismissed this adage, regarding it as what I had deemed an indication of the emphasis on material goods to measure the worth of a man. I could not have been more wrong.

In the days of old, when an African man was in possession of cattle, he indeed was considered a beautiful thing. To herd cattle requires discipline, persistence, cautiousness, and hard work. A man who had healthy cattle was seen as beautiful because of the implication of that possession. Seen through those eyes, the beauty and honour of a man was in his ability to care for something more than he did himself, his ability to commit to discipline, to persistence, and to hard work. The beauty of a man was in the sweat of his brow.

In a world that is overwhelmingly misogynist, it’s hard to believe sometimes, that there are still men of honour amongst us. It’s even harder to believe that there are Black men of honour who exist. But hearing uMam Khumalo speak about her encounters with Princess Magogo, learning history from her remarkable father (Professor Mngoma, who was a historian), and hearing her sing one of the songs from the Princess Magogo opera, reminded me that indeed, the Black man is not all vile and villainous.

As she burst out in song, singing about ubuhle bendoda, my heart swelled anew with pride and respect for him.

One of the best music bands to emerge from the South African live music scene in the past decade has to be the indie-afro-soul-jazz band The Muffinz. A mixture of various musical genres thrown together into a delicious mix (hence the name “The Muffinz”), they are not only five guys with guitars and a set of drums, they also happen to be immensely talented, skilled, and well, easy on the eye.

What I love about their music, besides their skill and talent, is their socially conscious lyrics. These dudes aren’t just packing “baby, baby, baby” into three minutes of a song, they are commenting on the socio-political issues of our day.

Umsebenzi wendoda (translated: the work/duty of a man), a song about single mothers who raise strong Black men in a society that is unkind to them, is another song which made my heart appreciate anew the beauty of the Black man. Every time I hear the song I feel like breaking into ukuxhentsa, or a Zulu dance.  Anyway, the song was written as an ode to their mothers, many of whom had to raise them in the absence of their fathers, in a society that considers raising men to be the work of a man yet provides few positive male role models.

During the National Arts Festival at Radio Grahamstown. theDustySoul with members of The Muffinz and the Cue Radio/Fest Focus.

The song is a tribute to single mothers, and journeys through her sacrifices, waking early and toilling all day to put a meal on the table. It speaks about how their mothers can finally rest, because the load she carried alone is lessened now that her son has grown into the young man she always hoped he would.

The duty of a man is to maintain his honour. Can’t forget the image in my mind from Ben Okri’s short story, The Secret Castle, in which he describes one of the characters thus, “He looked like the word ‘honour’, in ragged clothes”. No matter his position in society, the Black man has especially the duty to respect himself and others and to maintain his honour. I believe in you, Brother, against what I see to the contrary you are Black Gold and I believe in you. And to paraphrase Garvey, there is no shame in your blackness: blackness is a badge of honour.

Strength, Pride, Honour,

DustySoul

“Hold your head as high as you can/ High enough to see who you are, little man/ Life sometimes is cold and cruel/ Baby no one else will tell you so remember that /You are Black Gold…But you’re golden, baby/ Black Gold with a diamond soul/ Think of all the strength you have in you/ From the blood you carry within you/ Ancient men, powerful men/ Builders of civilization… Baby no one else will tell you so remember that You are Black Gold, Black Gold/ You are Black Gold…”

                                   –     Esperanza Spalding, “Black Gold”

“The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”

                               – Marcus Garvey

Fe(a)sting on Friendships

I reckon Indian men should rule the world. Don’t get me wrong, black men are alright as far as some things go, and white aren’t any different, but Indian men…

So it all started with a trip to the Acoustic Soul show during National Arts Festival, Shela and me were excited that finally, I had a night off after having VoG rehearsals and performances for the past weekend, using up the time that I could have spent with her. We hadn’t seen each other in 3 years!). So anyway, we went to the Acoustic Soul show, where we met a lady who had a student ticket she wanted to get rid of (Amen, because I was broke as ever!), so I bought it and Shela and I enjoyed the show. After speaking with some of the band members, we left to get eats at The Long Table Restaurant. (“When are you getting to the Indian invasion stuff?” I hear you ask. Wait, dear friend, I’m working on a narrative here!)

“So Shela, what are we going to have?”

“Ag, that other soup we wanted is finished for the night. Let’s buy the Indian breyani what what soup and share.”

“Okay Shela, we’ll get two slices of bread too.”

Nelisa Kala and band during Arts Fest

Shela was keen to see The Awakening’s show, so we set out to find out how much the tickets were. If they were too expensive (for student pockets), we’d go watch something else. Approaching this nice looking tall lady, we struck up a conversation.

“Hello ladies, are you ladies busy tonight?” asked the Tall Lady. “What are you looking for?”

“Oh we were just looking at this poster. Do you by any chance know how much tickets to The Awakening are?”

“Oh no. But I thought that if you’re not busy, I’ve got free tickets to Gary Thomas’s

show if you want them?”

Dear friend, I must insert here a short explanation about black people in South Africa. We have a strong liking for mahala, free, stuff. It’s practically in our culture. Asking us if we want free tickets, even if we don’t know who the heck the artist is, is asking us if we’d like to keep warm on a winter night. It’s a no-brainer.

Shela and me start jumping around excitedly. “Yes! Of course, we’d like them. Thank you!”

When we got to Cuervo Room, we were bawled over by Gary Thomas’s set. That man can do crazy things with his guitar. He’s a wonder to watch. Now about that Indian invasion stuff… The MC was an Indian man who had this bottle of Jose Cuervo in his hand. He asked the audience members who wanted some and poured it into the mouths of those who were eager enough to go up to the front for a shot poured straight into their mouths. Anyway, after Gary’s awesome set, we’re getting ready to leave, but our dear Indian tequila lover informs us that since we’ve been such an awesome crowd…

“…don’t tell the others coming in,” Indian Tequila Lover says. “But you guys can stay in here for the next group, the next group will set up. It’ll only take fifteen minutes. They’re called The Awakening…”

You should have seen how elated Shela and me were. We went to a free performance only to be handed free entrance into the show we had really wanted to see!

This is why I say Indian men are great. Not only did he give us free entrance into The Awakening’s show, but the Indian Tequila Lover hooked us up with a free jam/ party dancing session after The Awakening’s performance. We chilled by the fire in the Cuervo Room and danced ourselves up a storm (despite our unimpressive moves). And of course, the DJ was Indian, from Durban.

I envision more free stuff if Indian men are in control. Really.  As stereotypes go: white men give you what’s of a lesser standard, black men take it all for themselves (greedy louts) and coloured men steal it, but Indian men love to share shem!

Next time you see an Indian man at National Arts Fest, get to know him better, sana, he’ll give you free stuff…

 

Your friend,

Dusty Soul

“The man of many friends may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24

Sounds from the ground

I have found heaven on earth. It came enclosed in a plastic casing and wrapped with a thin layer of plastic. It has four corners but its contents encircle my heart: it is The Soil’s self-titled debut album.
A friend introduced me to this three member a cappella group last year, back when three was four and the group only had underground releases and various performances under their belt. The group consists of brothers Ntsika and Phindo Ngxana, and the soulful Buhle Mda. They name God as a fourth Member. Samkelo Mdolomba, who can be heard throughout the album, left to pursue other music ventures.
After seeing their performance on Late Night with Kgomotso (SABC 2), I searched for their music wherever I could find it: youtube, friends of friends, wherever! I kept my ear to the ground, hoping to hear the sound these Standard Bank OVATION Award winners would make.

The 11 track album features favourites their fans know from their mixtapes and performances, including “Joy”, the popular “Sunday” and the soul-stirring traditional Setswana/Sotho hymn, “Sedi Laka”. It was a little disappointing to me that they didn’t include more tracks (11 is way too short!) and more new material. Despite this and the fact that they didn’t include my favourite, “I Found Love”, the album’s been on repeat since I bought it! A nice surprise was uTumi’s (yes, from the Volume) cameo appearance at the end of “Baninzi”. Tumi Molekane has also featured them in a performance on SABC 1’s Live, and word has it that he plans to shoot a music video for a song he recently recorded with them. The trio takes on a playful theme in the township ditty children usually sing, “Bhomba”, about a rabbit and a jackal’s love proposal to it. “Umubi ufana nengulube eb’sweni” (you are ugly, your face looks like a pig’s face) one animal sings to the other. Other themes include family, loneliness, and of course, love.
One can hear influences of jazz, soul, afro-jazz and gospel coming through in their music. They have fused different genres and voice techniques to create a genre they refer to as “kasi soul”.
After hearing “Impossible” for the first time, which was one of the songs they performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, a friend said, “Wow! These guys are too talented. I just wanna go and write music now!” Their music does that. Like Lauryn Hill sang all those years ago, “Music is supposed to inspire.” Their performances of that song, “Impossible”, are particularly impressive as the members use their voices to create the sound violins make. It’s crazy good. (See video here)
It’s artists like these that inspire me to invest in local music. I can’t wait to see them live at the Grahamstown Arts Festival.
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Please and thank you,
Dusty Soul
“…decomposing the keys of pianos and guitars, we are reaping what the tapping of feet have sown. As we flow out from the blows of trumpets and bounce from the strums of cellos, moving through sounds in which music was found – rooted in the belly, of The Soil.” – Portia Munama, “Intro” from The Soil’s self-titled debut album