I never thought I’d find myself listening to Maskandi Music, at my own will, and enjoy it.
Most of the time I have no idea what is said but, I can tell you that it doesn’t take away from the feeling of “home” when listening to it. I think I should start at the beginning and explain how I went from having hip-hop on repeat to singing along to “Asimbonanga” pretty much overnight.
We got invited to a show by a well-known South African artist, Johnny Clegg last week. Mind you, I know of Clegg but never really listened to his music (save Great heart when it plays over the local radio stations) nor followed his career in Anthropology. Needless to say, I didn’t know what to expect which made me hesitant to go, but considering that we didn’t do much, except rest and run an errand here and there, I thought it would be a fun thing to attend while being off. And boy, am I glad we went.
This International concert was dubbed “The Final Journey Tour” and was Johnny’s last before his retirement. After taking it across the globe, he actually ended the tour right here in PE. Lucky for us, I’d say. It goes without saying that when it came to the production itself, nothing was less than excellent. The stage, the lights and sound rigs, the musician’s gear and the venue itself was amazing.
Of course, as a musician this would’ve been enough to excite me about what’s to come. However, I’d experience something way different than expected.
I told my wife and friend that we experienced much more than a show, but a true, mature expression of purpose.
Johnny and his band blew us away with every song. They were so rich in substance because each of them contains a story of a particular point in Clegg’s life. These stories preceded every song, bringing the audience into its world. It was very evident that Clegg had control of the room and the atmosphere as there was a great sense of being connected to South African culture, particularly the Zulu culture which was what he was invested in.
I hear Clegg in an interview explaining how music transcends any racial, religious or political barriers and I can truly say that through his music, this is a man that bridged the cultural gap between South Africans.
Because his musical journey started and took off during the apartheid era, most of his work was censored. One of the reason for this being that he mixed languages within his songs. He would sing the verses in Zulu and the chorus in English, something that was heavily frowned upon by the government at that time.
Not only was the show musically pleasing, but also educational. Clegg took us through a time in his life when he was teaching Anthropology and what some of those lessons were.
After the show was completed and Johnny left the stage, the crowd chanted him back on with the famous “we want more” recitation. They adhered to the call but in a way that wasn’t in submission to the hype, but rather out of great understanding as to why that may have happened. Before singing again, he immediately went on to explain that in live music, there’s an exchange of energy between the artist/band and the crowed. This usually that elevates people from one level to the next, to the next. People may have gone to the show one way but they definitely end up leaving another. This act was clearly the lark of a seasoned artist and a veteran of the stage.
They did an additional 3 songs, one of which immediately became my favourite, “Asimbonanga”. Accompanying many of the songs were visual works like the song’s music video or an older stage performance of that song. With this one, there was the latter. It was accompanied by a 2013 stage performance…a very special one, because later on in the song they brought the father of the nation of South African, Nelson Mandela out on stage. With his arms raised at his sides, he pulled off his infamous dance move. You can see it, right?
This just brought it home!! They also gave him an opportunity to speak. After giving his sentiments on music, Mandela jokingly said he couldn’t see the people at the back of the arena dancing. This was followed by him prompting the band to “sing it again”…. which they did. As the music picked up in that 2013 concert, it also did right there…. live in front of us.
People were already out of their seats and filled the isles because they wanted to dance and sing along freely. It was just an absolutely beautiful experience and one worth writing about.
Thanks for reading this unusually long, non-tech related posts. It is safe to say that I’d mark this one of the best concerts I’ve been to. What was yours?