21 June 2020
STRAIGHT & 2 BEERS
I miss live performances and wish we were already on alert level zero
What is this advanced alert level three lockdown that I cannot watch my favourite artist
If you call yourself a jazzophile and never saw the late Busi Mhlongo perform, do yourself a favour and make sure you watch Thandiswa Mazwai on stage.
I had the rare privilege of watching Thandiswa bowl her audience over with a
repertoire hitherto unseen since MaMhlongo crossed the
The stage was the Sand du Plessis Theatre in Bloemfontein during a Macufe weekend’s Divas Concert. If you’ve ever attended any live act in your life, you will know that the best artists are saved for last.
This is to avoid an exodus if a somnambulist act follows the crowd’s favourite.
When someone they don’t “feel” is on stage, they lose the concentration and disengage. In a theatre setting, you’ll see chairs suddenly emptying in the middle of a show in a clear demonstration that they don’t approve of the artist.
Thandiswa entered from the left, shuffling her feet to the centre while holding her hands in a gesture I cannot define: elbows coming above her shoulders and the microphone held like it was hung from the ceiling.
The music had already started and Thandiswa wailed some spooky Xhosa sounds. I swear they only had to be heard to be believed. I had never seen anything like that in my jazz festival-going
existence. The people who had gone outside were rushing back as if commanded by a voice from their ancestors.
This bizarre spectacle went on for minutes with not a soul daring to sing along or whip out their cellphones and take pictures as some like to do at festivals.
It was clear none of us knew what the daughter of Mazwai was up to. We only knew that we were witnessing something rare and unreal, something that would haunt us for years to come.
She kept doing this strange thing for minutes on end,
constantly moving on stage, covering the whole floor in that wicked shuffle as if running away from her shadow, casting a spell on all of us
She sang like a pained soul, a tortured spirit that has been wandering the seas for millennia looking for a piece of heaven to settle in. Then, as we all seemed caught up in a trance, unable to beg for mercy or release, the music suddenly fused in a sound which we thought we could recognise.
Then in a collective act of exhalation, we did recognise the track. It was Zabalaza. Relief on our faces as she confirmed the song with a chorus, we all joined her and could not stop signing.
All I’m trying to say is that this was no ordinary stage act. It was unreal.
I do not know whether Thandiswa would be able to repeat what she did that night. I know that at the end of her show, when she integrated us into her unique live rendition of Ingoma, we were too far gone in her stage witchcraft.
Thandiswa is devilish on stage and, after watching her, you feel like a python that’s eaten a sheep, too fulfilled and exposed, and ready to die with content.
All I’m saying is that I miss live music performance and wish we were on alert level
We’re all in this together – affected I miss live performances and wish we were already on alert level zero.