Wasn’t there always talk of “developing countries” vs. the “developed world”? I guess that was right: some countries indeed were developing while others started whingeing more and more, and rested comfortably on their “achievements”, and whinged some more when they were asked to share those, or give back. Pathetic.
I was with Chimz in Malawi when Cyclone Idai hit the East African coast near Beira in Mozambique. Malawi and Mozambique had had losses of life before due to flooding and falling trees, but the full blow of Idai was something else. Some suggest it will turn out to be the worst natural desaster to have hit the southern hemisphere in known history. Idai left hundreds dead in southern Malawi, eastern Zimbabwe and, foremost of all, in central Mozambique. Beira, a big city, is largely destroyed, and an inland ocean has been formed, in which to this day survivors are struggling with the water, with moskitos, snakes and wild animals and the lack of the bare necessities of life.
Back in Jo’burg, a town that is so rich in music, and a town that seems to have decided to accomodate me as best as she can, especially with music events. This time it was only a few hours after my touch down that Constitution Hill opened its gates for the music festival that accompanies the Human Rights Day activities here. I admire the fact that 21 March is celebrated here, a day that hardly anyone I know in Europe is even aware of, or would care about.
A word of warning: I will write about something here that I know very little about. Something that a lot of people consider beyond rational understanding, and that others consider plain nonsense. Something those with a strong (and narrow-minded) Christian attitude wrongly (!) consider witchcraft, and that I have not yet been granted the chance to experience first hand. I tried, but due to an illness my meeting with Noksangoma had to be cancelled, and another appointment was impossible to make. It wasn’t time yet, perhaps, to see it in a light more akin to the topic under discussion. However, I feel like I have to write about the sangomas, the traditional diviners and healers in southern and notably in South Africa. Not only because they play an important role in the culture, even in the 21st century, also because they can bridge the potentially wide gap between ancient beliefs and practices on one side, and modernity on the other, and also because some engage in political matters. I also feel I must write about them because I am personally intrigued by what I’ve seen and heard, not least because I have noticed similarities to what I learn in my training in gestalt therapy.
Imagine a huge, beautiful garden, with lakes, amidst low rolling hills and some higher and rockier mountains lining the horizon – welcome to the Cradle of Humankind! Many of the earliest superlative superlative human fossils have been found here, and what a better place than this to create Nirox Sculpture Park along with a residence for artists. Well, you’d have to open it for concerts and mini-festivals, and they did for the Root Music Concert this past Sunday …
It must have been in 2007 when I first heard of the Fête de la musique, in my then hometown Greifswald. Since it traditionally takes place on 21 June, this is the longest day in the northern hemisphere – quite noticeably so down north in Greifswald. Now in Johannesburg things are different. For one, the FdlM was on 9 June, and of course here days are a bit shorter now, and especially the nights are chillingly cold. After all, we’re 1.700 m above sea level. Thus it makes a lot of sense to have the FdlM during the day, ending rather early at around 9 pm or so (we didn’t stay that long). Newtown Junction, the venue is quite a good choice with a layout that allows for 6 stages and is in a safe area of town. Although the line-up may have lacked big big names, there were some really interesting acts among the performances. My choice of pics gives you an idea.
South Africa is incredibly rich in music, traditional as well as modern, pop, classic and a lot of jazz. So please don’t expect me to offer a comprehensive coverage! What follows is completely based on my taste, with a few extras here and there. Some of the things I skip are incredibly important to people here, for instance gospel music. It fills hours on various tv channels. It’s just not really for me. You won’t find South African hip hop, punk and rock music here either, nor the Boyoyo Boys (perhaps to the dismay of a good friend) and similar music – I’m aware of them, but can’t truly count them as part of my musical experience. However, you’ll find some kwaito, maskanda, jazz and other styles for which the international music market has labels that don’t get more specific than “world”, “international” or “ethnic”. For the varieties of music in South Africa and their history, see this Wikipedia article, or check some blogs such as this one or this one on music in Soweto and Jo’burg. UPDATE: and see my posts on the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland and on the Fête de la musique in Jo’burg.