Goema Orchestra :: Agent of Connectivity

For this month’s pair of Cape Town Goema Orchestra performances, I presented an update on Mama Goema and drew attention to the broader activities of the “goema movement.” I touched on the theme of connectivity and the idea of forging an inclusive global sound for the 21st century. I also acknowledged special guests Bongiwe Lusizi of u-Mthwa no Mthwakazi, who saw the show on 8 September, as well as jazz-giant Sathima Benjamin, who attended the 15 September performance. This is how it went:

My involvement with the Cape Town Goema Orchestra began in 2010 with Goema Symphony No. 1, the “happening” that features in the film Mama Goema, which premiered in Cape Town last year. I’m pleased to report that the film was voted best documentary feature at the Tri Continental Human Rights Film Festival in 2011 and has, to the merit of those in and behind the scenes, reached audiences in Portugal, Colombia, Canada, Switzerland and Scotland.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been asked countless times what the film is about. I used to brush these enquiries off by saying that it’s about Cape Town music. If I’m feeling a little cheeky, I say it’s about a shape-shifter from Pleiades who comes to Earth as a punk rocker, reinvents himself as a jazz cat and then decides to be a composer of symphonies. If I’m feeling brave, I say it about goema. But this normally means that I have to spend the next three hours unravelling what the film does more efficiently in 55 minutes.

Nowadays, I say that it’s a film about connectivity. What’s goema? Well, goema is what connectivity sounds like. You see, we used up all the “ubuntu” during the Madiba Years. And we had a good time but now we’re into this stuff that grows in Cape Town. And it’s addictive. But it’s good for you. So it’s Cape Town connectivity but what is Cape Town if not an agent of connectivity on the planet. It’s no coincidence that East meets West in Africa in Cape Town. And no coincidence that what started as a Goema Symphony in 2010 became a Table Bay Concerto in 2011 in is now adrift with the South Atlantic Suite on route to Mali, Serbia and the Eastern Cape tonight, consciously evoking the goema of the 21st century. You can always detect that familiar homecoming sound but tonight’s programme marks goema’s most challenging, expansive and inclusive move ever.

And so, as we look at where we are now, we see Kyle Shepherd connecting with Japan, Ernestine Deane connecting with Germany, Hilton Schilder re-connecting our youth with the music of the bow. We see Achmat Sabera on a South African postage stamp and a Sabera “gummy” on every single continent on the planet. A Goema Roadshow, featuring Hilton Schilder and Achmat Sabera, visited 10 schools from Newlands to Mitchell’s Plain over the last three weeks reminding over 600 learners what Cape Town connectivity sounds like. We also celebrate the third season of the Goema Orchestra with an EP dropped into cyberspace in the hopes that it will reach the hearts via the ears of listeners around the planet.

Photo Credit:  Steve Gordon (www.musicpics.co.za)

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