Mac McKenzie Orchestra :: Live in Joburg

Mac Mckenzie is the Genuine musician. His vision is becoming a reality. In 2002 when we formed the Goema Captains of Cape Town, this is what Mac said, “We are busy putting up the cornerstone for goema as it were. In Brazil, everybody plays Brazilian music. In Cuba, everybody plays Cuban music. It doesn’t matter what colour they are or where their ancestors come from. That is going to happen here, and it is happening. We are the small stream trickling and it is going to come flooding one day. Where the turntablist is playing goema, the guy with a jazz thing, a rock thing, an Afrikaans thing; everybody is eventually going to be a goema musician. I can tell you a lot of beautiful things that happened to me because of playing goema.”

Goema music is the heart and soul of the great Cape Jazz tradition from Abdullah Ibrahim to Kyle Shepherd. And Mac Mckenzie is a most prolific composer of this music, in his youth with The Genuines, in his adult years with Namaqua, in his transformational days with The Goema Captains of Cape Town, in his grounding period with the Cape Town Goema Orchestra and now in his realisation with the Mac Mckenzie Orchestra. Mac Mckenzie has settled the score both in terms of music and the business of music and he is ready to present his greatest work.

This will be a journey. However we will start with Goema Symphony Number One, The Finale. This is an epic piece of one hour and ten minutes in length. It is scored for symphony of 30 pieces, and will be presented on Tuesday evening in a chamber ensemble of 16 pieces. Join the project here.

Mac Mckenzie describes the score as thus:

Goema symphony number one, the finale is one hour and ten minutes long and it tells the story of the meeting of two kinds of music round about the 17th century in the Cape. It starts with an intro written in 7/8 for mouthbows and drums. I presume on collective memory so in the piece I am using the drums that are used in the marching minstrels every year in Cape Town with the Khoisan bow. Then while this music is carrying on there is a mix coming in. And suddenly you hear the violin and the viola’s, the cello’s and the clarinets and then two of them mix in this beautiful 7/8 time signature and then the music is in. It is that part of the piece I call mix, mixing and understanding and enjoying together the two styles. And this goes on and suddenly and then it starts merging with the church sound from Europe. The church sound is moving in on the 7/8 and suddenly it is just the church sound and long … Gregorian Amens… And from there the praying.

The sound starts getting more groovy and then it evolves into a party and that is called Little Party. Little Party is going really nice. We fly right across to some bebop and jazz takes. The music is not locked in time. It is in the collective memory. The party carries on with lovely goema music and bebop jazz breaks and then there is the abrupt sound of the trumpet and a soldiers march. There is an army approaching because in the party people start loving each other, liking each other and making love across colour lines and there is disagreement, fighting, there is romance, murder, there is some huge misunderstandings and there is treachery and all the things that go on in a love story and the army comes to settle the score. Tara tara tara. There is a big army thing. And then there is a skirmish and after that it gets really quiet because the people are tired and recovering from burying the dead. That is a very quiet time and I do that with a cello solo. After the cello solo, it gets really quiet and then there is a protest, people protesting about ‘why isn’t this culture in Europe not leaving yet? Why are they staying? Oh no. Amandla! We don’t want that.’

There was a war and there was killing and the people are not happy and they want equality. There is now by that time, huge inequality. With inequality, the people cry for equality, there is a kind of a toy toy scene and then people are starting to get melancholic about other things and then you hear Indonesian nagtroepe sounds, “ting taring taring taring;” talking about home, because by that time in the Cape, Indonesians were settled, a generation or two ago. We are moving across time. And now we get a typical nag team liedjie. And with the protest and the night marching team I am talking about the people’s consciousness and their complaining about the unfairness that they perceive. And then it is too much for the people to be sad all the time and they have to start thinking about solutions and then there is one song about reconciliation and romance. And then we get a pretty little piece of music with no root in Europe, no root in Africa. That is reconciliation and romance and then finally we get a goema carnival victory. That takes one hour and ten minutes.

That is written for a big orchestra but now because of budget constraints it will be a chamber orchestra which will have 3 violins, 1 viola, 2 cello’s, 2 basses, piano, clarinet, flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, percussion and myself on guitar and I will conduct from the plectrum while playing.

That will be at a venue on Jan Smuts Avenue, 157. The place’s name is MusicWorX, a couple of doors down from the Goodman Gallery. That is on Tuesday night, the 26th of May at 8pm. There’s a concert room at the back of the shop and there are little refreshments, tea and coffee because people who come and listen to that kind of music, they come and they listen and they are done. There is no break, it is one piece of music.

The name of my ensemble is the Mac McKenzie orchestra and this orchestra of mine will play my works exclusively and according to the budget get bigger and smaller but always with the same configuration. The string section, the heart of the orchestra. The string section must get bigger and bigger and two basses and a piano, clarinet, trombone, saxophone, flute, trumpet.

Photo & Article by Struan Douglas via Afribeat.

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