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:

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Goema Orchestra :: South Atlantic Suite Première

Mac’s back, again! The third concert season of the Cape Town Goema Orchestra takes place on Saturdays 8 and 15 September at the SABC Auditorium in Sea Point. Led by Cape Town’s “goema captain,” Mac McKenzie, the orchestra will perform the première of “The South Atlantic Suite,” McKenzie’s third major orchestral work. “The Suite evokes dormant musical thoughts and practises deeply embedded in the memories of peoples from along the south western coast of Africa and eastern coast of South America, people who share a common ancestry and experiences born out of slavery,” says McKenzie.

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Goema Roadshow :: Photos | Tweets | Press

A brave learner at South Peninsular High School demos the !xaru

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Searching for Sugar Man :: Original Soundtrack (2012)

If you’re drawn to the vitriolic dimension of Rodriguez’s 26-song opus and are tracking reactions to Searching for Sugar Man, you’re probably tempted to respond to the media blitz with a pinch of cynicism. A Wikipedia entry, tweets and a rash of Facebook pages? Tick. Official merch and top-dollar eBay memorabilia? Affirmative. Bandwagoning and profiteering? Maybe, but who the fuck cares? Certainly not Rodriguez. “Fame is fleeting,” is the cold fact that he drops on CNN (video below). It’s his highest profile interview ever. His star has never shone brighter. Yet he responds with an air of cultivated detachment. This is not the man who wrote those songs 40 years ago. He’s even wiser.

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Goema Roadshow :: Orchestra Season Begins

Learners show off their moves as the Goema Roadshow reaches Fairmount Secondary

A goema “roadshow” is visiting schools in and around Cape Town as the third season of the Cape Town Goema Orchestra draws near. The multimedia road-show presentation introduces learners to the music of Cape Town through the lens of diversity, unravelling the myriad of cultural influences that have given the Cape a unique language, unique food and a unique musical flavour. Learners are not only reminded of our city’s living musical traditions in the form of the Klopse, Malay Choirs and Christmas Bands but also get to see how contemporary artists have taken inspiration from the streets to produce Goema Rock, Cape Jazz and even a Goema Orchestra.

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Sugar Man :: Bigger than the King, Stones, Beatles & Batman

You’ve heard every story there is to tell? How about this one? A Swedish guy makes a documentary in 2012 about a 70s folkster from Detroit who returns from obscurity after discovering that he has a large, devoted audience in South Africa. The film culminates in a cathartic 1998 concert marking the musician’s first significant performance in 27 years to an audience who thought that he had died! The film is critically acclaimed and makes big waves in the US and the UK but, and here’s the rub, nobody in South Africa knows that it exists!

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Hilton Schilder :: Wikkelspies Padskou Jam

Hilton Schilder and Bien Petersen with guest Tony Cedras at iBuyambo Music & Art Exhibition Centre in Cape Town. This jam combines cajon, bows, trumpet and voice and sees Schilder workshopping an experiment in what he describes as “single-string technology” for his Wikkelspies Padskou. Plans to take this travelling bow show on the road and being conceived and will include the unveiling of a new instrument designed by Petersen and Schilder dubbed the wikkelspies (or “shake-spear” as Schilder will cunningly translate its Afrikaans name for you).

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At DIFF :: Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man | Malik Bendjellou | Sweden, United Kingdom | 2012 | 85min

Many attempts have been made to dramatise the incredible shift in global consciousness that came about when the Internet started performing its magic in the mid-90s; when we discovered ourselves across time and space and realised that we were seeing ourselves in each other’s songs; when fiction was replaced by facts that were better than fiction. Few of these attempts can match the true story of an artifact that lost contact with its mothership and was orphaned on a distant planet where it stirred and amused the locals and provoked fantasies about its unknown origin until a technology was devised that would open a line of contact with its creator and reconcile imagination with reality.

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At Encounters :: Under African Skies

Under African Skies | Joe Berlinger | USA | 2011 | 102min

Eminently likeable interviewees including Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, Whoopi Goldberg and David Byrne extol the virtues of Paul Simon’s landmark 1986 worldbeat classic Graceland while the diminutive songwriter assembles his even more endearing South African collaborators Ray Phiri, Bakithi Kumalo, Isaac Mtshali, Joseph Shabalala and Barney Rachabane (among aothers) for a 25th anniversary gig in Joburg that, apart from the 702 shout-out in the trailer above, happened seemingly as stealthily as Simon’s visit back in the 80s. At the heart of the film lies a congenial debate between Simon and former Artists Against Apartheid activist turned TV personality Dali Tambo concerning the sanctity of cultural sanctions in which Simon gibes the sanctimony of the ANC concerning politics and the arts by saying “you’re going fuck the artists like all kinds of governments.” Tambo, sporting Daliesque whiskers,  holds the party line but instigates a conciliatory hug.

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At Encounters :: The African Cypher

The African Cypher | Brian Little | South Africa | 2012 | 89min

“W-O-W!” It’s a line from the film and a fair description of what Brian Little has achieved with his sophomore feature-length documentary, The African Cypher. Like its predecessor Fokofpolisiekar: Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do (2009),  the film glazes its subject in hyper-realism and sees Fly on the Wall mapping out territory at the intersection of reality TV and creative documentary. The film is essentially a mix-tape of dynamic dance sequences filmed on location and bathed in epic audio that culminates in a televisual dance-off at the Red Bull Beat Battle. The narrative is driven by less remarkable interviews touching on identity/redemption/salvation through dance but pulls off a turn-around crescendo with a sublime scene that taps into the universal truth of friendship and loyalty. While the word “cypher” in the film’s title refers to a circle of dancers, it also speaks of our voyeuristic compulsion to posit meaning. Although the ethnographic dimension of The African Cypher expresses itself most openly through the director’s voice-overs, the film operates in documentary territory that is unashamedly less interested in observation than cultivated subjectivity.

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