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Brief Encounter

by Ts'eliso Monaheng / 06.01.2014

The heart had grown fond. After months of forced detention in the city of dreams, I had to appease the spirit (and spirits) by navigating further south where, if the weather forecast was to be trusted, storms were raging uncontrollably. Suddenly, memories of long, wet days spent indoors hiding away from the gushing wind/rain combination circled my mind as I made a priority list of who and what to see while in Cape Town. This city adopted me for five years; it fed me doses of radical idealism across the musical stratosphere; it contributed to my aweh-ness! People, places, things – these are important markers which came to define how I relate to the city.

The desire to reconnect had become unbearable.

Closer to the date, I started hearing about Tagore’s imminent closure. How could it be? Who’d decided upon it? When? I recalled watching The Brother Moves On there one wintery night. The Soul Housing Project created magic in that main room, a compact enclosure which works best when people are heaving, gyrating, or just meditating to the music. And Lwanda. Yes, Lwanda Gogwana played in that space…

Brief Encounter

“How could it be?!” I wondered out loud, perplexed.

Sad as the news was, the musical schedule for the week leading up to the closing night on Sunday rendered a state of depression unfavourable. Tuff gong selectors Ntone and Mighty on Thursday; Louis Moholo with Mandla Mlangeni on Friday; and Jitsvinger the following day, are you kidding me?!

Bra Tebs, Tebogo “Louis” Moholo-Moholo, that vanguard of the avant-garde, was going to have a space-jazz s’camto with tones from Mandla’s galvanizing trumpet, so everything was pashasha like the Blue Notes’ musical chops, word to Chris McGregor’s agile fingers! This ol’ timer comes from a different school of thought altogether; he’s travelled to ‘those’ worlds Sun Ra and his Arkestra spoke of and is still alive to transmit the teachings. All his bra’s are gone – Mongezi Feza died from pneumonia in London; Johnny Dyani collapsed on stage in 1987 due to liver complications, as did Dudu Pukwana three years later. Chris McGregor passed away the same year.

It is said that drummers tend to live longer.

Brief Encounter

DJ Mighty’s just dropped the first record of his space-cadet jazz mzabalazo, and he’s doing some gymnastics in preparation for more vinyl jazzin’. What I’d witnessed, no, what everyone had just witnessed cannot be contained. Bra Louis went octopus on that drumkit! He played in non-linear, all-engulfing and baffling time signatures. His gaze – piercing, drifting, questioning – adjusted and re-adjusted itself according to the ebb and flow of the horn/bass combo he was leading (Sebastian Schuster was on upright bass). With every lick of the snare drum, he caused involuntary spasms to the spirits of those gathered before him. His chops sharpened from endless years of gigging, constructed a pathway for him to swing freer than the very idea of freedom. The old guard and the new breed were in conversation; each party understood and applied the rules of engagement. The music flowed effortlessly.

I step outside as Mighty’s set builds up in order to reflect upon what that I’ve just experienced. A thick, familiar scent lingers in the air. As it permeates, a larger contingent gathers in semi-circular fashion. I walk over to inspect, and to indulge if need be. Moments later, I perch myself against the wall, half-reclining at first, then sitting down on the bench-shaped cement bump protruding out of that wall. Bra Louis walks through to the backyard, surveys the backyard, and takes a seat by my side.

Imagine what it must’ve felt like for this laaitie!

Brief Encounter

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* Images © Ts’eliso Monaheng

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