My Name is Jonasby Mahala High Five Brigade / 29.08.2013
A lot of people leave Durban in search of greener pastures. Some come back, others never do… but Jonas Barausse is one of those cats who has never left. Not even for a stint overseas. All he thinks about is making Durban a better place, representing it, making the scene better, staying put. He hates it when people rubbish Poison City! He takes it personally.
Interpret Durban is really one of the coolest events of the year. And it’s simple. Celebrate Durban. Reward the artists. Party in the city hall.
Jonas and his partners, Rich Powell and Sthembiso Mbonambi are the owners of Street Scene. A proudly Ethikwini tourism and events venture. They also run the Durban Sandcastle competition, in conjunction with Gabriella Peppas of Intertwine, which is also one of the city’s finest events.
You might also recognise Jonas from his role as the frontman of the LA ELS. A band Mahala and many others, seemingly, love to hate. But he’s super keen and keeps trooping nevertheless. He’s started a new band called Mickey Burns…. they’re recording some music and will be launching soon.
Interpret Durban is the one local event everyone seems to genuinely look forward to; a chance to party in this ancient building normally occupied be bureaucrats and aristocrats. It makes the youth feel kind of important and clandestine at the same time… like “fuck” what are us vagabonds doing here. So we thought it’d be a good time to catch up with Jonas and find out what’s in store this Saturday night.
MAHALA: What is Interpret Durban all about?
Jonas Barausse: Interpret Durban is a multi discipline art contest culminating in a night of prize giving, exhibitions, live music and alcohol. In other words a party.
What’s your day job?
I am one of three owners of Street Scene, we’re atypical tours and events company based in the 031.
How did you come up with the idea of Interpret Durban and why is it, in your view, necessary?
Interpret Durban has been running for 4 years. It was born with the idea of showcasing Durban talent and shining a spotlight on the city itself. I don’t know if I could back-up that anything in this life is really necessary outside of shelter, food and probably music, but I reckon why we believe Interpret Durban is important is because it offers a platform. And that to a large extent is why we came up with it. Back then Street Scene focused exclusively on tours and showing people the Durban we loved, not the touristy side, the generally grittier and more colourful side. At that stage, as a tour company, our focus was on waking Durban up to how much the city had to offer. On overcoming preconceptions and getting stuck into the 031. However we soon realised that there was a lot to the city that simply didn’t exist on an everyday tourism level that we could bring people to. Stuff like music and art. For that you needed a platform. And that is what (after partnering with Intertwine) we created Interpret Durban for, to offer a platform for Durban to see itself. Since then like all things, it has grown with us. It’s now not such a for Durban, by Durban and from Durban vibe. Interpret Durban 4 is more about offering people the opportunity to reflect a little on one part of the nation. The Durban part.
You’ve been described as something of a Durban zealot. What is it about Poison City that moves you to put on an event like Interpret Durban? And what is it about Durban that creative people often feel that they have to pursue their careers elsewhere?
A zealot huh? Wow my folks would be so proud. I don’t think I’m zealous, perhaps passionate. I’m not oblivious to the cities shortfalls. Nor do I think the sun shines out her ass. It’s a city like any other. Just so happens she’s my city. And she’s a beautifully filthy underdog with potential to be a lot more than she is today. And I think personally that is what drives me. The potential I see in her, and the chance of being a part of that potential. It’s exciting. It’s a bar brawl. It’s a fight you bring a knuckleduster to. You know? I reckon if you can make it in Durban in whatever field you choose, the rest of the country is that much easier. And perhaps that is why we lose so much of our creative talent to other cities. Cause spending your time fighting isn’t for everyone. Hell I don’t know if it will last forever, but right now the challenge excites me and I reckon I got a good couple rounds left in me. I don’t judge the ones who leave. You mourn their loss, but then you pick up a bar stool and get stuck back into the fray.
Can people from JHB, CT and beyond also Interpret Durban? How?
Sure you can, or rather you could, entries closed on the 26th August. We got those crazy fiends from Springleap involved this year. With their database of national designers and artists we were for the first time really able to open the design element of the contest up nationally. Something that started this year but that we are defiantly keen to grow in the years to come.
What’s Durban’s vibe?
Yoh, beats me. I seldom know what my own vibe is, so it’s hard to pigeon hole an entire city. But you stick a gun in my mouth and force an answer out of me I’ll probably mumble “slip-slops”.
What can one expect from Interpret Durban this year? Give us the highlights reel. Sell it to us.
The venue is a 103 year old neo-Baroque-style city hall with a monstrous line up, free shuttle, epic art exhibitions, craft beer on tap and the theme is Concrete Circus. Visually it’s going to be eye porn and with pre-event tickets going at R50, its cheaper than a six pack and a box of tens. How much selling do you really need?
2 most exciting things to do in Durban right now?
2.Indulging in epic coffee.
2 kakkest things about Durban right now?
1)Street beggars all becoming zombies. As a fan of zombies I find they’re just not taking their roles seriously enough.
2) I reckon Goundens has changed their mutton bunny chef. It’s just not the same.
What has Durban got that Jozi and Cape Town could never have?
Who is Durban’s most underrated?
I think musically Durban has had some acts in the past that should have taken over South Africa without breaking a sweat. Personally I reckon trying to explain negative space would be easier than understanding why acts like Big Idea and musicians like Aiden Cornhill aren’t known by the majority of people in this country yet Snotkop has a nationwide following. Blows my mind man.
How do you feel about all these Durbanites who live and ply their trades in the bigger cities?
Best of luck to them. Loads of my mates have done just that. They’re still just as epic humans as when they were here only now other cities are that much more awesome for having them. Jozi and CT got cool off 031 blood… said the Zealot.
Ok back to Interpret Durban, what act are you personally most keen to see play?
It’s a massively close call but I think it would have to be Felix Laband. Personally I have never seen him before but hearing how everyone’s been buzzing about him, I think we are in for one uppercut of awesome come Saturday.
Anything else you would like to say?
I wish I was a little bit taller.
* Images within the text © Luca Barausse. Gallery of Mook painting the ID4 Mural © Samora Chapman