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Pan African Space Station

Space 2: Orbit Path A

by Roger Young, images by Niklas Zimmer / 06.10.2010

It’s Thursday night and I’m in church; near the back as usual. I arrived late to see the Kyle Shepherd Trio at St Georges Cathedral based on the assumption that because the More More More Future gig had started a full hour late on Tuesday, this would as well. The Cathedral is full and dark; Kyle Shepherd has already started. The huge stone columns make it hard to see from the sides, the austerity of the venue makes it hard to walk around to look for a place to sit. I hover at the front, the audience is leaning forward psychically connected to the interplay between Shane Cooper’s throbbing bass and Jonno Sweetman’s drums, with Shepherd’s piano gently urging them forward. I move to the back to sit and drift into the effortless hybrid Cape jazz, with its spaces and its moving from laziness to frenetic, piano melodies returning and returning.

Pan African Space Station

But from where I am, that far back I don’t feel the connection to the soul of the it, I envy the people down front. There seems, to be, just out of my reach, a glowing intensity in the heart of the Cathedral, shining against the dark space vaulting above them. At the back, the melodies are drifting and floaty, the drums seem insubstantial and barely there; the bass penetrates through but doesn’t seem to hang onto anything. I’ve seen/heard Shepherd before (but never in a venue this big) and I’ve always felt somehow plugged in, no matter how noodly he can get. So I go outside and wait for the next performance.

Listen to Kyle Shepherd’s set here.

Dr Philip Tabane and Malombo are nothing my white ass was prepared for. Clean Gibson chords pass through the spaces, minimal, barely progressing, shafts of sunlight in a clear morning, the grass snake percussion behind it barely giving a bed to rest. Tabane plays deceptive simple notes, the malombo drums start up a rhythm and die down, the guitar goes into darker slighter space almost collapsing in on itself. The Doctor is an energetic seer, beginning melodies and then suddenly pulling them to a halt, grinning like some kind of naughty demon. Songs aren’t really songs, they’re shifting tableaus of cowhide beat, clear high notes chugging into grungy experiments, the hand percussion changing and layering. An energy flows through the whole church, from way back I can feel some kind of mystical flow. There is large space between the instruments, even as they break down precisely, as one, through tight swift mood changes.

Pan African Space Station

The Doctor vocally intones gravel notes as his hands come, like fish in the river, from under the wrong side of the guitar, plucking out Zen Master styles. He stands back satisfied, smiling and lets the drums take up a rhythm and then darts back in with a stab of string scratching that turns into a brief twangy plucking. Staccato and distant like electricity bouncing off hills in a too hot summer; Malombo and Tabane switch from being almost a memory of music to right in your face. The Doctor’s impishness, his sticking his face out at the crowd as if to say, “Ha! How’d you like that!” climaxes when he puts his guitar down on the floor, from where I am at the back it looks like he’s playing it with his head, maybe his teeth, but he scratches diminishing chords into the sound of some kind of advanced and broken fax machine of the gods. He stands up and growls some more into the microphone, the drums slink home like some heavy wounded animal. Does it end? I wander out of the Cathedral unsure.

Listen to Dr Philip Tabane and Malombo’s set here.

Later that night Albert Hall is full down front and it’s usual boomy acoustics mean that Georgia Anne Muldrow and Declaime’s Black Panther-lite hip hop is coming across extremely bass heavy. Shaken from the direct connection and playful hypnotics of Tabane I check my program and I see they’re playing in Langa on Saturday, so, thinking it’ll be a better environment to see them in, I zone out and bop along to to the Fugee’s-esque bounce, the evening devolving into whiskey and chatter.

Pan African Space Station

Pan African Space Station

Pan African Space Station

*All images © Niklas Zimmer.

See more PASS coverage here.

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  1. mick says:

    Ta Mister Young and Mahala for covering this hea’s PASS, for all us Northerners who miss its sonic lights. Dr. Tabane – POW! Will never forget my only witnessing of Malombo – me a stoned, smiley-furred teen on Oppi’s Savannah (?) koppie. I was too embryonic to appreciate the Doctor’s ragged flayling chords and moan shuffles, but couldna help sensing I was privy to some sacred shamanic EVENT of sorts.

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  2. Brett says:

    I feel like I just took drugs.

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  3. Brett says:

    Oh I did. Corenza C and some Viral Guard to beat the change of season flu.

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  4. Andy says:

    The Passcast for Imperial Tiger Orchestra feat. Endres Hassen is excellent…

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  5. Goggabees says:

    ‘I feel like I just took drugs.’ – ha! outstanding comment!

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  6. D says:

    Thandiswa at the slave lodge on fri eve was insane….a masterclass in audience and performer energy exchange-the crowd was on parr with the musicians-dont happen every day

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  7. josh says:

    Roger, i love ur work. god damn.

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  8. Graeme Feltham says:

    Roger, your corpulism, your girth makes for a sitting duck with its webbed feet mired in mud. Anyway, cathedral acoustics are such that they brook no dissent – enclosed and spacious and more wood than drifts onto the shore everyday, one feels almost snotfaced from surfing wet sound to even broach a critique. Spaciousness is celebrated everywhere but never as much as the acoustic s of whorls within worlds within cathedrals within whorls conjure up unthinkingly. Simply because it’s a cathedral. Best to get that sound into a studio that knows its stuff and wangle it. Did it once with the bells. ?Bells never sounded better. But raw sound is beyond the conceptual so why, oh why, my dear Wodja Wabbit do you flay us with Rhema-god-wants-you-to-be-prosperous in such a threadbare intangible understanding. Where you be, Wodja, where you be. Food on the table? Rent paid? Sound. CAge. Sound Cage who thinks NY traffic is more beautiful than the splashing of waves. There is something else. And it is terribly, terribly wrong. And it can’t be spoken. In the absence of a fixed self, how does one expound on … anything?

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  9. Graeme Feltham says:

    … and I know all the hair on my arms and at the back of my head would have stood up, trembling …

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  10. Graeme Feltham says:

    Roger says:

    Roger Young
    taking the long way home.

    in a wave of confusion

    “What is there left to say? In this world of ours,
    Where everything has been written and said and thought.
    Sure I could explain all the reasons I have for leaving you.
    Or I could write a list of novels, pile you with books,
    Demarcated in margins where the emotion is relevant.
    Cut together clips from all the films that are this, now, how I feel.
    All is done. All has been said. Our love is so unoriginal.
    So beautiful it was. I have no more words. Its over”

    to begin. Maybe on that day of quiet desperation. When they knew their love was gone? Or on the day when he wrote that note. Or on the day when she discovered that she wanted more than this. The point is there were days. And days of desperation. That was enough. Oh, Sure they had had their days of wine and roses, so to speak (though it was more vodka and heroin than anything else.) Heroin lite mind you, not the heady world of addiction and junkiedom, just the slow dirty fluorescent buzzing of every other weekend, arms scratched to shreds, going to work on Monday irritable. For him that is. She didn’t work, she lay by the pool. He had made partner in an advertising agency soon after they had moved away from the city they met in. Bought a house, there was no need for her to work, yet she ought to do something, shouldn’t she. Anyway these things we must roll out one by one. The point is, there were quiet days of desperation by the pool. There were days staring at the freshly photographed watches lying in their caskets in the studio. There was a day when it began to end. And then it did.

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  11. Graeme Feltham says:

    “Ïf meaning is not a lump of funny dough it must and will be a tyrant” – Who said that? Does it matter?

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  12. the past says:

    what the fuck is up with Graeme?

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  13. Graeme Feltham says:

    who the fuck knows?

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