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A Brother Retrospective

by Ts’eliso Monaheng / 29.11.2012

Over 10 days in November, I got to be a part of The Brother Moves On express, albeit more as an observer than a participant. I witnessed their delayed-yet-intense gig at the Mahogany Room, formed part of the audience that got to see them at Tagore’s in Obz, dragged myself, battered and bruised, to Langa where Stopnoncents, an instrumental subset of the collective, joined Bokani Dyer, Shane Cooper and Lee Thompson for a re-imagining of old-school kwaito classics at Guga S’thebe.

I then took sporadic breaks during which I attended workshops at the Mahogany Room. Siya gave a presentation during a session termed ‘the music of performance’ where he shifted in and out of stream of consciousness-style narratives and vocalised segments in which some of the band members harmonised with him.

Band-watching antics continued at the inaugural Cape Town World Music Festival. The band had been accused of selling out by agreeing to perform; something to do with how the Israeli government paid for one of the invited band’s tickets, and the inherent baggage that gesture carries (Israel vs Palestine, the intifada, apartheid, zionism, etc). I witnessed as they, alongside brothers in arms Damascus and Bateleur, annihilated a very full Waiting Room on their last Cape Town gig.

I learnt two things: their sets change a lot, and frontman Siya always has something on his mind – from Jacob Zuma to Palestine to gay bashing gone wrong.

A spare-of-the-moment decision led me to Jozi last Thursday night where they played the last gig of their tour. This is a personal account of what happened over this time…

Mahogany Room: Thursday. It’s 11pm; we’ve been waiting for TBMO for 45 mins. Guitarist Raytheon Moorvan is on stage. Snuggled comfortably in between a maroon blanket with yellowish stripes is his fx pedal, which he proceeds to take out. The deejay is spinning a mixture of old school kwaito, some house beats, and anything which finds itself entangled in-between. People who were hitherto standing outside start streaming in. It is going to be a good night.

Tagore’s: Obz is a quaint little place, with narrow streets and graffiti in ample supply. It is not possible to be at this venue and not feel robbed of personal space, but the calibre of acts on offer always seems to make it worthwhile. The Brother Moves On are on the bill, and I spot some faces from the Mahogany gig. Daps get exchanged, we wallow in the music and go home satisfied.

Cape Town World Music Festival: someone should’ve told BDS (Boycott. Divestment. Sanctions) South Africa that The Brother do not bullshit (“We are not getting onto stage with Isreal and feel it’s real Bono-like to engage with politics in this manner,” read an e-mail exchange between the band and artist Ewok). It is apparent in Siya’s mood as the band hop onto the stage; initially cold and calculated, but he quickly warms up to the audience. There is too much on their mind, a lot to prove. Over the past year, they have fared well on festival stages such as Rocking the Daisies and Bushfire. This is clearly no different, they are out to claim their due respect. Siya’s now-signature smile, Raytheon’s incessant guitar… this is a collective quickly gaining a following from varied sectors of South African society. Zaki Ibrahim announces publicly during her appearance that they are her favourite band at the moment.

Kitcheners: The venue is tighter, shoulders rest against each other. The music is not stagnant – constant movement. The Brother moves and shoves heads head – first into Stopnoncents’ progressive jazz-rock melodrama. Band of brothers. An experiment in motion, an exploration of the axis where feeling and thought interchange. There was a spate of guitar thefts; three in the period of one week. The Brother Moves On weren’t spared, and Stopnoncents wrote a song about it. “If you tweet us the name, that’d be great” said Zweli Mthembu of the as-yet-untitled composition. Tonight’s issue is about albums and record deals. “When is the album coming? When are you guys signing a record deal?” says Siya mockingly. Then the energy gets transformed. The lights go dim, a skank, a breakdown, unison. A misplaced drumkick, glitches. Ubhut’uyahambaaaa!!!

*All images pilfered from The Brother Moves On’s Facebook Page.

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