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Heavyweight Sounds

Heavyweight Sounds

by Andy Davis / 06.04.2010

There’s something weird about the stage at Kirstenbosch, built as it is on an incline with that weird trench in front. It’s not really conducive for a good ol’ skop in front of the speakers. You either stand in the trench at an angle, diagonally, or on the lawn looking straight onto the stage but sloping down and leaning back.

Then the gigs have to finish by seven thirty so as not to upset Kirstenbosch’s uppity, well-heeled neighbours, but they only begin at 17h30, which gives the crowd precious little time to get into the swing of things, especially on a night like Sunday when there was so much talent condensed into just a 2 hour set. Gang of Instrumentals hardly ever gig down in Cape Town and the same can be said of Tumi Molekane, then you add the vocal talents of Zaki Ibrahim and the journeyman Mzanzi reggae of Tidal Waves and you’ll soon realise that a mere 2 hour gig was always going to set the crowd up for disappointment.

Tumi Molekane walks the stage

Then add some seriously mediocre to downright shoddy sound management. It’s not like the equipment was substandard. Everyone knows that the sound rig for the Kirstenbosch concert series is top notch, considering it’s bankrolled by one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa – but the sound was really below average… I mean how can the two principal vocalists in Tidal Waves, the core around which this particular show was constructed, not be properly heard while all the MCs had their mics turned up too loud? That’s just plain amateurism right there. But these guys are not amateurs. So what’s the real reason. Disinterest? Arrogance? A lack of understanding of the band’s dynamics? As a punter, who cares. The end result is the same. It brings the whole vibe of the concert crashing down. Especially when what we’re seeing is a unique, once off collaboration between four of South Africa’s most exciting and interesting musical acts. Frankly, it’s a bloody disgrace!

Trench Town Rocks

But despite the weird angle of the stage, the sub-par sound engineering and the time constraints, the sheer energy of what was happening on stage propelled this gig forward. In fact it’s a testament to how good these bands are that they were able to overcome these obstacles. There was so much momentum created with all these guys co-operating on each other’s joints, it was infectious, and what started off slowly with The Gang of Instrumentals and Tumi belting out a few of their hits to a digital backing track, soon ramped up when Tidal Waves took the stage and the collaborations began. The crowd was treated to a dub version of TGI’s big hit “My Number One” that got the crowd skanking on their picnic blankets and roll-bouncing down the hilll.

The Gang of Instrumentals

Tumi then took to the stage and mashed up a version of “Villages and Malls” with Tidal Waves and Zaki Ibrahim singing the hook. That’s a heavyweight sound right there, especially with the Tidals on rhythm and Zaki singing the french chorus.

What's an African to do now?

Try this lyric check:
“So what’s an African to do now? / Get up out the zoo but still living with a tumour / Out the ghetto for a few months / New style, new car, GEAR shift into neutral / Ian’t no purpose in this hoo-ha / But when his talk need a walk, you the shoe size / The puma fat cat is on whose side? / Not sure so we settle for the Zuma.”

Tumi is right on point at the moment, his latest solo album Whole Worlds is full of deep, personal and political rhymes that position him at the forefront of what you could call, “conscious South African hip hop”. Pity then, that he spends most of his time entertaining the French. If you don’t know already, Tumi is a much bigger star in France than back home in Africa. And with a family to feed, that’s the market he rocks most regularly. In fact, with his band the Volume, he’s on his way tonight, to play some gigs and shoot a cover for MondoMix, a French music magazine, in Dakar, Senegal.

Jaco and Zakes mashing

Next up Tidal Waves belted out a version of “Rapolotiki” a song about the endemic corruption we face everyday in South Africa, a translation of the chorus: “Rapolotiki o jele tiki” (a politician ate all the money). In between each verse Tumi delivered a lyrical tirade on the current spate of feeding trough politics, BEE capitalism and tendepreneurship that so beset our politics right now. And I’m not just talking about one series of repeated rhyming couplets here. He wrote and delivered 4 separate verses in between and mashed up in and alongside Tidal Waves’ anti-corruption hit.

Finally The Gang Bounced back on stage with Tumi and Zaki to a total reworking of the Tidal Waves anti-consumerist anthem, “Money” with all the different players dropping rhymes and pushing the sound bigger and wider. It was a unique moment… A united front of South Africa’s finest original reggae, hip hop and pop acts all joining forces on a song about the evils of rampant capitalism, to people and the planet. It was obviously a theme that cut close to the bone for all of them, struggling as they are to tread water in the financial drain of the South African music industry. And the gig echoed that. The irony was not lost that, perhaps one of Cape Town’s most representative crowds, a truly diverse selection of all hues of the rainbow nation, living it up on borrowed time, in a botanical garden surrounded by plush suburbs occupied by the usual suspects; privileged, conservative and largely white. By 19h30 the hammer came down. “Thanks for playing. Now fokof huis toe! The residents can’t hear Carte Blanche over all that bass.”

Tumi basks in the fan-love

In the parking lot, as The Gang, Tumi and Tidal Waves pack their hire cars and prepare to race back to the airport for their 9 o clock flight back to Jozi, and people trickle like water down the hill and back into their lives, Jess asks a poignant question. “What are you guys going to do when you’re rich and famous?” Sam from Tidal Waves laughs. “You’re going to see a very different Sam!” He smiles. “I won’t even talk to you guys.” And everyone laughs.

Charlie shoots his bass into space

Chilling in the garden

Crowds lean into the gig

Sharing da love

All images © Andy Davis

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  1. Dylan says:

    Tumi is shaped like a pear.

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  2. Andy says:

    thanks for the surface engagement… not really.

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  3. Don Dada says:

    if you are in a band and don’t travel with your sound engineer – in this country you are setting yourself up for failure and embarrassment – It’s SO KAK for the band and the audience, for example, Soil and Pimp’s show at the Jazz fest this weekend – the saxophonist had no sound till
    halfway through the second song – the mense were like WTF? why do we soundcheck when some half deaf doos at the front of house desk does’nt give a fuck about you? Iv’e performed at some pretty big shows locally and internationally and have never been more dissapointed than when we play at home – i can count on 1 hand the engineers that i will work with in SA, in Holland for example every little hole in the wall club or bar has the best engineers working there.
    I challenge companies like Gear House to prove me wrong, when you confront them they blame you or some dodgy cable – fuck that!

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  4. Andy says:

    Fuck that! Straight up Don Dada… I mean it’s like the sound engineers just don’t give a shit. And they’re not too keen to let someone else drive their rig, either. But then they don’t know the bands, don’t know the sound or the songs and just fuck it up for everyone. So kak.

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  5. Jess says:

    This was such an epic gig, and really hit home to the hearts of everyone in attendance. Love it when South Africa’s creative’s make the most sense of our current political, social and economic climate – would listen to what they have to say anyday, forget the political bla bla bla who aren’t walking their talk. More Fire!

    Thanks for a beautifully unique performance, supremely rendered and delivered with heart.

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  6. Wow says:

    I loved how the Soil n Pimp sax player didnt take it lying down-i was right there when he manhandled the video guy out the way and marched past one of the techs spewing fire -and then watched in amazement as he grabbed one of the vocal mikes and jammed through that until his own tech could hook him up again…. shit that was inspiring-but i thought the sound was weird for all the shows i saw at the bassline stage-during blk jks set the sound died at the peak of their set -like at EXACTLY the peak -it was a massive setback for the set – another thing is the jazzfest flies in these great acts like soil n pimp and brooklyn funk essentials that are not your standard jazz bands-big bands that travel half way across the world and then theres like 100 people watching…..wat a waste -they should create a seperate entrance and charge people like R100 or something and fill the place up -anyways big ups to the tidal waves and friends

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  7. Comment says:

    The sound guys at Kbosch are good. I have worked with them many times. They do not know every bands unique sound. An engineer should travel with the bands. Having said that- The industry in SA is messed up. International bands get airtime- local bands, who are not rock bands, get no play. We have a rich tapestry of sound in SA which is ignored by radio stations such as 5FM etc. They would rather play Lagy Gaga or something more dimwhitted. The nett result is that bands without a radio hit are paid next to nothing to play and cannot afford to travel with an engineer.

    My next gripe is that besides the lack of support from local radio, we have awesome promoters in SA, trying to grow the scene. However venues are a huge problem. Neighbours are not tollerant and shut every potential concert down. Coke Fest is out of town- Shut down by kenilworth rate payers. Concerts for a Cause is battling to happen again- A charity gig for 4hours- during the day, for heavens sake- The Cape Town Festival has had only negativety from neighbours. Promoters put themselves at great risk only to be devastated. When there is a gig that happens as a showcase to the world- The opening of the World Cup- The orginisors bring in International artists and play some cheesy local rock band. With all the talent we have here- something just does not add up.

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  8. Andy says:

    The sound guys at Kirstenbosch on Sunday were arrogant buffoons. IMHO.

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  9. Matt Suttner says:

    Thats stage setup does look very awkward, as does the sound system, it’s stacked to get wide coverage… no thought given to fills for people *gasp* dancing at the front.

    Completely devoid of any lighting?

    5:30 – 7:30? Was this a free show?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I was at that gig and I can tell you that I thought the band and guest artists seemed totally under-rehearsed.

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  11. jezebel says:

    uh.. they were jamming.

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  12. yessai says:

    A bad workman always blames his tools. Blame the sound engineer for a KAK GIG. THE BAND CAN NEVER BE KAK.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree- Marcell and Rodger are awesome engineers. I work with them a lot. They are defs not arrogant. I think the artists let themselves down.

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  14. Andy says:

    kak man… you couldn’t hear the band’s two vocalists. They were on stage, singing their lungs out. That’s a sound engineer issue plain and simple!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Mr Andy. Do you know anything about live concert sound? There is a limited sound check time at Kirtstenbosch, because, once again of the neighbours. I was there the whole day on Sunday. A shitty cold day. There wasn’t even alot of people at this kak gig.
    The BANDS and engineers were HAPPY with the sound check. The artists went of drinking and getting high. All good, just waited for the show to begin.
    Ask yourself where did you sit in the crowd? Probably in front of the subs, thats why you coudnt year the vocals, you poes.
    Like anonymous said. I dont give a shit who the artists is, this time they were not prepared. They are supposed to know their shit on stage. But the vocals sounded very different to the souncheck vocals. Probably cause they got excited and started screaming. Is this a engineers or bands problem?
    Any show- does not matter where in the world, goes 50/50 between a artist and engineer. The engineers can’t fucking do everything. A show must be planned carefully and the organisation must be well. A good relationship between the band and engineers and the organisors of the gig will help for a better, smoother gig. Things would not happen on the spur of the moment.
    So please ma Andy poes- go fuck yourself.

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  16. Andy says:

    Jeez Anonymous why not get all personal and start throwing insults, that’s really going to help. But I can see you don’t really want to debate this. You just want to have your say and throw insults. Are you one of the sound engineers, perhaps? Did I hurt your feelings when I called you out on the kak job you did at one of the most exciting SA music collaborations of the year?

    For your info, I moved around throughout the set. From the top of the hill, to the middle and all the way down in front of the stage, both sides. You couldn’t hear the Tidal Waves vocalists from anywhere, and the MCs were too loud.

    Engineers aren’t expected to do everything, just deliver the “right” sound to the audience and let the bands do their thing. That means knowing that Tidal Waves has two LEAD vocalists and adjusting their mics accordingly. As far as I could tell the Tidal Waves vocalist mics were set to the level of backing singers.

    And FYI I heard a couple of guys from the bands complaining about the stage sound. I dunno if you can blame the band for that too? This is where i get to call you a poes. But I won’t.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, I was not an engineer. U talkn bout MC’s. There was only one as far as I could remember. Saying a few words before and after the show. For me the vocals sounded fine through the whole gig. The plan of the show was cool. But once again, the artists should prepare better for a collaberation. Mayb u should attend more of the summer sunset concerts.

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  18. comment says:

    Good to see you guys are sooo serious and passionate about things. To me this is an idustry problem. The venue- The only outside one that can really be used regularly in CT is @#$$ stricktly governed because of the neighbours- There is very limited time to sound check- The bands dont have their own engineers-Can’t afford them. because of my previous comments above- NO Support from local radio etc. The industry here is growing up, but slowly. There are huge problems in the SA music scene which have to be addressed.
    The sound is limited at K bosch. You guys talk of front fills. Any more sound and the already pissed off up their own arse neighbours- will shut K bosch down- I have this info from a good source.

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  19. Matt Suttner says:

    Actually front fills will do a lot to reduce the overall amount of sound necessary, the towers you can see in the photo above look like they’re too high (I stand under correction, I’ve never been to a show there). If the speaker stacks were lower (in this application), and more concentrated on the actual partygoers, you would need less volume. This setup looks like it is meant for people picnicking and listening to jazz, not much thought has been given to the people standing at the front. The higher a speaker stack is, the further it throws, hence the complaints.

    I realize I sound like a nerd now so I will stop 😉

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  20. Andy says:

    MC or emcee, hip hop dude with a mic and a backing track… there was Tumi with Zaki Ibrahim singing back up with him, and the three people from Gang of Instrumentals. Those are MCs. That douche who tried to get the crowd to give Old Mutual a round of applause at the end – WTF? – was a waste of time, space and money.

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  21. comment says:

    Hey Matt,
    I’m no authority on sound, but generally K bosch has to cater for a full house. This is why the sound is flown. As mentioned- there is a huge compromise regarding sound versus neighbours. If sound was no issue, there would be around 48 boxes in that venue to do a fantastic job. It will never happen, so sound will always be compromised. Considering this and the fact that artists are given a raw deal in SA- Hence no travelling engineers- I think the guys at KBosch, week in and week out- do a fantastic job, considering that they cannot be expected to know every band and considering that they are compromised from the word go. They do the best job that they can- give them a break!!

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  22. Matt Suttner says:

    Dear Mr Guy

    Do you think TWO exclamation marks were necessary at the end of your post?

    Andy, seems like your’e running a forum for disgruntled sound engineers here. 🙂

    Just adding my 2 cents based on the photos. I did not say the engineers at K bosch were crap, but for the record, when *good* sound engineers do the “best they can” then no one notices the sound, which means, there wouldn’t be a thread like this. Just saying.

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  23. Mr Green says:

    Don’t all those people damage natures carpet…the grass. Not cool. Not cool at all. At least the sound engineers were thinking about the birdies and kept the noise levels down.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    Hey Andy

    Instead of whining, why didn’t you just go and tell the engineer (while the show was going…duh) in a friendly way that you thought the vocals were too soft in your opinion. It seems pointless moaning about it afterwards!!?? Nothing can be done about it now!

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  25. Andy says:

    have you, as some random crowd member, ever attempted to talk to a sound engineer during a set? Just asking

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  26. Anonymous says:

    If you never spoke to them- how do you know they were arrogant???

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Hahahahahaha. U guys are funny. So what do you think of the political situatition in SA?

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  28. Matt Suttner says:

    Omg you people are retarted.

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