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Narcoleptic Blues

by Roger Young, images by Peter Reyneke / 29.06.2010

After about three songs into Machineri’s set a short Arabic looking dude (because “dude” was the only word for him) steps on stage wearing an American flag as a scarf and congratulates us for being a great host country. Sannie stands back sorta incredulous and lets him carry on. The soccer has invaded everything and the crowd at Zula tonight was mostly here for the Ghana win, except of course for the rock n roll boys in the corner with their styled and girly hair. So, anyway it’s a bit weird in front of the stage and the hypnotic simplicity of Machineri’s blues seems, once again, lost on a large section of the crowd who wander away before the cyclical riffs can draw them in.

Machineri’s is a stripped down narcoleptic urging blues, it’s considered and it’s visceral. If you surrender to it’s meditative strains it impacts in the gut; but you have to allow yourself to feel rather than to think about it. Andre’s guitar swings from a bass-like chugging to a psychedelic upward spiral and the drums roll through like a slave train while Sannie stands behind the microphone calmly glancing around the room with her sly Cheshire Cat confidence, rocking side to side with her strat. They have no need for a bass guitar.

Sannie is like a blues muezzin, her rolling soulful drone at once self involved and open hearted. Andre hides behind his hair and five-day beard looking genuinely unkempt from neglect, focusing on the quick changeovers; plucking the high swirling notes to the driving rhythms, like all he knows is this guitar and this music. There is something internal, painful and strangely joyous about their playing; Sannie, her eyes mostly closed, occasionally looking up at the crowd, almost wondering what they’re doing there while she releases her hurt specifically for them, piercing individuals with her eyes. It’s this internal-ness that loses some people; near the end of the set the crowd has thinned considerably, except for those that are deeply into it down front.

Then she puts down her guitar and for one glorious moment jumps around the stage smiling like a child, belting out her soul, Andre clearing the hair from his eyes finally releasing himself, it’s the same grinding blues but it’s now cathartic and inviting and the change in the audience is palpable. I’m thinking, I wish it could all be like this, but when the song finishes and they play their final track, Sannie with her guitar back, you realise that it’s the building up that allows the release. Machineri demand a kind of woozy head bobbing attention, in a scene that may not be able to provide it.

All images © Peter Reyneke.

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