The Cat in a Hatby Andrei Van Wyk, images by Paris Brummer / 07.03.2011
Fluorescent lights hit me driving over the Nelson Mandela Bridge. The roads may be empty but the sidewalks are saturated with hobos. We’re lost but Paris has a GPS application on her phone and she finally gets us to the legendary Bassline, a venue that’s played hosted to all the great South African acts. Car guards appear. A guy with grey hair and a luminous vest says we can trust him.
Inside is empty but filling up as everyone smoking questionable substances outside filters back in. Paris walks around testing the lighting and taking pictures. And we wait for the opening act, then realize he’s been on the entire time. Kid Fonque blends hip hop and electro, with tight remixes of The Roots and Mos Def, and I find myself respecting the the precision of his segues and the addictive rightness of his beats. But shame man, few notice, and his set remains background noise.
Then an Asian dude wearing a sly hat and a bass guitar drifts onstage. Sean Ou Tim AKA Mr. Sakitumi has worked with Max Normal and Lark and is a genuine musical force, not only in local hip hop, but in IDM, electro and rock. A multi-instrumentalist, Sakitumi slings blistering electronic synth bolts that fizz at you like a swarm of bees. Hard beats shudder the floor as his bass lines kick in and few local acts make better use of samples and audio manipulation. Seeing him live means getting to watch him dance like a Hello Kitty doll on automatic. Worth the admission alone. He gets a standing ovation. Sakitumi!
A shy young woman arrives onstage. Joy Frempong’s stagename is ‘Oy’ and she’s a Swiss-Ghanaian musician fresh from playing Soweto the night before. She initially comes across as a low key folk player but her sweet melodic thing turns into attack with pumping staccato riffs and vocal jabs. Oy calls what she does “Freak-o-Hop” spanning slam poetry, nu-Jazz and glam pop to create a demented sound. She uses Midi-activated dolls, children’s toys and vocal manipulation to break apart sounds from clinking glass to meditative breathing. Oy’s weirdness is still bouncing off the walls when João Orecchia steps up to the mic.
The electronica legend strikes me as arrogant. He takes forever to set up making us edgy and irritated. And it looks like he’s lost us before he’s begun. Uninterested conversation continues into his set. Orecchia cannot break through the atmosphere here at Bassline. Watching him, with Mpumi and Tshepang from Blk Jks, try win us back makes me warm to him again. There’s an integrity to the music, an undeniable feel and skill, as Orecchia flips through his endless array of extended riffs and melody lines, all underlaid by smart electronic squiggles and loops. Music this good ought to turn a crowd but I look around and the catchword is inebriation. People are too pissed to care.
The night is done and its time to leave. Walking to my car, I write ‘good’ in my notebook. Which isn’t bad right? The sky is lighter and pale street lamps on tarred roads look like spilled milk leading us home.
*All images © Paris Brummer.