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Togas and Orgies

by Rob Scher / 28.06.2011

“Greek Mythology” and I’m picturing togas and orgies. At the last minute we decide to lose the togas in favour of warmer attire.
“It’s fine Rob, you’re hairy enough as it is to pull off Greek.” I’m reassured as a friend tries to shove us out the door. With my dream of togas dissolved, I’m beginning to have some serious doubts about the orgy.

We arrive at the Zip Zap Circus Dome, a massive tent that provides an interesting environment for the most recent Balkanology party. It seems we’re either too early or the steep ticket price has limited the attendance. I’m expecting farmyard animals, a cast of colourful characters and fanfare in abundance. Instead there’s a saran-wrapped mechanical chicken and some muscled homoerotic centurions walking around. We decide to hit the bar.

“We have a great deal on vodka and Redbull for only R30,” the bartender happily announces. I forget how much I hate vodka and Redbull and order a round. Surveying the crowd, it seems not too many made much effort to dress-up. That’s until catching sight of Medusa. Medusa has gone to the effort of tying several snakeheads into her hair along with one of particular interest. She informs us the narrow, white cone shaped snake is the source of her power, “It turns men stoned.”


The party starts to pick up a bit. Whether Medusa’s sorcery was the trick or merely the sudden arrival of the fashionably late, it’s starting to feel a lot more like the acropolis. Midway through a conversation with a satyr about the merits of democracy (this didn’t actually happen, I just really wanted to write that sentence), the rhythmic monotony of Balkan electro stops and the night’s entertainment begins in earnest.

The stage is transformed into Disney’s mount Olympus courtesy of some cotton clouds, golden pillars and an “Olympus” sign. The best thing about the stage is the fact that Mr Cat and the Jackal are on it. They burst the seams of the tent as they launch into their set, made up of numbers off their new album, Sins and Siren Songs. Gertjie sings in his usual animated manner, trying his best to not be distracted by the leggy trapeze artist dangling over his head. It’s a welcome change from the DJ sets and really separates this party from the Fiddle East events. The single greatest moment of the evening comes with the arrival of the Nomadic Orchestra to join Mr Cat on stage. It’s a true spectacle to see so many musicians performing together, and collaborations of this nature are far too infrequent. Launching into their dramatized retelling of Noah’s ark, the Nomad’s horns provide the tempestuous backdrop to “The Flood pt. 1 & 2” – Mr. Cat and the Jackal have never sounded better, and then they leave the stage momentarily. The Nomads blast out their brassy Balkan swing to an increasingly enthusiastic crowd as they finish up with the return of the full ensemble of players.


The Kolo Novo Movie Band follow but by that time I’m far more interested in discovering the intricacies of the demon rooster that stares unblinkingly at me with its piercing red orb of an eye from the back of the tent. Upon closer inspection I discover its true form. A hatch opens allowing me access into its belly – a Trojan chicken! Inside I feel a connectedness with my Greek roots, almost imaging myself to be a warrior of Troy awaiting battle – except with less fear of death, and more of the continuing Balkan electro coming out of the speakers – it’s time to go home.

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