Monday, November 23

Johnny Clegg at Kirstenbosch

Some may remember passing mentions of the individual known as Johnny Clegg. He plays World Music, particularly, a meld of Zulu traditions with European styles (like Celtic). He's a pretty sweet guy, making good music and pissing off the Apartheid regimes of the 80's by playing interracial music with an interracial band featuring lots of protest songs.

Every summer, the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch holds a series of sunset concerts. Clegg opened for this year's season. Clegg was the first musical act I was introduced to when I arrived, and I have quickly become a fan. I've been to Kirstenbosch before, and it is a picturesque garden to be sure. However, I've never been for a concert, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
fucking ass hell I fucking hate lawn concerts so fucking much
 Shit! I hate sit-down-picnic-lawn concerts. I despise them more than life itself.

Please allow me to have a brief bit of your time to expand this hatred into one of my traditional rants. Premise: lawn concerts suck. Why do I think lawn concerts suck? Oh, let me tell you.

Firstly, if you don't realize it is a lawn concert, you also do not realize that everyone gets there early and sets up their huge blankets, propped chairs, and braai, because that's the only way to maximize your ability to be a huge asshole and take up as much prime space as possible. By the time I arrived (an hour before the start) there was not a speck of green grass showing under the blankets.

Secondly, because they've gone to all the trouble noted above, everyone just sits there the whole concert. By the end, people finally got into things and stood up. I think that most of them would have rather been sitting, but enough people were standing and blocking the view that critical mass was achieved and the chain reaction carried them all from there. However, once they began to stand, there was nothing to do but dance awkwardly in place. No pit, no mingling, no sense of... togetherness. This seems sort of important for the style and meaning of Johnny Clegg's music. And sure, I'm a little spoiled from being raised on Flogging Molly concerts.

Thirdly, everyone is a cut-throat about their space. In a pit, people are cut-throat as well, but there is no personal space and everyone knows that. In a pit, its an aggressive type of cut-throat; on the lawn, it is passive-aggressive. Everyone has some agenda or explanation to act unfriendly, whether it be kids or age or just longtime fandom and devotion. They will excuse away everything in the most lighthearted fashions, whereas in a pit, the word choice sounds more like "No, now stop pushing us, asshole."

Luckily for me I have been to enough concerts and understand how to best channel my own rage, so I did fine for myself. I sat myself down by the sidewalk and leaned up against a comfortable post. In exchange for finding a little extra room next to me to fit a kind Italian couple, I was offered a pad to sit on, and a glass of wine. This was my view of the stage:
this was a damn good view (below 85% of the audience) when some jackass wasn't choosing directly in front of me to dance with his fucking kids
..and that's all the pictures you get to see because someone involved with this concert forbid us to take pictures of the stage while the band was playing.

Thus far into the post, the setting has unfortunately overshadowed the music. This is because wild condemnation is much more interesting than thoughtful praise. And, that is all I've got for Mr. Clegg, I'm afraid. The music was great. Clegg had a great stage presence during and between songs - maybe all the South Africans knew the gist of his stories, but to an outsider they were quite thrilling and enlightening. I especially liked the strong saxophone element. I don't care what those darn critics say - the 80's got that right.

Anyway, here are some sample videos of the band:

This last clip is from a special concert in rememberance Nelson Mandela's decades long imprisonment on Robben's Island. My own story of the Robben's Island prison is interesting... and I haven't even been there yet! The tale itself ought to wait for that...

So the music was great, and despite being a lawn concert, I think I made the most of it.

Finally, I'd like to note my... numb surprise at the composition of the audience. It was about the same as the Daisies festival. This was interracial fusion music, but it was a bit depressingly white. For me, the most interesting guy in the audience was one of the ushers, a diminutive black fellow, who I could see soundlessly singing along with the lyrics while moving back and forth, directing people and keeping a an eye out.


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