We went to see the South African "musical sensation" Gazelle down at the Assembly the other night, and it was quite a blast. My encounter with Gazelle began many months ago, back at the Daisies festival. Let me read to you from the info booklet:
An experiment with electronic bedroom music led Gazelle to discover a fresh mix of reggae dub and electro sound, leading the African music renaissance.
At Daisies, I didn't manage to see Gazelle, at least not performing. He went on at midnight on Saturday, and there was no way I was staying up that late. According to the people I talked to at the festival, he was the odd fellow wandering around the whole time in a leopard print jumpsuit. Hmmm. They didn't have any better idea how to describe his music, though, so I remained in the dark.
Later, I spoke to some other South African about the music scene down here, and Gazelle came up. "What is his music actually like?" I asked them. The best they could manage was that it was like Funkadelic. Well, I thought, I have seen George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars live, and that was pretty bumpin, so maybe this Gazelle fellow will be alright.
Fast forward several months, and The Assembly comes into the picture. I'd heard about it back in October, but never got around to going down to the place. Its located at the edge of District Six, in a former industrial sector. The building itself was formerly a warehouse, and has been renovated to support musical acts and dancing, while maintaining that grungy factory feel.
Last week, I heard that Gazelle was coming back into town from his Kalahari Safari across Europe. And he was playing at the Assembly, tickets only R40. That sounded to me like a good deal. Tickets were obtained and plans were made.
Upon arriving, we were instantly taken by the place. For Bostonians, its about the same size as the Paradise, and follows a similar layout aesthetic. We were made to suffer through the openers, sadly. The Plastics are an indie rock band. They look and sound like every other generic indie rock band. Next was Jack Parow, an Afrikaans rapper, and his crew. They were....uh... well it was hard to understand him what with the whole Afrikaans thing. Think of Asher Roth, but imagine that Roth had grown up on a Dutch horse farm. If you don't know who Asher Roth is, thank your lucky stars, and heed the inevitable conclusion: It wasn't great.
Then Gazelle took the stage with his DJ, drummer, bongo player, and dance troupe.
Twas awesome. I had not realized it, but the DJ is pretty much an equal partner in the musical vision of Gazelle. He's got a kind of Daft Punk thing going on since he wears this helmet and visor which prevents you from seeing his face. He was good, and full of energy, too. Its surprisingly fun to notice the DJ having a really good time behind the booth. The rest of the crew was similarly adorned in Southern African attire, ranging in style from traditional African to colonial, to military. Gazelle the singer was wearing a different leopard print uniform, and sporting the shades ala Funkadelic (and I can understand what they were saying about the similarity in sound, mostly with the synths).
Its amazing what you can still do with a stationary laser and a disco ball. Down in the pit, it was quite a mad dance party. I felt the lighting was no small part of that, but that might just be me and my fervent joy for good light effects doing the talking. Regardless, the party was good times, as empirically determined by the amount of sweat generated by my body
You can listen to Gazelle on myspace, and that will give you a reasonable idea of how they sound, though hardly an inkling of how they feel. Studio tracks are always missing some things that can't be taken out of the live setting. Like the excessive bass, and trace drums beats. Like the leopard costumes and African dancers.
For lack of any better description for the music, I am going to go with the words straight from the White Lion himself: Afrikan Future Disko.
After walking around a bit today, I found my ankle a bit wonky. I think I did something to it last night. Prices are high at the Bushland Discotheque.