'Amuzed' - 13/03/98
It's hard to type when one's feet refuse to stay on the ground. I still keep floating around from the euphoria of seeing two awe-inspiring concerts on the weekend, both by the same ou. I'm talking of course about Rodriguez who finally performed to his many South African fans and it's difficult to decide who was more overawed by the confrontation.
Rodriguez had not performed since 1981 and even those concerts, in Australasia, did not nearly attract the same fans as the SA concerts, so, when Rodriguez walked out onto the stage at the Bellville Velodrome, he almost staggered backwards from the roar and vibes that poured onto the stage from the first night crowd. The performance that Friday night was fine if a little patchy but no-one seemed to notice. Rodriguez forgot the odd line and on a few occasions played at a different tempo to the band, who very professionally managed to plaster over these musical cracks.
The second concert on Saturday night, however, was wonderful. A far larger crowd arrived due obviously to a strong local word-of-mouth promotion. Rodriguez and his band were prepared and well-rehearsed and once again the crowd maintained a remarkable level of energetic approval and non-stop singing to each and every song. All the age groups were represented, from 60-year-olds to young children, all caught up in the magic of the moment, signifying indisputably that Rodriguez's music has passed the test of time and is not simply a '70s phenomenon.
The response to these concerts was repeated throughout the tour. The two concerts in Johannesburg at the Standard Bank Arena were sold out and generated the same fanatical and ecstatic reaction. One of the Durban dates was replaced by a show at the Carousel complex outside Pretoria and that too was full. There is a strong feeling that this remarkable tour could be the spark that hopefully kick-starts Rodriguez's long overdue world-wide recognition. Through the Internet, his fans all over the world have been closely monitoring these events in South Africa and requests for tours have been received from as far afield as Australia, Canada, England and the USA. Some United States newspapers have already started making enquiries, sensing a story in all of this!
Rodriguez is a humble, intelligent and sensitive man who deserves all the recognition he will no doubt be receiving. After both the Cape Town shows, he mingled with the assorted press and fans who had lingered backstage to meet him and shook hands, hugged, spoke to and signed autographs for each and every one of them until he was satisfied that no-one had been overlooked. As they say in Yiddish, he is really a mensch!
I am still quite overwhelmed by the whole Rodriguez situation. We all believed he was dead but he most certainly wasn't and here he was recreating his music that meant so much to so many people for so long.
I will always remember singing along to all those songs that are so deeply embedded in my/our memories, but three special memories stand out for me. The first was seeing Rodriguez's two daughters, Eva and Regan, sitting at the foot of the stage watching their father perform. Eva was a teenager when Rodriguez toured Australia and Regan was much younger.
The pride and joy that radiated in their faces was quite beautiful.
The second was the guitar solo by Willem Moller that turned the band's jammed improvised version of 'Climb Up On My Music' into the high(est)light of a concert packed with highlights. The third image I have is of Arno Carstens, lead singer with the Springbok Nude Girls, standing transfixed at the base of the stage watching Rodriguez perform. On his T-shirt was the simple yet ironic slogan that seemed to sum up the whole evening. It read: "Dead people are cool!"
For some Rodriguez concert reviews (including one by Brian Currin himself), set-lists and pics, go here.
On a very sad note however, we sadly report the passing of one of South Africa's greatest jazz legends, Basil "Manenberg" Coetzee, who finally succumbed to the illness that he had fought so bravely for so long. Born in District Six, tenor saxophonist Coetzee achieved major acclaim from his work with Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand) on what is still the finest and most famous piece of South African recorded music, the 1974 jazz classic 'Manenberg'. After Ibrahim went into exile, Coetzee stayed in South Africa though the '70s and '80s until he moved back into the spotlight with his band Sabenza and numerous appearances at UDF rallies and concerts. He toured Europe in 1988 and then reunited with his old friend Abdullah Ibrahim when he returned to live in South Africa. Basil Coetzee was still living in Mitchells Plain when he died and was still a source of inspiration and experience to the young township jazz musicians.
Hanging around South Africa these past few weeks has been the renowned musician, producer, diarist and all round "head", Brian Eno.
Besides giving assorted workshops to a cross section of local luminaries from all branches of the artistic tree, Eno will probaly connect with his U2 friends at their two SA concerts. Roxy Music, Talking Heads, U2 and The Passengers are just a few of the musical pies into which Eno has dipped his talented fingers (not to mention his unique set of solo albums). He also published a year's worth of his diary entries in the book 'A Year With Swollen Appendices', which gives a wide insight into one of the clearest and most innovative and original thinkers of the pot-war, whoops! that should read "Post-war" era.
On Monday night U2 will bring their (Spinal?) Popmart extravaganza to the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town (they hit Jo'burg's Ellis Park Stadium on the 21st). On Saturday night, Warrick Sony's new musical partnership with Brendan Jury, Trans Sky, will be playing with the new SA sensations Sons Of Trout, who are releasing their debut album 'Take Me To Your Fishmonger'. There is also a lot of talk about the new album by SA band O'Ryan Winter called 'The Dawning', recorded in New York.
There's a cool new SA music site elbowing its way to global attention called Vibeguide (http://www.dotza.co.za/vibeguide)and it's the brainchild of former Urban Creep Ross Campbell and definitely worth a squiz. As is our getting-better-by-the-day online CD store One World which is distributing SA CDs all over the globe. Catch Jeremy Dowson's Film Flashes at our Bioscope site and all the concert news and more at the Gig Guide. Post a letter on the web-board at the Great Rodriguez Website or check out its "sister" site, the quite incredible Climb Up On My Music site, webmastered by the obsessively completist yet rationally euphoric Brain Currin.
Till next week then -- and remember, if Barry Ronge is Elvis (as the graffitti tells us) then David Kramer is Buddy Holly!
Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman
My five favourite styles of musical wallpaper at the moment are:
Rodriguez - 'Alive'
The extremely rare live album from the 1981 tour.
Daniele Pascal - 'Broken Dreams'
The new collection from this gutsy, feisty and hard-working chanteuse.
Dollar Brand - 'Manenburg Is Where It's At'
In memory of Basil Coetzee, RIP.
Henry Ate - 'Slap In The Face'
Getting a lot of requests for this from overseas. (Instant) Karma's going to get you!
Paul Weller - 'Stanley Road'
'Broken Stones', 'Woodcutter's Son' and the title track "still do something to me".
by stephen 'Sugar' Segerman
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