Thursday, September 24, 2009

vinatge china

photo by Terri Lee Coppin (

It's the night before yesterday in the city of pretty, and China is celebrating twenty years on the decks.

Considering the changes we've seen in South Africa in the last two decades, this is a fitting way to begin to celebrate National Braai Day. (let's just get over it, it's only ever going to be called Heritage Day on calendars. Braai's - being the cultural common denominator of non vegetarians the land over - have a postive history, whereas heritage is a heavy, half-strangled word still redefining itself in a world still coming to terms with its persistent social segregation and lack of political self flagellation. So yes, the long walk to freedom parades [or is that parodies?] itself as boerewors and pap these days. But back to this celebration.)

No point celebrating my sexy sideswipe reverse up the ridge parking. I have to walk all the way to the door in the dark. It's more rare to find a parking right outside mercury than it is for a carguard to let you get away without chatting (you up) for a bit en Français. Especially when you're too tipsy to remember your name, let alone how to say, 'no, i do NOT want to marry you' in that lovely, lilting tongue i can never quite wrap mine around.

The whiff of green in the air assures me i haven't gone to the wrong venue again. (despite the disparity in sound systems, and excess or lack of tasteful interiors, they do all start to feel inanely the same after a while, these different, dark holes in our sonic city)(and besides, the last time that happened to me, i ended up dancing with the devil, so i've learnt that i like to know where i'm going. At least then i can waltz when he walks in)

Not the devil, and not the gates of the garden; the dedicated doorman stands stolidly, inured to his gallant role and unmoved (except to laughter) by shitfaced teens drooling over their shoes and slurping into the street at 3 a.m. (how come nobody ever gets knocked over there? Cars conduct themselves like deranged acrobats under the influence of winking witches, and there are always smelly, incoherent things formerly known as people staggering across the road to the boerie stall to celebrate their own little braai day in the middle of the night. A mystery. Bit like The Waiting Room's roof - i'm still waiting for someone to fall off it. Not in a sordid, psychotic way; it's just... inevitable. As is the gumption of my assumptions on this fine, spring night that i'd earlier assumed to be sans frisson. Wrong.)

Some lost souls mumble by on their way to the shack. ("Capetonians are funny," says jolly Jason later, "they're scared of each other in a weird way." i'm scared of all those purple monsters that have descended on Long Street in celebration of the ass fucking industry. i mean. advertising industry.)

"i think maybe you're coming here?" says said doorman to them. I laugh silently at the reality of colour coded venues and the sharp eyes of those who hustle and usher people in and out of them. They clarify it's Ragga Soulja's thing in there? Yes, here, welcome. Spose if you spend dark nights watching lots of white kids get caned, you chance to notice a multi-coloured crowd crunching along the curb on their way to where they don't want to go. (alliteration! aaargh. go. away.and who put the ass in assonance? hey?!)

In we go. Fifty ront. Steep, but then, Hellfire is doing the sound, which means no unwelcome ear ache on my side, and no need for earplugs, and also, the night features some of the best (and more down-to-earth) DJs in town (HoneyB, Mix'nBlend). But besides that, i'm not expecting anything especially awesome, though the promise of an act i haven't seen live (responsible for a song i love dearly) is hopeful.

Inside. Kiss cheek kiss cheek with my stalker. Swap notes with a drum & bass dude about mixtapes and who kicks ass on the scene(s). We agree. For once. And it has nothing to do with rhyme.

After a while i'm upstairs, and noticing it's not that smoky. So this crowd, i'm thinking, thinking i'm clever, they smoke ganja, but not cigarettes,right? Nope. Mercury is just ahead of the game. Again. Mercury. First live venue to invest in decent sound, longest standing supporter of local original sound. This time it's the new tobacco law. In one month, you won't have to wash your hair and your whole body before getting into bed after a night in a nightclub because the men in blue will be making sure we copy the men and women on the west coast of the red white and blue - No Smoking In Public Venues, California style. I anticipate LOTS of grumbles on the Face for this one. Personally, i'm pleased as cat whizz on a virgin pole...(one zero to me, Peter, without making a poephol of myself in the process, nogal.)

Then the music. EJ's the man, ek sê. Maybe we're starved of women with mics since Mama Know Nothing's lead lady proved how clueless she really is. Von Lyrik has a great energy, a versatile voice and diversified vocal style. She's as comfortable in chorus with the full bodied flood from the backing vocalist as she is alone on a rant and a rap. The band bops along sublimely, with newlywed lark, Sean Ou Tim, keeping time as effortlessly as ever, tubby Teba's freestyling, China's Bongo beats and intermittent MCing, the undreadful Fletcher fingering things in the dark, Carlo being brilliantly understated on an electric guitar and the keyman apparently having the most fun out of everyone from the smile on his dial. Who thought so many songs could stand that established synthetic organ tone? I guess it depends on the blend and the composition. On the latter they fall a bit flat at times. They've this habit of harping back to the beats and melodies of other hit artists (which irks me a little, but my little feet vehemently disagree by dancing dub dub dub despite my preferences for all-original sound). When they put their own material out there, you feel it, unrefined, uncopied, and full of... dare I say it.. heritage.

Mm. And speaking of the things we inherit, i later bumped into Carla('s belly). The next Southpaw son is due on the weekend of Rocking The Daisies, so this year we're dubbing it 'Rocking The Babies' in his honour. Or hers. Or both, if Carla's right. "I think there's another one over here, behind the boy" she says, gesturing to her kidneys and disappearing quickly to the loo. Being pregnant is like being online, only the short span is not your attention, it's your squashed bladder. I ask if she plays her unborn music, and she glows a hell yeah back at me. 'Ja, everything. Except i'm a bit disappointed in his taste." So why then has she been listening so widely, if she knows what she likes? obviously to give her boy a choice, but also, if we don't listen widely, we sometimes miss out. On events like this, for example. it only comes once in a lifetime, after all...

Happy Anniversary, Dubman of many names. You may make us argue over what you're really called when we're trying to find your Facebook profile, but we always find you sincere and humble and super fun. Respect.

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