Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: muse ik (Page 1 of 3)

The Tiniest World of Song and threads of History

When my brother and I were tiny our family would come to Cape Town some December holidays to stay with my paternal grandparents who lived in the last house in the road in Oranjezicht. Across the road was a rugby field and then the mountain. We would wake up in the morning and head across the road to play in the stream that came off the mountain, catching tadpoles and wetting our feet, until the rest of the household woke up.

My grandfather had a giant Valiant; the worst size of a car for his tiny height. Driving with him was hilarious for us kids and terrifying for my parents because my zaida Israel would let go of the steering wheel and tap on it as he sang Yiddish songs. “Yum Tsiki dai dai” he would sing, or “Chiri Bim, Chiri Bom”.

Last night I snuck into The Labia to see the second screening of Philip Todres’ documentary Leah, Teddy and The Mandolin – Cape Town Embraces Yiddish Song. The movie house was filled to the brim with white haired Jewish moaners; I overheard how this lady had all her jewellery stolen by that maid and all she got from insurance was R21000, not enough for a single choker. I heard snippets of the ‘Jewish report’ of how many Jewish Capetonians had been forced to leave the country – things are so bad. I had to cough and splutter to get the woman next to me (who had come late) to shut up and stop using her cellphone. The usual. The kind of audience I had grown used to with From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself utterly moved and connected to this little piece of history, celebrating Philip Todres’ 10 years of The Cape Town Yiddish Song Festival. This tiny movie, with interviews and recordings of songs from the concerts, tells the story of the rebirth of interest in Yiddish, and through it all I felt the longing and nostalgia for my grandparents’ home, up the hill from The Labia, and my zaida killing himself laughing at that “knakker on a nun”, and my granny Sophie (born in SA and less fluent in Yiddish) telling him to shush; he was letting the world know how unsophisticated he was.

I was taken back to my late father’s record collection and I remember those deadly boring Sundays of my youth when the Nationalist government wouldn’t allow anything to happen on the day of rest. We would lie on the carpet and listen to Connie Francis and Eartha Kitt, and even Harry Belafonte, singing Yiddish songs and my father would join in. Sometimes my maternal zaida Louis would come by, and a game of Klaberjas would happen and my zaida would curse in Yiddish (a chaleria zols du chappen) if he lost, tease and boast if he won, call my father a ganef, and he would tell us again about how strong uncle Izzy’s Yiddish accent was when he complained about the dog showing ‘vite tiet’.

I lost my critical voice and professional opinion last night. This is very unusual. I put it down to what Klezmer musician band leader Matthew Reid said about all the Yiddish songs being in a minor key, so even if they are happy and jolly songs they are still sad. Those minor keys got me, and even though I would never in a million years go for the terrible shtetl stereotypical scarf and suitcase Fiddler styling and direction, I found myself humming along and tapping, with the rest of the audience in the movie house.

Well done, Philip Todres. I don’t know how you have managed to make Cape Town’s Yiddish Song Festival a thing, and now even a little movie, but you have, and it is its own special kind of wonderful.

In the Presence of

Last night I went to see something quite transformational and spiritually injectifying. My ex student Melanie Aiff organised a sort of concert/gathering/jam/witnessing of creative live performance and music in which she was the thread, voice, word, move with all these other amazing people in the space (the totally transformed Theatre Arts Admin Collective).

She advertised it as Mel Mwevi Shares, and there was a lot of sharing. It was like being in her crazy lounge and reading her diaries (entries of which were played as a slide show on the big screen), while sitting on cushions on the floor.

She sang, performed poetry, spoke rambling personal stories, got outraged, introduced us to her friends (and some fellow performers) from Breaking Bread, a one woman organisation who takes care of and feeds the homeless and helpless of Salt River, Woodstock and Obz, and we ate delicious vegan food, and fell in love with Mel and her friends.

Mel is the easiest and most charming person to watch. Somehow she combines the deepest emotion with the lightness of touch, and sheer enjoyment, indulgence, arrow sharp point slash of intention, trivial tantrum are all combined to make everything she does real and meaningful.

We sat transfixed for two sets that lasted almost three hours and I (who can barely manage a 55 minute play) was happy to be there until the full moon rose again.

Now here is the thing. Mel Mwevi is a true artist. She is a goddess of the word, a siren of sound and a wizard witch of the performance space. She needs to be able to make and share in every crevice, corner and stadium of the world. She is unique and inspirational. She needs to be given lots of hard cash to do what she does, and to pay the troupes of people that will work with her. I know there are people who have managed to get this right, with patrons and crowd funding. So, people who have, or who know of people who have, please let her know how. I will connect you up.

PS. Photo stolen from Facebook. Taken by Jono Tait.

Kirstenbosch and The Soil

So, yesterday we celebrated our industrial theatre project’s wrap party at Kirstenbosch, watching The Soil. It was utterly fabulous, and the best way to hang out and enjoy the place, the music, each other and a whole new crowd of Capetonians. (Ntombi you were deeply missed, by the way).

I love The Soil. They are super talented, charming, sexy, hip, honest, funky, sassy and humble, and their music is pure genius.

But the true eye opener for me was how for many in the crowd this was their first time ever at Kirstenbosch. In my own group of 5 I was the only one who had ever been before. 4 gorgeous, professional, young people living in Cape Town who had never been to Kirstenbosch before. I know for sure that there were many others in the huge, predominantly black audience who were celebrating there for the first time ever.

This notion is bittersweet. Yay and kudos to The Soil for bringing this crowd there. It felt like a teeny floodgate had been opened. And, because I am going to be called on it I am going to over explain. I am not suggesting that black people don’t go to Kirstenbosch. I am reminded about how many black people have never been. And of course, this confirms again how the city is divided, both along racial and class lines.

This particular story has a happy ending, thanks to the new fans Kirstenbosch made, because of The Soil. (And only now do I laugh out loud! Kirstenbosch. The Soil. Bwahahahahaha!)

Why last week’s 3 Springsteen concert splurge changed my life forever

There are many ways I could tell you about why I went to see Bruce Springsteen 3 times in one week. The minute I heard he was coming to SA I knew I would have to see him. He is my guy. He is the one I would never miss. I have been waiting for him since I saw him in Harare in 1988.

I waited in line on line and only managed to get the shittest seats for what was then the first concert in Cape Town. I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough so I made my friend in Joburg buy me a golden circle standing ticket there too. And then he added an extra concert in here in Cape Town. More and more the notion of him starting his world tour right here, where I live, took hold and I found myself buying the most expensive ticket I could for the very first, added concert too. So last week I saw Bruce Springsteen 3 times; twice in Cape Town and once in Jozi. There were hard-core fans who saw all four, and did roll call to be in the pit, and had their requests played. But I went 3 times and my life will never be the same.

There were a couple of really joyous highlights for each concert that made them special and unique. On the first I met a woman who had been there in Harare in 1988. I sat next to a couple from Madagascar who had come to Cape Town especially to see him. On the second I went with Big Friendly, who witnessed and shared my love. On the third concert in Jozi we were blessed by a special 3 song matinee for those of us early enough to be there and I wept and shook with special happiness.

Of course there were things that frustrated me and made me sad. The almost 100% white, middle aged audience had come to see what they thought was Bruce Springsteen. Dancing in the Dark and Born in the USA. They didn’t understand why he didn’t play more of his hits (from that album I guess).  There were those who were irritated that he started late in Cape Town and left during his hour long encore. There were fist fights by drunks right next to me in the Jozi crowd. The support act in Jozi made me skaam.

But. But. But. The reason I will never be the same is because of the outpouring of love and respect from that most awesome man. He loved us. He thanked us. He saluted us. He played (for hours, and in the rain) for us. I have never seen or experienced a more generous, magnificent, loving man to his band, and to his audiences, all three that I was part of. I walk away with the best lesson. How to love my audience and my fellow players. Thank you Bruce Springsteen. I love you.

Klezmer in Cape Town

It was a week of much and diverse live performance last week. I emceed TheatreSports on Monday, played on Tuesday, went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (amazeballs) on Wednesday, did a double feature of Vigil and The Year of the Bicycle on Saturday and last night I went to clarinetist David Krakauer playing with SA klezmer band Play With Fire.

So, there was a lot to digest. But last night blew me away. A full house in the Baxter’s main theatre for klezmer music? Yes! And it was a totally transcendent, magical, crazy experience. I don’t see enough live music anymore but this has given me inspiration. It was extraordinary and I am so glad I went.

Old Love New Love Dan Bern

In a moment of proper synchronicity Jaci and I discovered that one of our mutual demi-heroes would be performing one night in NYC while we were here. It was last night. Dan Bern at The Beekman Beer Garden, on the South Side Sea Port, on the water, with a brilliant view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We got there really early; in time to see Dan and family having a pre show meal at one of the tables and benches under the little white marquee. The concert was a fundraiser for the Big Apple Greeters, a group of volunteers who show out of towners around. Delicious. As Dan himself said, “What’s not to support?”

As the sun went down and the lights of the city (the still to be completed No 1 World Trade building in stripes of red, white and blue) got turned on, Dan and his band came onto stage and played to us. It was such a brilliant, laid back concert, with a group of the most diverse, arbitrary, strange and gorgeous Dan Bern fans. Jaci described it as real bliss.

Afterwards we told Dan, as he signed our new CD covers with his daughter in his other arm, that we were from South Africa, and he mentioned his song Cape Town on his new album Drifter.


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