I wake up exhausted on Saturday morning with a full day of work standing between myself and the second night of CTNWF. I use the promise of unadulterated joy as motivation to blaze through the day and before I know it, it’s time to head back to City Hall.
Native Young strikes their first chord just as my butt hits a seat on the balcony of the main hall. I’m armed with a delicious cappuccino, courtesy of Kayelitsha’s own Department of Coffee, and a sense of curiosity befitting a kitten. Native Young, from what I understand, are relatively new on the scene and produce a genre called “Kasi Pop”. I definitely need to watch them a few more times before I decide if I like them or not but I walk away from their performance feeling somewhat confused about the lead singer’s forced falsetto. Their music sounds like the illegitimate child of Juluka and Mumford & Sons – you’ll have to decide whether that is a compliment or an insult, because I just don’t know.
I’m barely able to find a place to stand when I arrive at the seated stage for Tcheka and Derek Gripper. The place is devoid of chatter, a peaceful silence hangs over the crowded room as Gripper performs. A drunk girl bursts out laughing as he grimaces during a particularly intricate chord progression and everyone in her immediate vicinity turns to shush her. She turns on her heal, muttering to a friend about heading to the bar and once again silence returns to the room. Gripper takes leave of the stage to allow Cape Verde’s Tcheka an opportunity to perform solo before their much anticipated collaborative performance. I have never heard, or heard of Tcheka before this moment, but man am I glad to be standing here now. Simple guitar music, accompanied by sickly smooth Portuguese crooning has me covered in goose bumps. Between each song Tcheka thanks the crowd in broken English and at one point turns to his manager to get the correct translation for “I am happy to be here”. His performance is absolutely magical.
After a quick snack break at the food trucks I head back to the main stage for Zuko Collective, a band comprising one of the most suave lead guitarists I ever seen and a powerful duo of female singers on lead and back up. Back when the event was called Cape Town World Music Festival and took place in the Harrington Street parking lot, Bateleur played on the indoor stage at The Assembly to a very small crowd. I will never forget that performance, for many reasons including a devastatingly great cover of a Christian Tiger School song. Tonight they have been placed on the mammoth main stage and I situate myself right against the crowd barrier for their performance. They haven’t performed in a very long time and basically reformed the band for this show – their set is silken, nostalgic and emotionally decadent.
Amongst the drunken natter, all I keep hearing is how I cannot miss the last two acts, Kanda Bongo Man and Mokoomba. I am unable to get close to the stage as hundreds of people have taken up residence on the main dancefloor for Kanda Bongo Man and everyone is smiling, dancing and cheering. We’ve been transported from festival to carnival as tribal rhythms rumble off the stage and a crew of both female and male dancers twist and gyrate around Kanda.
KBM is both a pioneer and revolutionary in the field of soukous, a Congolese music style resembling Brazil’s rumba. I’m hearing this genre live for the first time in my life and I find myself involuntarily and completely immersed in the energy of both the band and the crowd. Mokoomba, from Zimbabwe, grab hold of the delicious electricity remaining in the room and I’m introduced to more fresh sounds, comprising elements of reggae and ska combined with what I later discover to be Tonga and Luvale traditional rhythms. I hear someone behind me shout, “What is happening right now?!” and I turn to find him smiling in awe of the spectacle on stage.
The final two sets at the DJ stage belong to the duo of Spoek Mathambo and DJ Spoko, followed by festival closer, Aero Manyelo – undoubtedly the most all-encompassing showcase of underground electronic music that Africa has on offer right now.
Cape Town Nu World Festival is one of the most essential platforms for African and South African music that we currently have at our disposal. I walk away from this weekend knowing far more than I did when I arrived and I gained this knowledge in the best way possible – by having a damn good time.
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All Day 2 photos courtesy of Laura McCullagh.