“It’s a beautiful thing man, music is a beautiful thing,” Mac Miller jokingly said on his NPR Tiny Desk performance. But nothing could be closer to the truth. Listening to music and singing together has been shown to impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connections.
The music-events industry is built on this fact. But not all events harness the beauty of umculo. Cue the Beast, People Series that takes place tomorrow at 4ROOM Creative Village in Tembisa. It’s a sequence of gigs around Gauteng, which was founded by DJs and producers from various parts of the province.
It includes founder DJ BlaQt from Vosloorus, Soweto’s DJ Medicine, DJ Killa Kane and Backdraft of Mambisa. “The gig started in Vosloorus as Beats, People & Vosloorus. This is the second installment in Tembisa, we’re headed to Soweto with the next gig,” Backdraft tells me. “What connected us and still connects us to this day is our love for the music and I believe it is the reason our name starts with Beats,” Backdraft, who is the musician in the clique says.
“The purpose of the show is to grow audience, have people appreciate what we do because we’ve realised that ja, the vibes that we bring are not necessarily mainstream and is not what people get all the time. They actually want to get it. We are bringing it to them and taking it to different hoods,” says Protea Glen’s DJ Medicine.
Much as this is about music and how it brings people together, the guys understand the potential ecosystem such a movement presents for stakeholders themselves as well as entrepreneurs e lokxion. “…because the whole thing is for us to do our shit you know, benefit from our shit and grow our shit with the people that like what we’re doing, without compromising the vibe. But also including the people that are in that hood we’re going to, and making it grow in that hood,” Medicine says.
There’s already merchandise like T-shirts and hoodies sold at their gigs. The merch is simply laden with the aesthetically pleasing name of the movement which is also their logo. “Well the name was simply to do with what my vision was; the music and all people in and around the hood or townships,” BlaQt explaining the origin of the name. “Tembisa will be our second edition of the Beast, People Series…we had great success in my hood. We’re preparing for the next gig as we’re talking.”
Vosloo was a success that set a high bar for the succeeding hosts, but Backdraft is convinced his Tembisa has a unique proposition. “Our geographic position, we are where Ekurhuleni starts or ends, depending on how one views this. We attract people as far as Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, Alexandra, Daveyton, Kempton Park and even Joburg. We are a melting pot for different cultures and offerings. We have our very own celebrities, artists and DJs who hardly ship their skill beyond hood boarders, therefore providing an experience that one will only experience in our hood,” he says.
The gig at 4ROOM has eight DJs on the line-up with Backdraft himself and the Musa Mashiane Trio as the night’s only live performers.
“ONE thing about music when it hits you, you feel no pain,” sang the immortal Bob Marley. To perhaps add to that, if an artist’s live performance doesn’t hit you, you may find yourself eternally scared by that experience.
I’ve not been fortunate enough to witness folk singer Adelle Nqeto live, but I’ve already been hit by her recorded compositions. God willingly in just a few hours from now, she’ll break that ice. Her music is so calming, that the imagery of her breaking anything is absurd.
The singer from Pretoria performs in Tembisa’s 4ROOM Creative Village this evening, as part of her national tour which has seen her travel more than three provinces. In each province, she consciously plays at small, intimate spaces which accommodate her music leaving onlookers with that fuzzy feeling inside. “This will be our second time playing in Tembisa, and we’re looking forward to it. Our bass player couldn’t join us last time around, so it’ll be great to play again as a trio. We had such as warm reception last time- we knew we wanted to come back,” Nqeto tells me.
In September she returned to the country after playing Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. It wasn’t her first time gigging in Europe, “but it was my first time with my band though,” she says.
“…we’ve had great responses most places we play. I suppose there’s something novel about us when we play in Europe, being from the African continent, and we’ve had especially great responses over there.”
Some of the things she dabbles in while travelling, is try out different foods. “I also like to know the history of the place, as well as the art, so I do read up about that too, or check out museums and galleries.”
Apropos the band she keeps mentioning? It’s two fellas, drummer James Robb and Dylan du Toit who plays bass. She’s an ardent soloist who understands that being alone, is as valuable to her art as collaborating. “I’d like to be as versatile as possible, depending on the show. I still do play solo, but I especially love to have James and Dylan around, so the three of us have become the core for now,” Nqeto puts it to me.
Her vocal control is unassuming; it has an innocent fierceness to it. She’s the fine epitome that big things do come in small packages. But she’s had no formal voice training at any institutions, but with simplicity says she’s just been singing all her life and “learned a lot along the way. I’ve had few vocal lessons-to hone in on technique, but mostly, I’ve learnt a lot through experience.”
First time I heard her voice, I thought Soundcloud had made a mistake with her name, I expected the vocalist singing on her debut album Lights, to be a Caucasian female. I’m just another statistic, as other people too were gobsmacked by her race. “There are some interesting assumptions about my race, which are always great conversation starters,” she says.
There aren’t any songs sang in vernac in her album, but says she can and does write in isiXhosa. “I have reworked a song I wrote in French into isiXhosa that I’ve played for a French project I join every now and then, and have written some songs in isiXhosa that haven’t yet seen the light of day.”
She has a cocktail of musical influences, from Miriam Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald, Mango Groove, Ray Charles-all of whom she grew up listening to, added with the alternative music of Radiohead, Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens.
Last year she released her heart-warming and soul reviving album, Lights. The ditties in there have a sense of one who has overcome demons and realised the light inside themselves and those around them. A bit like those sisters that have just taken up Yoga, using Namaste as their only pleasantry.
“The songs on Lights were written over a few years, with some difficult periods of course. I wasn’t going through a difficult time when I wrote Lights [the song], specifically, I was looking back at the bitter-sweet end of a relationship.”
They are headed to studio for a follow up to that album, which could be expected early next year she says.
We’re in no militant warfare, but people are going through the most. But it’s our individual and yet common struggles, which foster these infinite bonds. Like British journalist Max Hastings once said, the only redemptive feature of war is the brotherhood which it forges.
Meet MK, Musa Mashiane and Bongani Xego. Three brothers connected by their shared fondness of Pan Africanism, art, music and entrepreneurship. But their connection comes to actuality through the Action Painting in Music events. Mashiane the musician, MK the artist and Xego the man behind organic skin care product, RA-ABA.
“For me, what we’re doing now is rather a feeling because we felt each other. For some reason, I feel like MK is me in another body, because all of his dreams and everything else is the same thing as mine. Even with King Musa, it’s the same thing. There’s a brotherhood es’nga yazi nathi, it’s very deep,” says Xego.
“It’s because we have a common bond and not only that, but we have the ability to enhance each other’s characters uyang’thola. Because a one man army, is no movement,” MK says.
They are a trio of light spoken characters, but the spliff going around the four of us, eases us into conversation. We’re at 4ROOM, busking in the sun-basically a bunch of bearded hippies deep in off kilter discussions emva kwendlu ye four room. But the place will be unrecognizable this coming Sunday, because of the Action Painting in Music event. Which will feature Adelle Nqeto, Touchline, Mo’Soul and others. The event includes a kid’s creative station, art exhibition and a tour of Tembisa.
4ROOM has been in existence for about eight years now, situated in Ethafeni section in Tembisa, 4ROOM Creatives Village is the umbrella company to which includes the house itself as a gallery, a magazine, art education and events (Art Lifestyle) among other things. MK runs and operates the place by himself with a small team. “We haven’t marketed ourselves as a traditional gallery to the world, because we know ukuthi our traditional standards are not the standards of what a traditional (Western) gallery looks like.”
“We started last year around May or June, with (artist) Nkateko Balyoi. We had a private show on June 16, but I think we had two or three shows before that. After that show, Nkateko moved out of the group to do other things,” says MK , detailing the history of Action Painting. After Baloyi’s departure, the two went on a few months’ hiatus from the project, until later in the year. “We started pushing again late last year, that’s when Thandazani Ndlovu became part of it.”
Mashiane, a seasoned musician, only started coming to 4ROOM last year, but rapidly grew a connection to the place and to MK. Mashiane suggested to MK the concept of “merging the music and the visual art together. Something which, we could invite people to come and watch. Not just an exhibition, but a space where they can experience an artist painting. Starting on a blank canvass and complete in front of the audience.”
They’ve organised four instalments of Action Painting in Music this year, this coming Sunday will be their fifth. Because of the rareness of such a presentation of visual art and music, their product has been demanded and received with warmth in the various places which they’ve graced. Earlier this year they were in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
They also went to Grahamstown, for the National Arts Festival. “It was like a learning experience. People received us well, professionally even, because we based ourselves in a space where there were a lot of people and we were delivering. People were appreciative-they had never seen it before, getting both experiences as one.”
They say the difference between Nelspruit and the Arts Festival, is that the former was more of a gig because they were expected. “I would say Grahamstown was more of a pop up. They had the Standard Bank showcase stage, of which we did that and everyone was like, shit!” Mashiane says.
Xego says later on that evening, they took a walk to a couple of pubs and restaurants and at one of them, they asked the manager if they could play at the spot. The place is called Major Fraser’s. “That guy gave us a platform and we did about four nights. It became our resident space,” says Mashiane.
They have similar life goals as Pinky and the Bain. “The end goal is very far, but it’s to take the village international. So this is just a rehearsal for that. But maybe in the next five years we can say we have an end goal,” says Xego.
“What I know is that s’phusha e black excellence. It’s a legacy for our children’s, children’s children,” says Mashiane. While MK has a more somber, and life enriching end goal. “It is something huge and we don’t know what it looks like. It’s to make sure the black man grows bigger than themselves and their fears and learn about their abilities.”
They are planning a final rehearsal of their world takeover, in December, the last Action Painting in Music of the year, at a secret location. “It’ll include some of the people from our previous events. It’s something to look forward to.”