Music

Local musos weave magic at World Music Festival

Bongani Kona

Carlo Mombelli, Sannie Fox, The Brother Moves On and Madala Kunene outshine the foreign acts in a two-day smorgasbord of music in Cape Town.

Thandiswa Mazwai, one of South Africa’s most adored musicians, closed out the night on day two of the festival. (Gallo)

There’s a name for it: hallelujah moments. These are moments at a music concert, which a friend of mine likens to a religious experience in their intensity, when your mind goes quiet and everything falls away. The existential angst that plagues your daily existence becomes a faint echo and in that moment there is only you and the music. Nothing else.

The first of these hallelujah moments at the two-day World Music Festival happened as I watched Carlo Mombelli’s freestyle jazz ensemble on the main stage at City Hall.

My disappointment at having arrived too late to catch Malian singer/guitarist Vieux Farka Touré was soon supplanted by the joy of listening to Mombelli’s beautifully arranged compositions.

The bassist was supported by a trio of virtuoso musicians: Kevisan Naidoo on drums, Kyle Shepherd on piano and Mbuso Khoza on vocals. 

My next hallelujah moment happened during Okmalumkoolkat’s high-octane performance.

Jacob Snake on the decks had the crowd going wild, even though 90% of the audience didn’t understand the lyrics, which made it all the more remarkable.

Soulful and spellbinding
The Brother Moves On, day one’s genre-sidestepping headline act, brought the evening to a close in a spellbinding way.

Supported by Louis Pienaar from like-minded musical mavericks Bateleur, saxophonist Abraham Mennen from The Obs House Band, violinist Galina Juritz from 9 Berkley, and vocalist Nozuko Mapoma from Zuko Collective, The Brother Moves On ran through old favourites ( Wenu Welta, Rainbow Child) and some new compositions, including Zimbabwe.

The following day, guitarist and singer-songwriter Sannie Fox’s performance had me hypnotised from the first note.

Her slow, stripped-down blues and ethereal voice strike a deep, resonant chord.

Reggae artist Ras Haitrim’s performance on the main stage unfortunately didn’t manage to scale the same heights. I sat through three of the Mozambican multi-instrumentalist’s songs before I decided to leave, unimpressed.

Crown jewel
The jewel in the crown of the World Music Festival was, without a doubt, Afro-futurist bluesman Madala Kunene.

The veteran, self-taught maskandi guitarist played to a capacity crowd. In between songs, the old man threw in a couple of jokes in Zulu, on the whole, delivering a gracious and warm-hearted performance.

The centre stage floor was nearly empty when I made my way there for Laura Burhenn’s set. The American singer and songwriter (front woman and founder of Mynabirds, the Indie pop group) was not a big drawcard, it seems.

It’s a pity. Her music is, as Eric Harvey from pitchfork.com says, “openhearted, politically engaged, feminist pop”.

A fitting femme finale
Thandiswa Mazwai, one of South Africa’s most adored musicians, closed out the night on day two with her all-female band. From the moment she stepped on stage, she didn’t disappoint.

In homage to Madala Kunene, she performed a cover of one his most famous songs, Ubombo.

She also sand through her own considerable catalogue of songs, including Nizalwa Ngobani, Lahl’ Umlenze,  and Ingoma. It was just after 1.30am when she finally took a bow, but the audience still asked for more.

I started the drive home at 2.16am. The roads were empty and it was cold. I was facing the start of Monday getting back to the tyranny of the rat race. But in that moment I had a whole catalogue of sweet memories of my hallelujah moments.

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