Colombian dance legend to revitalise old Politburo

It is said that Richard Blair, the British DJ, musician and founder of Sidestepper Sound System, didn’t know much about Colombian music until he came across the music of Colombian legend Toto la Momposina. Then Blair was working as an engineer at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios. Today he is known as the champion of Colombian dance music.

Blair is the headline act at the relaunched Politburo Sessions, now hosted at Shikisha (Horror Café), the initiative run by Sifiso Ntuli and Sbu Nxumalo, the party duo with a conscience.

The sessions, which would have celebrated their 10th anniversary this year, had their life quietly sucked out of them. Most participants in the original Politburo, then devil-may-care twenty- and thirtysomethings, no longer attended the sessions. Middle-class pressures came to matter more than partying.

To represent these changing sensibilities and to grow a live-music scene, the duo will also host itinerant jazz-themed parties, dubbed Jazz Meanders. A few months ago trumpeter Marcus Wyatt played at the inaugural gig at Shikisha.

Ntuli emphasised the need to look back. “I am doing a retrospective and hopefully we can also look forward,” said Ntuli in an interview with the Mail & Guardian. He was elated about hosting the British DJ but also saw the deeper significance of hosting a gig themed around Colombia, a country with a significant Afro-Colombian population (about 21%).

Ntuli recalled last year’s World Cup, when fans of the participating South American countries, such as Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, came to South Africa to support their teams. He was keen to see the gig as another cog in building relations with the Americas.

Sidestepper can perform as part of live band or as a DJ. The music is a melding of Colombia’s ancestral music, hip-hop, Afrobeat and other sounds, which pass through an electric kiln, red hot.

Ntuli didn’t see this as just another party. “I have never organised a party. This is a gathering, almost like going to church,” he said.

Ntuli also told the M&G of plans to build another “chapel”, this time on De Korte Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

In its several incarnations, Nsako, or the people behind it, have criss-crossed the city. Originally based at House of Tandoor in Yeoville, they later branched out west to Brixton. When that venue shut down they moved back to Newtown, close to the centre of Johannesburg.

It will be interesting to see whether the current Politburo Sessions will be as influential on the city’s cultural landscape as the earlier ones.

R120 gets you in. For more information phone 072?223?2648. Shikisha, on Miriam Makeba Street, is next to the SAB World of Beer, Newtown

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Percy Zvomuya
Percy Zvomuya is a writer and critic who has written for numerous publications, including Chimurenga, the Mail & Guardian, Moto in Zimbabwe, the Sunday Times and the London Review of Books blog. He is a co-founder of Johannesburg-based writing collective The Con and, in 2014, was one of the judges for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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