Up, up and away to 'Gentland'
- 28 September 2016
From Johannesburg via Doha to Brussels.
First and foremost I was a tiny bit late for my flight on the 18th of September 2016. I drove like mad (something to that
effect) to town, hastily leaving the car at the Park Station. Sprinted to the Gautrain station and only to find the train waiting
for me. I practically threw myself inside the train, but still really worried about the time.. Finally arriving at the O. R.
Tambo International airport to find the ladies at the check-in not quite impressed with my lateness.
I managed to check in, sprinted together with Vuyo who also happened to have checked in himself at the same time as me.
Finally we boarded the plane and yes, you guessed it!!! Ready for take off, finally. We did our connection in Doha, in the
wee hours of the morning where we were met by a terrible heatwave. Finally arriving in Brussels in the afternoon of
the 19th September..
We checked in at our apartment at No 37, Onderbergen Straat in Ghent where we'd stay for the duration of our stay - a
beautiful city we once treaded with my comrades in song, Africappella. Being there sort of took me aback, anyway.. We
got to acclimatize, shower, update on Facebook (YES haahhaha) and readied ourselves for our first meeting and dinner.
We got fetched for dinner after 6pm. Met our 'long lost friends' from the previous tours we did for the 'Calling Up Soweto' record.
Fast forward to Tuesday we had our first rehearsal which was quite a challenge because we hadn't worked with the
new band members. The project we went there for is 'Graceland', a Paul Simon record. A legendary album with a stellar
line up and a beautiful mix of Southern African musicians done under difficult circumstances during the apartheid
times. In fact, there was a lot of controversy sorrounding the project. There was a cultural boycott by the African National
Congress (ANC). They were not happy with Paul Simon for what he did under that political climate. Most of the
musicians therein got to be household names after the project's susbsequent tours, a record that is still selling to date.
The record celebrated its 30th anniversary in August this year. Sioen, a Belgian artist, got to be given a chance by the
Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen team of revisiting these works with a band consisting largely of Belgian musicians and
four South African Singers. This project was coined, 'Sioen Brengt Graceland'. We got to do a very tight second day
rehearsal, making sure that everything was as it should be, there was great chemistry in the works from the drummer
to lead singer. In my view, a special inclusion has to have been a musician from Conakry, Guinea. A percs man, and a
formiddable Kora player, N'faly Kouyate.
Another person of choice would have to be a very seasoned Belgian jazz
musician who dabbled by playing the Clarinet, Accordion and Saxophone, a very quiet musician whom you'd only hear
when he played, 'filling up the spaces'...
The songs I must say were great live, we got a very long and warm standing ovation and a 4 star rating from a cultural
column from a Belgian newspaper. There's definitely a come back tour in the pipeline. Just happy that I was able to go to
a place on a street called Tweebruggen Straat to seal everything where Africappella resided some years ago.
I and Vuyo Tshuma and as well as the others enjoyed ourselves doing 'Graceland'...