Review: Festival of Lights a Grand Spectacle

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lightsHours before the concert started there were already families gathering around the stage. The atmosphere in the air was reminiscent of the 2010 World Cup, and people could feel it. The annual switching on of the Adderley Street lights is an event which has a long history for the Cape Town community. It’s a family affair, and the hordes of people sitting on picnic blankets on the city floor were a testament to that.

Walking through the streets of the CBD was as nostalgic as looking at an old photograph. The smell of meilies boiling away, the sound of little children throwing pop-pops on the floor, and of course the ever-classy flashing LED earrings were all very much a part of my childhood memories of Cape Town community events.  The physical switching on of the festive lights may be a minor moment, but it carries a major impact.

This was one of the first years which didn’t feature the parade, but the line-up of the concert made up for the lack of The Coons. Jimmy Nevis covered Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, and his interaction with the crowd really revved the already-high spirits.  He appeared genuinely amazed at the size of the audience, which was later estimated at over 80 000.  When Capetonians come together, they really come together.

A nod of appreciation, if not two or three nods, must be given to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The setting up of the stage was flawless, and the sound quality throughout the evening was crystal clear, befitting the star-studded line-up (cue Hugh Masekela and Mi Casa.)

The two big screens on either side of the stage  – its back to the Castle as it had been for the FIFA FanFest – meant no one missed out on what was happening.  The breaks between  artists were filled with performance artists, some juggling, some on stilts and some doing tricks and back flips. The atmosphere in the Grand Parade bounced between The Jazz Fest, a carnival and the World Cup.  Eighty thousand friends – old and young – partied together.

Legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela and his band gave an electric performance. There was something tangible in the air when the 74 year old was belting out lyrics to his songs. Hugh Masekela gave a performance that was more than  singing, more than dancing, more than simply performing. He made us believe we were beautiful, and  passionately implored, “Start behaving like you are the most beautiful people in the world. South Africa, our time is now!”  It was touching, and it was true. World Design Capital of the Year 2014 – feel it, it is here.

With good stage lighting, smoke machines, 3D light displays and fireworks it was a truly grand spectacle.  The crowd cheered every performer, and sang along with passion, every song evoking some memory that ran, sparking, through the throng.

Following Hugh Masekela’s vivid and powerful performance was no mean feat, but MiCasa tackled it with ease.  The ecstatic crowd was kept dancing, and the energy was set up to flow until the early hours of the morning.

The Festival of Lights is more than just a turning on of the lights. It is more than just decorating the streets with dancing Santas and gaudy showflakes.  It is an acknowledgement of how far Cape Town has come, a nod to our culture, to who we are as a community.  It is a proudly Capetonian event, to which everyone from across the world is welcome.

Aisha-Bibi van der Ross

The Festival of Lights took place on the Grand Parade on 1 December.

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