Moisture exuded from every pore of every person plonked on the patchwork of picnic blankets that was Kirstenbosch Concert lawn on Sunday. But as clammy and uncomfortable as it was, and as close as my face was to my neighbour’s armpit, there was not a scowl in sight. Just a hot, excited hum.
For the tenth time in 10 years Freshlyground sprung onto the Kirstenbosch stage, this time joined by saxophonist Buddy Wells. Zolani Mahola welcomed her audience exclaiming how beautiful it is to see more and more colour in the audience each year. The first few groovy notes of ‘How Low Can You Go’ sent a ripple of smiles across the audience. An animated Mahola and violinist Kyla-Rose Smith had the tendency to break into what is locally called “step” dancing when taking a break from singing or playing. Bassist Josh Hawks was something of a one-man show with his antics on stage – moving about in every direction, dancing to his own rhythm, jumping and sliding on his knees. The energy the seven of them exert is spectacular to watch.
Not long into the set, a crowd had formed around the front of the stage and Mahola was reaching down and addressing them directly singing, ‘Fire is Low’, ‘Vula Amehlo’ and crowd favourite, ‘Nomvula’. Little children bounced on their parents’ shoulders next to fully grown men slugging beers on their friends’ shoulders. ‘Chicken to Change’ got more of the crowd up onto their feet, and in my line of vision was the most fantastically flexible grandpa gyrating and the sweetest little girl dancing in her underwear – so overcome by the music she couldn’t keep her dress on.
Mahola introduced the next song as “one they didn’t mean to write” and the band struck the first few chords of ‘Doo Be Doo’. A little way into the first verse she had to stop singing because the crowd was drowning her out. The audience pushed on chanting their way through the chorus, even after the band had stopped playing, and Mahola said, “Ok, you know that song, we’ll do something else” and started to sing ‘Pot Belly’. There was an even louder roar as more bare feet got up to stomp on their picnic blankets to the anthem. We swayed in a fuzzy haze of African euphoria, pride and a touch of delirium through another attempt at ‘Doo Be Doo’ followed by ‘Things Have Changed’, ‘Shake It’, ‘I’d Like’ and ‘Take Me to the Dance’.
Halfway through ‘Waka Waka’ Mahola addressed a crowd filled with 2010 feelings of harmony and hope, proclaiming, “When we sing we’re going to be promising, we’re going to be doing the best we can to make this here world better. And this world that we’re making better, it starts in our country that we’re making better. It starts in our family that we’re making better. It starts by making ourselves better.” It is “Time for Africa” indeed.
Freshlyground performed at the Old Mutual Kirstenbosch Summer Concert Series on 16 February 2014.