The crowd warmed their hands on hot drinks as they picnicked beneath grey skies. Despite the grim weather, Cape Town band John Wizards kindled the crowd with a perplexing yet stimulating fusion of Maskandi, mbaqanga, Shangaan electro, 1980s funk, Afro-jazz, reggae and myriad other genres that my parochial mind could not decipher. Rooted in African music yet uninhibitedly eclectic, John Wizards morphs from one genre to the next, even in a single song, resulting in a surreal, Picasso-style composition. We were treated to the soukous beat of ‘Lusaka by Night’; an unlikely combination of Shangaan music and electro in a song hilariously titled ‘Limpop’; and a personal highlight, the turbulent ‘Tet Lek Schrempf’. The band earned repeated cheers from the audience and, encouraged by the response, performed one more song, which had audience members of all ages abandoning their picnics and drifting to the fore.
Where John Wizards kindled the audience, Afro-pop band Beatenberg fanned the flame with their mega-hit ‘Pluto’ and the cheering crowd poured to the front of the stage. Although grey clouds bulged threateningly overhead, the air was charged with euphoria by the performance of band members Matthew Field (vocals, guitar), Robin Brink (drums) and Ross Dorkin (bass). After the third wistful melody, Beatenberg delighted the besotted audience with a rendition of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, which had everyone singing along.
When they announced their last song, the crowd howled in dismay, chanting “We want more! We want more!” while Matthew wryly protested that it was getting dark. We emitted a deafening roar when Beatenberg played fan favourite ‘Raphael’ as the rain poured. A certain let down was the quality of the vocals of both bands’ lead singers, but that didn’t dampen the audience’s ardour. The show ended with the elated concert-goers clamouring to purchase CDs, T-shirts and other paraphernalia after a night of ecstatic musical bliss.
Beatenberg and John Wizards performed at Kirstenbosch Gardens on Sunday 27 March 2016 as part of the Summer Sunset Concert Series.