“Did you hear the news on the radio today, people have agreed to give their love away, I can’t wait to be there in line…” Freshlyground are so …so Capetonian it’s unbelievable. And unbelievably refreshing. Never have I seen a band so downright unconcerned with what anyone thinks of them. The best phrase I can think of to describe them is ‘Super chilled, dude.” The seven-piece band are truly a breath of fresh air in a world where so many people just take life far too seriously.
The band, fronted by Zolani Mahola, opened their Kirstenbosch show with the catchy ‘Buttercup’, and Zolani’s voice is possibly even more clear and spectacular when heard live than on a CD. A number of brand new songs joined the line-up of old favourites, and I must say that the title track of new album Take Me To The Dance is the stand-out amongst the new. It’s an upbeat, fun and danceable song, and you just can’t help feeling good when you hear it. Another new song that had people on their feet was ‘Chain Gang’, in which they seamlessly swap between languages, in such a way that they make playing the music and singing the words seem as effortless as breathing.
‘I’d Like’ is a personal favourite of mine, and it made its appearance towards the end of the set – I‘m not sure if the mist, threatening rain and increasing wind had anything to do with the chills I experienced during the song, perhaps it was just the sheer beauty of the music, enhanced by the setting of the majestic Kirstenbosch, with the mountain looming ahead of us. Zolani’s voice soared above the audience, now a crowd of swaying arms and smiles, and embedded itself deep in the hearts of the enthralled onlookers.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Freshlyground is not the music at all, not the way they dance, not the way they come across as genuinely happy and friendly people, but rather the way their fans appreciate them. There is nothing quite as endearing as watching a couple in their 70s jumping to their feet and moving their bodies to the sounds of ‘Doo Be Doo’. Everyone clapped and sang along to this, their most recognizable song, and even those of us with two left feet managed a little bit of a dance.
‘Waka Waka’ was absent from the set list (thank goodness, I’d rather never hear it again in my life after 2010’s overkill), and although it may be the song that all the foreigners know, Freshlyground showed that they don’t need the exposure from an artist like Shakira to prove their worth.
Freshlyground are true professionals, they have a stage presence telling of the fact that they’ve been playing together for many years, yet somehow exude an air of impromptu fun and lightheartedness. The band trooped off the stage after declaring “Africa! This is home”, leaving me feeling that it will be a long time before they pull a move made by so many local acts recently, and ditch their home country. Good on you, Freshlyground. If you hear what I mean, clap and stomp your feet.
Freshlyground performed at the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert series on 3 February 2013.