Review: Hot Water’s Performance is Blisteringly Good

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Hot WaterDeep in the south, over many a hill, an ominous steel horse sculpture greets visitors as they tread the path to the Cape Farmhouse.  It is an image of stark contrast to the warm, fun atmosphere that awaits inside.

Last Saturday I found myself a part of a 500-strong colony of hippies young and old padding their way to the mountain-swept venue.  It wasn’t my normal scene, but everyone seemed blissfully happy: dogs were running wild, children were swinging and bearded men were picking mushrooms, so I got myself a fairly priced Tafel lager and settled down to experience Nature’s finest.

In fact everything was so mellow that the band’s entry on stage around 4pm caused hardly a ripple. But as soon as they started playing, the crowd rose to its feet in a tie-dyed, happy-clappy frantic dance of jubilation and emancipation.

Hot Water had the audience in a frenzy of song and sweat. Crowd participation is vital in their performance and spurs the energy as the music translates to a live setting. Mother and child, grandma and grandpa all heeded the call of the mighty pantsula (a traditional and expressive African dance) as the backup singers and dancers demonstrated their flexibilities.

The group was in top form. Percussionist Ronan Skillen as always was a show in himself, making use of unique instruments and adding an otherworldly dimension to the music. Lead guitarist, Guy Collins, is an impressive player, manipulating his township guitar/blik in slide-playing finesse, while the rhythm section of Vuyoh Mgawu and Bandile is as solid as they come with a foundation locked to the ground.

Hot Water’s music is injected with a wide range of dynamics and can go from an upbeat jive to a more pensive, slow groove within the same song. As the band kicks into ‘Going Home’ there is no denying their passion for local culture and more specifically, local music culture. Infusing their bluesy/folky indie pop/rock sound with traditional African sensibilities, there is a keen sense of where they come from. This is a band firmly rooted in Africa.

For the encore and grand finale, frontman Donovan Copley spidermanned his way on top of the roping of the marquee and had the audience in stitches as he swayed from side to side exposing flesh as he went along.

One audience member in particular stole the show with some of the most un-rhythmic moves in all of dance, ever. It was a sight to behold.  He was the man who later said “Before we used to shoot at these people. Now we dance to their music.”  A little blunt, perhaps, but this truly is post-apartheid music.

By Keenan Oakes

Hot Water played at the Cape Farmhouse in Scarborough on 21 April 2012.
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