I never seem to be early enough to get the good seats – you know the patches of grass close to the stage on the Kirstenbosch concert lawn. But we arrived just in time. As we placed our blanket down, Clarence Ford from Heart 104.5FM was on stage making the introduction: the headline act Loyiso plus not one but two warm-ups, Chad Saaiman and an a capella group.
I couldn’t help but be cynical about the latter, named Perfect Score. I can’t lie, I did giggle and my friend did a terrible rendition of what he thought was a capella. I felt a little trapped. Looking for a potential escape route I was distracted by a heavenly afro-haired toddler nearby. Beyond the nappy-clad bottom was the crowd – all shapes, sizes, colours, ages. The grass was packed.
Suddenly I felt proudly South African in the multitude o’cultures spread out around me. I fell to thinking how remarkable it is that the atmosphere of the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset concerts never changes, regardless of the genre of music and the people attending. For me it was the first time that I’d be seeing a South African RnB/Pop hit maker, though I was familiar with some of Loyiso’s songs from the radio.
Then Chad Saaiman came on, wearing what seems to be his staple white t-shirt and scarf. He started off vibey with a five piece band backing him, but the crowd seemed to be pre-occupied, perhaps with the scenery. By the third song, he was trying to get the crowd to fill in the blanks… but, nearer the back of the lawn at least, we were pretty much left with just the blanks. Painful. Next he covered a Bruno Mars treffer Just the way you Are. I heard some female voices chirping, but he still seemed defeated, and was off the stage after his fourth song.
The real crowd opener was Perfect Score. I know, it surprised me too but I was quickly eating my words. The five boys in their matching grey waistcoats and ties woke up the crowd with a mash-up of African songs, the first the late Brenda Fassie’s Vuli Ndlela (Open the Gates) with the undertones of The Lion Sleeps Tonight which turned into Paul Simon’s You Can Call me Al.
These boys chose great songs and the crowd lapped it up. Like me, I think many of them had been transported back to their childhood. I could even smell the room in which, as a 6 year old, I’d danced along to Paul Simon in gumboots.
The crowd was wide awake now as, with the sun setting behind us, Loyiso came on stage while the brass section entered from the other. I want you was the perfect choice for an already vibing crowd, and the tempo didn’t drop.
A mom and dad team started dancing with their kids in front of us, their kids slightly grumpy until just now. Sitting perched on the shoulders of their parents the littlest blonde one pulled her dress over her dad’s face. Next to me a group of friends started doing a step dance like the “Bart”, only better. There were couples cuddling on the grass eyes closed, soaking up the music.
The moist grass creeping through the blanket and the greying sky told me, it’s almost over. I’d had a great time and I’d learnt a big lesson here. Never underestimate South African music, or even boys wearing matching outfits. And Loyiso did a cover of Radiohead’s Karma Police and recorded it. Wha..?! Check it out.