Tag Archives: Music

Elephant Shoes to Ground You.

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Winslow Schalkwyk the first feature poet at the relaunch of Grounding Sessions.

So the story goes as follows :Erin Bosenberg a multi-disciplinary media and performance artist  whom I had met  when performing  at Badilisha’s  One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change (2011) , approached me to perform at what was then a very popular gig, called Grounding Sessions . Grounding Sessions was curated by Jamaican born poet D’bi Young as a space for community expression. The event took place at at Tagore’s in Observatory every Monday evening.

Erin hosted the show that evening, but herself  and Desiree Bailey, another performer from Badilisha , took turns at maintaining the show after D’bi had departed Cape Town. That night, I was the feature poet . This meant my set was longer than usual and I could set the tone for the evening.  It felt as if it was my stage , where I could steer the show as I saw fit. The audience members were receptive and seemed to engage well with the work.  Unbeknownst to me , the audience were mostly poets themselves.  Grounding Sessions was a safe space that gave voice to both experienced and novice poets who all wrote around a theme prompted at the prior show.

The theme that evening was – Nothing. After I had had finished, the open mic resumed and poets brought forth various perspectives on the theme.

Like a whirlwind, a young man guitar in hand had entered the room . He stepped to the mic and he said he’d like to share song to which the audience obliged to.The first lyrics of the song were: “I thought I won the lotto, when I fell for miss one of a kind”, okay entertaining enough, but what stuck was when he got to the chorus and belted out the following :  “And all she said was elephant shoes, elephant shoes”. Yes, Jimmy Nevis had intercepted my stage. How did I know this? Because the theme for the next weekend at the Grounding Sessions was …ELEPHANT SHOES and I was completely overshadowed by Mr Nevis!

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I never the performance much thought after, despite his voice being pleasant . The very next week however, the radio blasted : “Elle, elle, elle” .  IT was on the radio, that very song!  This guy was famous all of a sudden. I couldn’t believe it! Fast forward to the next time I saw him The next time I saw him after was at Living Room, a club in Bellville. He was booked to perform , but there was not a chance that I could get close to him  to convey this story because he was surrounded by bodyguards!

I still could not believe that this singer guy,who had hijacked my stage, had turned out to be famous the very next week. It was beyond me. In retrospect it makes complete sense. Tagore’s is that the type of venue that allows for that kind of magic.

When going to Tagore’s you never know what may transpire, but you don’t fight the ambiance of the place either.  You go with it.  It has an air of mystery and sanctity about it. It is ultimately a performance space that houses talent. An intimate platform that allows for poetry and music. Many a renowned and unknown artist has touched stage with that venue. Hence the Jimmy Nevis overnight sensation phenomena.

So now that Observatory is where I reside, and poetry seems so far away, a revival of Grounding Sessions seems in order.

Each Tuesday will host a feature poet and an Open-mic where poets are given the opportunity to share writing related to chosen theme.   The commencement date of the first insallment will be February 24th. The theme is  The History of love, in keeping with the month of love (February) and Black History month.  Winslow Schalkwyk will be the first feature poet. Do come,if not for any other reason besides that I have Elephant shoes to fill, and a dream to see through.

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The man my mother wanted me to wed: Kyle Sheperd

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It was the start of high school and at 14 , scrawny and anonymous I felt disconnected. I found myself in a class without my “closest friends”. My fellow classmates seemed to have formed cliques and groups and there was a real sense of camaraderie about them. I did not share in these feelings.

A week into school, our teacher Mr Fransman announced that a new boy would be joining our class and his name was Kyle Sheperd. As if out of an American chick-flick, Kyle Sheperd casually walked into our class and perhaps it was my imagination, but I swear, there was an orchestra, and wind, yes, definitely wind.

This boy was good-looking, but his attractiveness fell not mainly on the eyes, for he had an air about himself and yet remained completely accessible.

Kyle Sheperd had come from Boston Primary school, I can’t retain exactly why he missed those first few days of school, perhaps it was to make an entrance? Back then I was an aspiring musician. I played the piano, not as miserably as you would think, but I was way too lazy to practice and fared much better in the theoretical part of music than the practical part. The benefit of being a music student at The Settlers High School was that we has the luxury of having free periods whilst students took turns for their practical lessons. It was during this time that I got to know the boy behind the orchestra and the wind-in-hair visuals.

I was that girl who had two male best friends, both named Kyle. One a Sheperd , the other a Fortuin. They were both Casanova’s and I had it in my mind that if I was attentive enough I would never fall so blindly for men with charm and good looks as the other girls did. So yes, we were friends. We chatted, we joked, we partied together ( and yes, we did party), and more so, we had an intimate bond that could only be defined as love. Whenever I greeted Kyle goodbye after a school function outside the school gates, my mother would always marvel and say ” Sjoe maar hy’s ‘n mooi klong, so ‘n seun moet jy trou” (Translation: Gosh, his a beautiful boy, you should marry a boy like him).

When we reached Grade 10, sixteen and sweet, something changed. Sheppie, as we affectionately called him, started to lose his mind, or so we thought. Instead of our usual banter during breaks times and our weekend escapades and our Monday morning recollections about the weekend’s escapades, Kyle had found a new love and she was called Piano and he spent all his time with her and her trebles and clefs

I for one was mortified. What had happened to Kyle? Why was he acting so old, practicing and practising? He had already mastered the violin why this new girl Piano? Of all the females vying for his affection, she just blatantly pissed me off. Kyle became somewhat  of a recluse, mumbling about Abdulla Ibrahim, choosing to spend his breaks in the music room under the wing of the eccentric, only now I realise brilliant , music teacher Mr Hugo Smuts. Why Kyle? Is all I ever asked, and conspired with his then girlfriend and Fortuin to unravel this mystery.

Eventually, we just let him be and do his thing. It was worth having percentage of him , than losing him in his entirety. High school progressed and thereafter we lost touch. Kyle attended UCT, to pursue a music degree and subsequently left University prior to attaining his degree. Thereafter I have physically spoken/seen Kyle a total of three times.

1) 2008: I chatted to him over Mxit (Yes Mxit was trendy then, and yes this did constitute real contact). He was living with my then boyfriend in Johannesburg trying to make it as a young artist .It was a fruitful conversation about everything and it reminded me of the good old days
2)2008: At the 21st birthday of an mutual friend, where we danced and chatted and became aware that Kyle was a fantastic saxophonist, since he played masterfully at that evening.
3)2009: At the Baxter Theatre where I performed in a show and ran into Kyle at the entrance, only to find that he was in fact coming to my very show.

The rest, well goes a little something like this:

Kyle Sheperd bursts onto the Jazz scene. Kyle Sheperd tours with Afrikaaps. Kyle Sheperd’s debut album Fine Art nominated for a SAMA (South African Music Award) for Best New comer and Best traditional Jazz (2011). Kyle Sheperd’s A Portrait of Home nominated for a SAMA award in the Best traditional Jazz category (2012). Kyle Sheperd’s South African History!X nominated for a SAMA award for the Best traditional Jazz category (2013). Kyle Sheperd on kykNet, Kyle Sheperd touring the world, Kyle Sheperd winner of the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz.

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And finally this evening: Kyle Sheperd on Top Billing. I almost missed it, but my best friend sent me a message and reminded me in time. We both marvelled at how handsome he still is and how grown up he looks.

She ( the best friend) then went on to say, “he made it”, and she’s right. He did. He believed in his dream and pursued it relentlessly and it only seems to be taking him to greater heights. Additionally, Kyle tunes into a history ignored, the legacy of the traditional and I’m always in awe as to how his journey of unearthing this history coincides with his art. He fuses the history of South Africa into his music and traditional sounds such as Ghoema music is very present on Kyle’s albums. He currently performs worldwide and will also be featured early July next year at the Grahamstown National Arts festival.

Needless to say, I doubt I’ll ever marry Kyle to my mother’s disappointment , but I am so glad  that Sheppie found that girl called piano and so immensely proud of all that he is to Jazz and art in South Africa.