Last week was one of the most incredible ‘ penny drop ‘ moments for me in the 4 year history of Studio 7. Vusi Mahlasela (no not Hugh Masekela – he plays the trumpet) was down in Cape Town for UCT’s Celebration Concert for 20 years of Democracy where he was performing with the likes of Freshlyground, PJ Powers and Mi Casa. Luckily for us at Studio 7, his manager rung me and asked if he could be linked up with Shen Winberg , an amazingly talented guitarist and one of the instrumental players who helped get Studio 7 going, to accompany Vusi at the concert. After a few minutes chatting, the idea of doing an intimate, more informal show, before the UCT performance was on the table and gratefully Vusi agreed. With a few days to get word out, tickets quickly sold and the house was full.
We have been incredibly blessed over the 4 years with many amazing musicians, one of which I consider a close friend and possibly one of the finest pianists I have ever met, Mr Jason Reolon . Thanks to an impromptu jam session with Vusi & Jason post the Josie Field & Laurie Levine Session, the music chemistry was already bubbling and so Jason was invited to join Vusi and Shen now that calendars had aligned for what turned out to be one fantastic trio of musicians. As people filled the kitchen and took their seats my excitement began to build as I knew there was still another muso to surprise our guests.
There is something about Vusi’s presence on stage, i’m not sure if it is the way he delivers each lyric or the message of his songs but you feel like he is singing to you, and you alone. Its humbling. Its personal. It reminds us whats truly important. Despite how far this country has come thanks to the grandfathers of this land, there is still a need for redistribution. As Vusi says, it is ” the redistribution of knowledge, skills, and morals that is most needed and important today in our country.” He never ceases to be able to captivate an audience from the very beginning be it 50 or 15 000 at a Dave Matthews Concert and last week was no different. It was amazing to see him take the stage in front of 5000 screaming students who had just watched and danced to (THIS) a few minutes before, to suddenly stop and listen to ‘ The Voice ‘ do what he does best, tell his story through music.
His show at Studio 7 was no different. It was an emotional evening full of high’s and lows and a great surprise in the form of PJ Powers singing Weeping, the famous Bright Blue track with Vusi. It my mind, like all his shows, it had everything that a great performance should have. From intimate solo, incredible stories about him growing up during Apartheid, burning solos from Shen Winberg & Jason Reolon , doing his signature ” Madiba-esque shuffle” across the floor, sharing of knowledge, musicality and wisdom, brushes of beautiful melody lines – what else could we all want but more.
Lets have more institutions, festivals and organizations putting on concerts that support GREAT local SOUTH AFRICAN acts and artists such as Shen Winberg, Jason Reolon, Freshlyground, PJ Powers, Vusi Mahlasela, Mi Casa and the many of their colleagues that play in the same league. Lets have more government departments, city committees, tourism boards and brands such as our partners and long time friends Black Bottle , creating a platform for young artists to reach the league of their aforementioned fathers and further. Yes, we all flock to see the big international bands when they visit our shores, and pay serious $$$ to see them and rightly so. They operate at a whole other level and put on one F#@$^ off show. But there is no reason why our talented muso’s cannot do the same. Some are already doing it. And we can grow more, as a result of more. More investment and from government, cities and brands into platforms and initiatives that help bridge the gap between the talent we have and the talent that comes to visit. The gap that is international quality producers, managers, agents, radio pluggers, publishers, productions, entertainment lawyers, venues of all sizes (eg between the sizes of Assembly, Grandwest and The Stadium), music academies, technology the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, we have great people in all those categories (special mention to Alain, John & Ma’or from Beanstalk and Ian Watson and co from Golden Circle who ran that UCT Show extremely well and on time) but there are not enough. Not yet. So we need more.
And that more, comes from you. You create the demand. You’re the one buying the tickets, purchasing and not downloading the album. Youre the one driving to their shows, sharing their Youtube videos across your social networks or email groups. You’re the one tweeting, texting or calling the radio to play their songs. You’re the one who’s able to say ” I remember seeing them at Baraza in Camps Bay, Armchair in Observatory or Tempos in JHB”. We just need more. So I challenge you, the next time you go to a show, take a friend who wouldn’t normally go or who missed it the last time. Who knows, maybe we will see abig shift in local artists traveling abroad, sharing their songs, and our stories – thanks to more of you.
Special Thanks & Credit to: Seth Zworestine (Photography) | Vusi Mahlasela | Lance Mc Cormack | Shen Winberg (Guitar & Backing Vocals) | Jason Roelon (Keyboard) | Black Bottle Whiskey.