We have all often heard how much love Mzansi performing artists receive when entertaining abroad, but having the opportunity to witness that outpouring of love for one of our own in a foreign land is an experience that warms the heart like no other.
On Tuesday night my fiancé Leith and I went to a New York City club, S.O.B.’s (Sounds of Brazil) to watch Vusi Mahlasela’s live performance.
I was giddy with excitement. I am a passionate music lover, especially live music, and have always been a fan of Mahlasela’s work. Plus, I hoped he would play songs from his latest album Say Africa, which I had not had the opportunity to listen to properly as it was released after I had already relocated to the US.
More than that though, I was going to introduce Leith, who, in case you didn’t already know, is American, to African folk music. Having served in the US Navy, Leith is well-travelled and is therefore more open-minded, knowledgeable and appreciative of different cultures than the regular American. But music is a strange beast, you either like it or you don’t. I hoped he would like Mahlasela.
When we arrived at the venue, which has a standing capacity of 450 and a seating capacity of 160, it was already packed and by the time Mahlasela walked on stage, it was standing room only.
Scanning the audience, 90% white, I couldn’t help but wonder if these people even knew any of his music, but as soon as he stepped on that stage and strummed the first chords on his guitar, it was clear that these were not just random music lovers; they were his fans.
He did four shows in the US: Los Angeles, Maryland, New York and Philadelphia.
Mahlasela, who was joined on stage by Washington DC-based lead rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Mongezi Ntaka, delivered a soulful two-hour set, more than 15 songs altogether. It may have been more, it may have been less songs, but I admit that I was so drunk with the euphoria of hearing songs sung live in my own language (rather than hearing them on my iPod or CDs), that I lost count.
He opened with Ubuhle Bomhlaba from his Wisdom Of Forgiveness album.
It is clear that Mahlasela is a seasoned musician who is no stranger to performing before audiences who do not understand the various languages he sings in – he takes the time to explain what every song means.
In the middle of his set, he invoked the spirit of the late Jabu Khanyile by singing Malowe. The smattering of South Africans in the audience sang along, ululated and clapped. We loved it when he did Thulasizwe and when, during the short interval, Ntaka started playing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, I felt my eyes well up. A truly proudly South African moment.
When he performed Weeping, which appears on the album The Voice, the applause was deafening. Clearly the most popular song of the night.
Before singing the title track of his new album, Say Africa, he explained the concept of Ubuntu — I am because you are. A friend on Twitter, @MarleneBoyce, had told me about this song when the album was released in SA last year and how it made her think of me. I have to say that it could’ve been written for me because no matter which corner of the globe my feet take me, everything in me will always Say Africa.
“I may be walking in New York/but the dust on my boots and the rhythm of my feet and my heartbeat Say Africa.”
Truly an outstanding performance by Mahlasela, as evidenced by the long meet & greet line to buy CDs and get them autographed by the man himself. His talent won everyone’s admiration, but his friendliness and general down-to-earth demeanor certainly won all of our hearts.
Perhaps the best way to sum up Vusi Mahlasela’s appeal would be to quote Leith, who said: “It’s so refreshing to hear real music, not something homogeneously put together in a studio with sounds electronically generated and sold to the highest bidder.
“This is just a man and his music, made with his voice and his hands and it has so many textures and layers.”
The past few days have just been glorious. The snow came down the day after Christmas and the blizzard was fun to watch through the window and when we woke up the next day everything was just white. Cars were buried, our windows were covered almost halfway with snow and only really brave souls ventured outside.
Today the sun is shining, although too weak to melt the snow. People are trying to get back to normal, digging their cars out, walking their dogs and finding their way around the snow on the pavements.
At least the municipality has cleared the roads and salted them so they’re not slippery.
I love this weather…especially cos I don’t have to be outside
New York City is everything you have seen in movies and more. There is so much to see and do, even if the temperature outside is below zero.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been exploring the City, as NYC is known, with some of my friends. So I wanted to share with you pictures from some of the restaurants and stores I’ve been to.
New York is famous for its restaurants. It is not unusual to bump into a movie star or your favourite musician while you enjoy your supper. Unfortunately, I am yet to see anybody famous, but I know it’s going to happen soon.
The City is every fashionista and shopaholic’s paradise. There are designer stores at every corner, and while some items are beyond my budget, when they have a sale it’s real!
SA entertainment reporter Nadia Neophytou moved here recently and we made a deal to meet once a week to explore and soak up the culture.
This past Thursday Nadia & I met at Paris Commune, a French bistro in the West Village. She told me that it was co-owned by a South African, Hugo Uys. But apparently the Americans pronounce his surname as “Ice”. LOL! Mr Ice was not there, so we didn’t meet him.
The restaurant was pretty empty at 13h30 when we sat down and eerily quiet with no overhead music playing, but we could see that it was fashionable enough to attract the trendy Village crowd at night.
We loved the interior and the New England clam chowder I had was delicious. Will definitely be returning here, hopefully when there’s more life.
After lunch, we walked over to Marc Jacobs across the street for a bit of shopping and got cute rain boots for $29. What a steal! They’re taking pics of everyone that comes in the store and display them on the window. So Nadia & I took one with a model.
My second stop was Soho for a late lunch at Balthazar, another French bistro, with my other home-girl, Buhle Mkhize. Compared to Paris Commune, Balthazar was packed.
Loved the place. The service was great, the food was great. Really liked that the waitor was familiar with the whole menu and when he was going on a break, he came over to let us know who his replacement would be.
Since the restaurant is on the same street as the Kardashian sisters’ Dash store, we decided to head on over there. So while Kim and Khloe were partying it up in Mzansi, we were checking out their store in Soho.
I know the store only recently opened, but their selection is pretty limited and disappointing. I don’t think they were ready to open just yet. The window display is unexciting, to say the least, with undressed mannequins and no proper signage outside. You could literally just walk past thinking they are still setting up.
The store is quite small but has so many shop assistants (DASH dolls) following you around asking if you need help.
Buhle bought me this Dash tee as a Christmas gift
It’s cute and I love it, the perfect gift for a fan, but rather overpriced at $60. Most of the clothes were way more expensive than you would expect. I mean, Marc Jacobs, an established designer, has gorgeous tees for $35!
On a more exciting note: while waiting to pay at the cash register we discovered that the girl standing next to us was from South Africa. *Hugs all round* It’s always so cool to meet people from home.
Deandra and her friend Danielle are here on holiday.
And other places I’ve gone to in the past few months…
Madiba Restaurant in Brooklyn is one place I know I will always go to when I miss home. I’ve been there three times now.
The first time it was about a month after we arrived and I was just feeling so homesick, so we went to the spaza shop at Madiba to stock up on some Mzansi goodies.
The spaza shop is pretty pricey, but understandably so. We paid over $200 for two bags of groceries, but it was worth it.
The next time we went there my cousin Xoli Peters was visiting from Atlanta and she’d always wanted to check out Madiba, so we took her there for supper. I had a bunny chow, FDH had samp (and now he wants me to make it for Christmas). Xoli and my daughter both had fish & chips. The food was simply delicious, you would swear a mama from home had made it, but nope, they have Mexican chefs maing South African cuisine
Two weeks ago I went with my friends Buhle and Sihle Vezi. We had just been at another restaurant for Buhle’s birthday dinner, so we sat at the bar at Madiba and chatted to the owner Mark Henegan and his brother Dennis, who was manning the bar that night. We felt like princesses.
Mark and Dennis introduced us to everyone who walked into the restaurant, “These beautiful ladies are from home”. We sang along to Bongo Maffin and danced to Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi. It was a beautiful night.
Before heading to Madiba, the girls and I had supper at an upscale Italian restaurant Cipriani, which is reportedly one of Beyonce & Jay-Z’s favourite hangouts.
I loved the atmosphere at Cipriani, although it was a little crowded by the time we left.
Nadia and I met for lunch at this famous restaurant & bar earlier this month. The Coffee Shop on Union Square in Manhattan was featured on Sex and the City several times. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha were seen lunching at the Coffee Shop in some episodes of the popular TV programme.
It’s a cute place, but nothing really special about it except the Sex and the City connection.
GOTHAM BAR & GRILL
On my way to Gotham for lunch with Buhle I walked past Forbes Magazine on 5th Avenue. Started humming the Bruno Mars, I wanna be a billionaire so frecken bad, tune
Gotham on East 12th Street in Manhattan is the kind of place you wanna take your significant other to for your anniversary or a very special occasion. The patrons have “wealthy” written all over their faces.
On the way to the restaurant you walk past fancy apartment buildings with doormen and rich women walking out dressed to the nines to walk their poodles.
New York Magazine described Gotham‘s cuisine as American Nouveau.
That’s it for now, but my friend Musa Shongwe arrives here on Sunday from Texas to spend Christmas and New Year with us. I’ll be taking her around the City, so check in again soon to see what we got up to.
You do not want to get sick in America if you don’t have health insurance.
That’s right, I have just experienced first hand what the poor in American have known all along: health insurance is king and without it, you are nothing!
I am normally as healthy as a horse and the only ailment I ever get is the common cold. When that happens I don’t even take medication because I believe that my body can heal itself. All you need to do to get rid of the flu is take in plenty of fluids and get bed rest. Just let the bug run through your system and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
But, I do not subscribe to the same principle when I have a toothache. No sir! As I write this I am high as a kite on prescription drugs: Hydrocodone for pain and Amoxicillin, which is an antibiotic.
A filling fell out of my tooth this morning. One minute I had a full tooth and could chew properly and the next something was moving around and it felt like my teeth were broken. Turned out the filling was loose.
After texting a few friends and finding out just how expensive dentists are here and vowing to force my daughter to become a doctor since they make that much, we headed to the dentist.
After the consultation and an x-ray, the good doctor told me I would need a root canal. I almost fainted when he told me how much it would cost.
$2455. Are you kidding me? I whipped out my Blackberry and did a quick calculation. At today’s R/$ exchange rate that is R16,876.
Wow. That’s like an entry-level journalist salary.
Doc said it was a good deal considering that the tooth would last me 20 years. Are you kidding me? At such a steep price, I’d hope this would last a lifetime.
A friend tells me a school of dentistry in the city would do the procedure for $1500. That’s still a fortune…$300 short of my rent, to be precise, but right now it looks like the route I’m gonna have to take.
So now I’m sitting on my bed, feeling sorry for myself while I attempt to sip warm Milo from one side of the mouth, trying to figure out if I could get away with robbing a bank to get this tooth fixed.
I have met some really interesting people in the 39 days that I have lived here — equally weird and wonderful people.
Some of them you have read about in my column in the Sunday Times. I have to say though, the most annoying of these random people has got to be the woman we met at Sears yesterday when we went to buy Thando’s school uniform.
If you have ever heard the word “busy-body”, she is the definition. The living, breathing, walking embodiment.
So this woman, black aunty, is a shop assistant at Sears, and I’ll admit that she was only trying to help, but geez, she was just too much. Firstly, somebody else was helping us, and then Mrs Loudmouth comes over and decides we need extra help from her.
The uniform list from Thando’s school says she needs: navy blue slacks, a jumper, skirt or skort and a powder blue blowse. So, before Mrs Loudmouth comes along we had decided on getting a skort and the pants because it will be winter soon here.
We’re looking through the hangers for the right sizes with the young lady with fake brown eyes, when I see out of the corner of my eye an older woman rushing over speaking at the top of her voice.
At that point we had the skort in our hands and a blouse. She says: “oh no, honey, that blouse is too small. And you’ll need a bigger size for that skort, your daughter has some hips on her and she has breasts.” All the while she’s grapping her own breasts and touching her own hips. “Yeah, I know she’s a child in years, but she got a woman’s body on her.”
So she starts going through the rack to find bigger sizes and tells us that, in fact, nobody wears skorts, the kids all wear pants and they wear khaki pants. “But the school said navy blue,” I protest. “My kids went to that school and they wear khaki pants and none of the girls wear skirts, best you get her pants honey. You’ll have to go upstairs to the juniors cos you ain’t gone find anything for her here, she’s a big girl. Yeah, you got a big girl.”
I can’t tell you how irritated I was that she kept repeating that Thando is a big girl because she’s not and she’s gonna make my pre-teen daughter self-conscious about her size.
I have seen huge children here, which really saddens me, and my child is not someone anyone should be calling “a big girl”. She is tall and yes, she does have boobs and hips, but she is not “big”.
I eventually decided to ignore Mrs Loudmouth and go off into the fitting rooms with Thando. Even then I could still hear her talking loudly to FDH*.
When we came out she was lounging on a sofa that the store is trying to sell, still going on loudly about this or that. So annoying.
Later, FDH would tell me that Mrs Loudmouth had told him she has ten kids. OMW! I just felt so sorry for those children. Can you imagine having a mother like that, who just can’t keep quiet?
Somebody please get that woman a muzzle. And some birth control.
*FDH = future dear hubby
My life is going to change drastically in exactly three days’ time.
I still can’t believe I am relocating to another country. Heck, not just another country, but another continent, another hemisphere.
Everybody keeps asking me how I’m feeling as the day of the move draws nearer. I don’t know. I guess I’m supposed to be nervous and excited, so that’s the answer I’ve been giving to that question. The truth is that, I’m just feeling normal, like this is the most natural thing for me to do.
Yes, it is very scary. A lot is about to change. Everything is about to change, but I have been planning this move for about a year now and as I told my fiancé, whatever fears I may have had must’ve been swept away during the course of the year as everything started falling into place.
I guess I’m ready for a new challenge now. And boy what a challenge this move is gonna be.
Firstly, I am leaving behind the security of family, home and country. Basically, everything that I have known my whole life. Secondly, I am leaving behind the security of a full-time job with benefits, as I am now on a contract.
I think that’s probably my greatest fear about this move. I will not have a moment to slack because to be able to pay the rent, put food on the table for my daughter or buy that coveted pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, I will have to write, write, write and write some more.
And I am not complaining. I have missed writing. I loved my job as business editor, thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much from it, but we all know that journalists are frustrated writers.
The move to New York gives me the freedom to go back to my first love because, not only will I be reporting but I will also be writing features and profiling interesting people. Maybe I’ll even pen that book that’s been dying to come out of me. What a thrill just to think about it.
So as I count down the sleeps and hours to the minute we board that plane and the second we pass through Customs into New York City, I am not nervous at all.
I’m just looking forward to this new exciting life!
Change is coming! Obama said it, I believe it, that settles it.
If somebody had told me four and a half years ago when I joined the Sunday Times family that today I would be saying my goodbyes and actually making plans to relocate, not just myself but my 12-year-old daughter as well, to New York, I would have laughed in their face.
But that’s exactly what I’m doing today. It’s my last day at Business Times as The Times Business Editor. On July 31 I will board a plane to JFK to start my new Sex and The City life. I have been planning this move for close to a year now and I’ve been so excited about the new adventure, but today is bitter-sweet for me. I am leaving a place that I have called home for the past 4 years and 4 months and saying goodbye to people with whom I have forged lifelong friendships. That’s not easy. But, thanks to social networking and Skype, we will keep in touch.
I will spend the next month catching up on the sleep I lost worrying about stories and headlines; packing up my household; deciding what to take and what to leave behind; saying au revoir to everyone who has made a positive impact on my life and bonding with my mother.
And in keeping with new beginnings I have succumbed to blogger pressure and this will be the new home for my thoughts. In-between my columns in the Sunday Times, that is. From today I will be blogging about my last month in SA and the road to becoming a New Yorker.
So welcome. So glad you stopped by. Do come again.
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