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.”
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.