Standing sparsely in the midst of audience members and between the tall, reverent columns that point skyward in St George’s Cathedral, twelve apostle-like figures fill the stony, cold void in every corner of the space. Their melodic utterances are like a gospel for a new era – one that both breaks with tradition and, simultaneously, unabashedly upholds it.
The Cape Town Opera Chorus, winners of the 2013 International Opera Awards ‘Chorus of the Year’ are described as one of the most compelling and varied vocal ensembles on the planet. True to form, their graceful entrance, mingling with the audience members, takes us by surprise as we are cocooned in an almost 360° serenade of sound, from east and west, north and south – a meta-narrative for the coming together of two (or more) worlds.
From the onset the performance stands in stark contrast to what one might traditionally expect from an opera chorus – not only with the ever-moving performers who float through the audience, but because Grace Notes amalgamates sacred European choral music with the rich, culturally textured push of its African equivalent. Religious music is drawn from Xhosa, Venda, Zulu and Swahili traditions and mixed with sacred compositions by European composers.
I’m featured on The That Show with vlogger/videographer Kelly KiKx this week, pretty much my first video interview ever! In it we discuss my fascination with red on-stage apparel as well as storytelling and we play a little game called the 10 Seconds Challenge – where I create a definition for a dog who wears polka-dot trousers, try to lick my elbow and fail miserably at plaiting a braid.
Apart from vlogging, Kelly KiKx is a professional dancer and film actress who has had roles in the Hollywood films House Party 5, Honey 3 and Bring It On: Worldwide Cheersmack. She also runs a video production company called KiKx Cinematix and contributed her videography to my live videos Real Job and Man in the Mascot Suit.
I recently created the sound design for the PG du Plessis play Die Nag van Legio (The Night of Legion), directed by Albert Maritz. The play is currently on tour in Nelspruit at the InniBos Fees and will also play at Aardklop. If you want to take a listen to the spooky soundtracks, have a listen. I always have quite a bit of fun doing the voices for Albert’s plays, I really get to freakin’ go mal on this stuff. I would love to do a soundtrack for a film or documentary, so if you know of someone who needs work done – please let me know.
One of my real jobs is to on occasion be a mascot, usually inside a very sweaty and smelly over-sized character suit. I’ve done this job since 2014 and have had the honour of being inside some very famous characters like Moshe (Takalane Sesame) and Tjiff & Tjaff. I’ve also been a handler for Ben 10. The handler’s job is to blind lead the mascot around because when someone is in the suit, they can’t see nothing!
This type of work is not for the faint of heart and I can tell you many stories of how doing a simple children’s theatre show or meet and greet at a kid’s party can turn into a comical, technical nightmare. Like when one of my colleagues smelled cigarette smoke while in the suit, only to discover that his head was on fire! Some drunken moron tried to extinguish his cigarette on the mascot’s head. Or when this really attractive girl happened to be my handler at Cape Town Marathon – since I couldn’t bend down to put my mascot shoe on, she had to lead my very smelly (and I guess sweaty foot) into the the shoe’s already soggy and vinegary sock (needless to say I did not get her phone number).
We’ve had frequent moments when the mascot suit would malfunction during a performance, either the helmet would break causing the mascot to walk around with no neck, or a mascot would accidentally headbutt his handler (made of fibreglass) in the nose or some other body part during a performance – try explaining why blood is all over an actor’s face to a bunch of five year old’s! The irony of this whole thing is, at primary school Bibo came to our school to give use free juices and probably about 50 kids ended up beating the mascots up. I was one of them, not proud.
I wrote a song, somewhat of a sequel to Real Job called Man in the Mascot Suit, which was also performed at my 10 Seconds EP Launch and I had two videographers (Roger Williams and Kelly Ernstzen) capture the whole event from two different perspectives. I have to thank them for coming on board completely free of charge and helping us capture the very special event (need video work done? Use them). Again, I put my DIY video editing skills to good use.
Their faces dimly illuminated by candlelight, onlookers gather as if around a fire, where they can warm more than just their hands on this cold winter’s night. A strike from one of the myriad of percussive instruments in the centre sends sound reverberating through the cavernous recesses of the auditorium at Novalis Ubuntu Institute. Shadows bounce up and down the walls, in answer to the quivering candlelight, and I am taken out to a 60 000 year-old cave on the West Coast of South Africa, where the ocean roars above the chirping of birds in my eardrums. I’m staring into the cave at three shaman-like figures who tell the tale of our ancestral roots.
These figures are Intone – percussive duo James van Minnen and Ronan Skillen – and Xhosa singer iNDWE, who together present The Cave Project: Meditations & Lullabies, an album recorded over three days in the Steenbokfontein caves. It is a live representation of a moment in time: as it happened, with no overdubs or post-production edits…