Intense Wins (NAF2011)

musings of a professional dreamer

Photograph by Richard Stupart
My shows are going really well and I’m super stoked with the reviews and audience response, and beyond chuffed with the Standard Bank OVATION AWARD! *high fives self*

I feel like the last two years of intense work have just got an official thumbs from “the man” and it feels pretty damn rad. No time for celebrations though, time to put up more posters now that the rain has finally stopped!

Every day is an intense blur at this festival, but Wednesday’s schedule gives you a pretty good glimpse into “a day in the life of a NAF artist”. It started with morning promos around the Village Green and some more poster putting, a Rhodes Music Radio interview at midday, a 3 hour Machitún rehearsal, an MNet Moments of Magic promo – which basically involved me walking into a restaurant in the middle of town singing to dining festinos (surprisingly fun, believe it or not – I even got them singing along to Nina Simone) – a full show at the Graham Hotel, followed by a 20 minute slot at the Jiggered Magazine launch. Throw into the mix a 35kg piano and a festival sickness, rinse and repeat for 11 days and add obligatory late night visits to The Long Table (because you must!). BOOM.

I may not have had time to watch nearly as many productions this year as I would have liked, but there was one show I was not missing – BOO! And by some miracle I managed to get my grubby little paws on a front row seat! It was epic! I keep missing their shows when I tour around the country and have been a HUGE fan since we were sharing festival stages when I started out in the industry in ‘98, so for a brief moment I felt like I was reliving my youth. I also managed to catch Chris Chameleon’s solo show at Cuervo Music Room tonight. Pure. Freaking. Genius.

The weather hasn’t been playing nice this year and we’ve had to cancel every on stage rehearsal with the full cast of Machitún thus far. For an outdoor production, it’s not ideal, particularly when you’re collaborating with so many different players from so many different backgrounds and levels of experience. Music rehearsals have been going well though. To be honest I expected it to be more difficult to find the balance between this traditional Xhosa choir and the electronic music that Ernesto Romeo (Musical Director) creates, but the moment where it all clicked together came relatively quickly. And it was a pretty magic moment to witness. Hearing two styles that are so vastly different, intertwine so bizarrely well was a riveting moment for me. To be honest, I had my doubts in the beginning that all this collaboration would come together. I thought it would be a lot harder to figure out everyone’s place in it all and I don’t know if it’s because I have some (albeit limited) background in both styles that I can appreciate how powerful that moment was. It was truly spectacular and beautiful. The masks for the stiltwalkers are looking awesome (did I mention there are stiltwalkers?), the drummers are finding their rhythm (it’s late, forgive me) and the weather man is making vague promises of clear skies for the weekend. Better late than never.

Ernesto and Javier (Machitún’s Director) chose one of my songs to rework into the production – Not Alone, which is a track off the new album – I’m crazy stoked. I’ve reworked the melody over a new chord foundation that Ernesto’s put together, and we’ve added a spoken word intro (courtesy of Efese who we met at Balisto Productions – the studio shack – last week), with a haunting Xhosa translation of the chorus sung by Nomphelo, the Sakhuluntu choir leader. It’s ridiculously cool. I haven’t had a chance to see much of the acrobatics in this show because I’ve been so busy with the music and choir and my own shows, and the rain has been messing with most plans for onstage rehearsal of any kind, but the glimpses I have stolen are pretty mind-blowing. I really need to get back into shape.

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© Shannon Hope 2017