About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

24 August 2014

Buskaid Community Concert

Every year, Buskaid hosts a community concert at the Dutch Church in Diepkloof, 2/3 weeks before their annual concert at the Linder Auditorium. As I can't make it to this year's concert; I decided to go to the community concert instead. The program is the same; but the atmosphere is remarkably different. Unlike the Linder, the audience is far younger - with a lot of young kids; even babies. In fact, it was quite amusing to hear a few of them hum the recently played tunes during the interval, or to see them mime conducting together with the music. Unlike previous concerts, this year's program features complete pieces - which I think is a good move.

In keeping with Buskaid's tradition of playing lesser known composers, the concert started with Georg Muffat’s Passacaglia - a baroque piece from the 1680s. On YouTube, it seems that the piece is mostly played as an organ piece - and perhaps the richness of the sound is lost when converted to a string orchestra. Perhaps, it is also because the music seems to be background church music - something quite appropriate for the venue; but without the cavernous cathedral, it just didn't seem to fit.

Keeping with the time period, but a far better known composer, the following piece was JS Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins; except it was played with six soloists (two per movement). Buskaid performed this piece (with the same configuration) at the beginning of the year, and was once again a great performance. 

Completely different in mood, and somewhat appropriate given global events, was Elgar's Sospiri - composed 100 years ago at the start of World War 1. The piece featured a harp played by a young harpist, Jude van der Walt, and the intro is absolutely amazing. It is a somber piece, but the performance was quite magical - and received an enthusiastic applause.

The first half concluded, with a piece written for the Buskaid - Sancho’s Dance Suite by Julian Grant, who arranged a set of dance pieces by Ignatius Sancho - who is quite an interesting person in his own right. The music itself is contemporary of the period, although the start of the piece is quite interesting (and rough) - and it ends in quite a joyous note. I don't know whether the piece is meant to signify the trajectory of Sancho's life (born on a slave ship, emancipation and thereafter renown) - but I will keep that as my narrative of the piece  :)

The second half featured two virtuoso performances by three of the senior members of the Buskaid ensemble. Starting the half was Tiisetso Mashishi's performance of Max Bruch's Romance for Viola and Orchestra. His previous performance at the Buskaid concert at the beginning of the year, was the highlight of the concert, and once again he didn't disappoint.  

This was followed by  Pablo de Sarasate's Navarra for two violins and orchestra, played by Kabelo Monnathebe and Simiso Radebe. It was as much fun looking at them play, as it was to hear the piece - the communication between the two during the performance was amazing; and it is certainly a piece that commands the audience's attention on the soloists. It's a fun piece, reminiscent of a Spanish dance/song and a fitting finale for the "formal" part of the program. The encore for the formal part of the orchestra was a short, lively piece by Mussorgsky - but I am not sure of the title. 

Buskaid's informal part of the concert is probably what makes their performances so special. It also highlights the difference in audiences - here, as the gospel, kwela and afro-pop songs started, the audience joined in, dancing - and not the young members only - it was the mothers and perhaps even the grandmothers. But that was only in the front - the dancing was in the aisles, and at the back - it was a celebration. 

I am quite convinced, that it may even make sense for Buskaid to link up with one (or more) afro-pop bands - and produce an album; with Buskaid performing the music, and the singers singing. One of the great things about Buskaid, is the variety of types of music performed - today's performance spanned almost 350 years of music. Buskaid always manages to balance the classical with the contemporary; and looking at the packed hall, it works.

Buskaid's annual concert in on Saturday, 6 September at Linder Auditorium - and highly recommended.

17 August 2014

Carlo Mombelli's Stories Quartet

I am not completely sure of how I came across The Orbit - a newish live music and restaurant venue; focusing mainly on Jazz. It has been a while since I last went to a live jazz performance, and Carlo Mombelli's Stories Quartet looked quite promising - both with the inclusion of prominent performers and the streaming music on the website.

The first experience at arrival was not great - they had managed to lose the dinner reservations - but they recovered quickly; finding us a good table. The menu was not extensive - but the food was good, with attentive but not overbearing service. 

The music was the highlight - a mixture of amazing energy, with many moments of individual brilliance - as well as slow and mournful. Mbusa Khosa, who sung almost entirely in Zulu, has an absolutely amazing voice - and was in itself an instrumental performance in its own right. It was captivating, and magical - fully deserving of a standing ovation at the end of the night.

16 August 2014

City Press' African Women Feature

In a first for me, I went out and bought three different newspapers last Sunday. It was interesting to note the diverse range of coverage of news stories and opinion - but I didn't get through all of it on Sunday! 

City Press had a feature on African Women - a profile of 60-odd notable African women in diverse fields; as part of Women's Day commemorations. As a South African publication, there was the expected high proportion of South Africans on the list - but what was notable for me, was who was left out. There was, for example, not a single opposition party member from South Africa featured, neither were notable leaders of African countries like Joyce Banda or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 

It does seem a bit one sided in selection. I am not saying that those that were profiled were not warranted to be included in the profiles - just that the selection seems a bit odd.

11 August 2014

FTL: Faster than Light

About 14/15 years ago, E, discovered this abandonware DOS based game that involved piloting a cargo ship between various ports of the world. It was part Transport Tycoon (build up a shipping empire) mixed with some slow manoeuvring as the "auto pilot" for docking didn't work every now and then.

I discovered FTL: Faster than Light, via a Kickstarter newsletter. The concept is deceptively simple. You are a pilot of a ship carrying sensitive information, across the galaxy pursued by rebels. Your mission is to hand over the sensitive information, and then defeat the "mothership". Along the way, there are pirates, rebel scouts, aliens who don't like you, lost civilians, storekeepers, mercenaries, abandoned planets etc. which you must help, fight, or flee. The right outcome will provide with opportunities to upgrade your ship; and the wrong outcomes could end the game.

The game is simple to play; and incredibly difficult to beat. Even on the easy mode, I have raked up over 15 hours to beat the boss just once. There are some tricks - but the game's random generator can be brutal. About 5 games before I finally won - I did get the boss to 1 health bar - but then a strike from the boss, caused a fire in my weapons room (when I still had about 40% health), and my weapons just couldn't recharge fast enough to finish the boss off. There are no save points to recover from - it's either finish it, or restart.

It is addictive, and an absolutely impressive strategy game. Like the shipping game from years past, the graphics aren't amazing. It is the gameplay and the strategy that makes it worth coming back to; over and over again.

03 August 2014

Movie: Mr. Pip

The brief synopsis of the movie does not really capture the social tensions, the brutality, and the beauty of this movie - it is one of those that you walk in expecting something, but leave after watching something quite different.

Set in early 1990, in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island/region - the movie, based on a novel of the same name, explores the civilian village life in a fairly brutal civil war for autonomy/independence. The story follows Matilda, and Mr Watts, who takes up teaching the village kids; primarily through Dickens' Great Expectations - but also weaving in other villagers who bring their own expertise in exchange for staying to listen to the story. Matilda's imagination leads her to reimagine Pip in the context of her own people (but strangely still in Victorian clothing) - but this leads to a rather disastrous end as the army captain decides that Pip is really an important rebel being hidden by the village.

In the end, Matilda's life runs parallel to that of Dickens' Pip - in that she is a person of which there are great expectations, and one that eventually is (partially?) fulfilled. But it is not so much the parallel - but the sheer beauty and innocence of village life that makes this a compelling movie. In the context of current world events in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere - it really captures the dichotomy of experiences and wishes of the fighters and the people caught in between.

27 July 2014

Movie: Dawn of the Planet of Apes

The reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise has now got the possibility of tracing the full story of how the apes come to dominate a planet that was previously dominated by humans - a decade at a time. The movie is actually damn good - both from the perspective of story and effects; but it does degenerate to some clichés - the vengeful, backstabbing lieutenant, the good samaritan doctor, the great leader - but it is the packaging that makes it a good movie.

07 July 2014

Missing ...

I think this was the first time that I saw a live performance by the legendary John Kani in his new play Missing ..., currently on at the Market Theatre. The story charts the story of a fictional (but quite believable) loyal, intellectual ANC activist who ends up in exile in Stockholm. There, he marries and raises a family - but when the new government arrives in 1994 he is apparently forgotten. But, with his daughter's upcoming wedding, and a longing for home - he decides to go back to South Africa and at least confront the ANC leadership on being forgotten.

It is funny, and poignant - and above all a critical dissection on some of the ails of the new political class. Quoting Orwell's classic "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", the second act is a stunning criticism of politicians in general - but the play is also a reminder of what political service and self sacrifice actually means.

The performances, especially that of John Kani, are impressive. It is a different angle to cover politics and the anti-apartheid struggle; and a performance that needs to be watched - and fully deserved the standing ovation.

Movie: The Railway Man

Set in WW2, The Railway Man tells the story of a railway fanatic, who was a POW in Burma, building the railway line for the Japanese. In part, it is a story of the history - of effectively being a slave, and of torture - but it is also a story of redemption and forgiveness; when he goes back to Burma to confront his captor. It's a touching tale with great performances from Colin Firth in the lead.