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).

08 March 2014

JPO's 1st 2014 Season, 5th Concert

The final concert of the 1st Season started with Johan Strauss II's Overture to Die Fledermaus - a very popular piece, given the number of times I have heard it on radio. Like many of Straus' compositions (i.e. waltzes), the piece is fun and lively - a great way to start the concert.

For me, Bruch's Concerto for 2 Pianos was the most anticipated piece of the season - not because I had heard it before; just the spectacle. The soloists were Bulgarian duo Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov rounded up the full Bulgarian quota of visitors with conductor Martin Panteleev returning to the podium for the concert. The concerto itself was strange - it starts of, with the pianos imposing themselves, but then retreats in support for much of the concert; before returning with much pomp in the final movement. The concerto was very well recieved, and the duo obliged with three encores - certainly a record for the JPO concerts I have attended. 

I did not particularly enjoy Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony - but I am not completely sure why. Perhaps it was because it is quite a long symphony (this was the full hour performance), that sometimes feels like it never ends - or perhaps it was because I was just tired after a long day. 

The 2nd JPO season will start on 7 May, and start off with Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto - that should get a good crowd in for the night!

05 March 2014

Opposition Politics in South Africa

The Centre for Ethics at WITS hosted a debate on opposition politics in South Africa last night. The panel consisted of author and talk show host Eusebius McKaiser, UJ Professor Steven Friedman, Independent Newspaper's chief editor Karima Brown and WITS Professor Daryl Glaser. It was an enlightening discussion, although it wasn't really a debate, given that all the panelists more or less agreed on the major discussion points; but the discussion points were still intellectually stimulating and provided some very interesting insights.

The discussion was obviously dominated by a few key themes - DA and whether it got the fact that race is important to most South Africans; EFF and it's actual chances; whether NUMSA would be more effective and what it would take to overcome the ANC hegemony.

Probably the most interesting idea advanced by the panelists, was that opposition parties in South Africa largely do not have any real ideological differences to the ANC. The argument was that the major opposition parties are effectively stating that try are the ANC but would be able to deliver better, and thus they are not really painting a radically different vision for South Africa. And since the ANC currently owns that vision, together with a powerful history of great leaders like Mandela and Tambo together  with the success of liberation; they inherently start off better than the opposition parties. The panelists further agreed that EFF was not radically new vision - but rather a more fundamentalist version of the ANC vision, and thus can be classed in the same pot.

Quite some time was also spent on racial politics and the DA's general incompetence in this regard. Eusebius McKaiser elements put it that the DA's policies are clear as mud which in turn turns off both their existing and prospective supporters. 

Largely, the consensus seemed to be that ANC will win handsomely, and will only be affected by the supporters who agree that other parties would deliver the same vision better. Without a comprehensively new vision however, long term opposition politics will remain in the quagmire that they are not really that different. 

03 March 2014

Gautrain vs. Metro Rail

Saturday evening's transit to FNB Stadium brought out the stark difference between them. It is not so much the difference in modernity - that is unavoidable between systems that were built decades apart. 

Rather it is the difference in maintenance and enforcement of rules. For example, Park Station's stairs down to the platform  has a distinct smell of urine; platforms are not really clean; and rules like no smoking in public spaces are not enforced. It also goes wider into signage, sub standard ticketing (no ticket machines?) and just a generally creaking system. 

The one thing that Gautrain can learn - cabin seating. Metro Rail's cabin design with two rows of seats with lots of standing room is far more efficient for commuter transport; and would be a better design for Gautrain too. And Metro Rail can learn from the better enforcement of rules.

02 March 2014

An Evening with Santana

Although I heard of the Santana concerts when they were announced, I didn't get round to buying tickets till Friday (for the concert on Saturday) - and even then, only via OLX. Unlike other concerts I have been to, the audience was significantly older - and it did feel strange to go to a concert in a stadium that was seating only. With Gautrain's "Big Night Out" promotion, M and I took the Gautrain to Park Station, followed by the metro train to FNB stadium - an arrangement that worked relatively well - and certainly far better than the organisational chaos that was U2.

Embarrassingly, I didn't even know that Johnny Clegg was the opening act for the night, until I saw the T-Shirts for sale. His 1 hour performance was filled with most his well known hits from over the years, that brought the crowd to its feet; and kept them on their feet for most of the concert. It is strange for a performer to end a set with a slow tribute song, but Asimbonanga is not an ordinary slow song and was a perfect ending to a great set (including the projection of the video on the link as the backdrop).

There was a very efficient 25 minute set change-over to Santana, who would go on to play on for just over 2 hours - although his promise of playing until 6am if the audience was up for it did not materialise.The wet weather was not perfect, but as Johnny Clegg commented - the heavens is showing respect for Santana - the rain did stay away for the full duration of the set!

The band lineup, based on the Wikipedia article, is not the current line-up of the older Santana band members, but the earlier band that has seen most of the success in past 10 years or so. Most of the songs were from his recent albums (since I recognised them :), but given the audience reception from the other songs, it was fairly easy to identify some of the older songs! The set had the expected, amazing instrumental pieces - the fusion of rock, jazz, Latin and African rhythms; and much of the crowd was on its feet for most of the concert.

There were a few songs towards the end performed together with Johnny Clegg, both songs from Johnny Clegg with Santana adding guitar or Johnny Clegg contributing vocals to Santana pieces.