Absence of Bra Hugh at the festival fails to deter eager fans

THE FLUGEL horn/trumpeter/vocal legend the popular annual sonic fest is named after Hugh Masekela, might not have been in the line-up scheduled to perform at its 2017 edition at the Soweto Cricket Oval at Elkah Stadium in Rockville – but that didn’t appear to bother the enthusiastic hordes of revellers who once again, faithfully descended on the venue for yet another fill of eclectic musical renditions.

Absence of Bra Hugh at the festival fails to deter eager fans

New kid on the block Bongeziwe Mabandla, lead member of a three piece band gave a perfect performance. All images JACOB MAWELA.

Owing to ill-health which disappointingly, but understandably, forced Masekela to announce the forthwith cancellation of his musical activities until further notice – the organisers nonetheless ensured that the gig carried the sort of clout which would meet the muso’s exacting standards and in the process, still be able to enthrall his followers despite his non-performance.

Sans much prompting, music lovers showed up alright – families of adults and mites in tow; lovers of varying ages; buddies and groupies.  Camp chairs, umbrellas, picnic baskets and cooler boxes in familiar ubiquitous presence were a dime a dozen as enterprising vendors worked the crowd with wares of floppy hats, baseball caps and miscellaneous accessories.

It was blazing hot and as was the case with the previous year’s edition, rain clouds threatened – and similarly, the organisers were prepared for any dampener to proceedings as they distributed raincoats when a drizzle threatened the intimate space.

The trending feature of amalgamating offerings at such events was also evident as the party-goers could, in between sets, be able to saunter around the vast manicured lawns to browse at stalls offering anything from artworks, fashion and craft accessories such as beads, necklaces, bracelets – to CD albums of the day’s featured artists.

Academia Prof Zakes Mda and Barbara Masekela enjoying the view at the fest.

Such stalls in addition to a beer garden; food ones offering fast and slow fare and a kiddie’s play area replete with a face painting section.  VIPs and media had their designated spaces too and the presence of paramedics and SAPS officers assured visitors.

Of the vendors, Soweto based Good To Go Eatery co-owned by a young and affable chef who pays close attention to detail [in as far as preparation and presentation] named, Vusi Mkhabela, surely seem to be headed for greater heights in the gourmet business since their resume is forever racking an impressive list of big ticket events they do mass catering at – from an unpretentious, small but appealingly decorated caravan.

Their humongous festival platter at the heritage festival, comprising of  beef and vegetable burgers, chicken wings, fries, and guacamole dip – had the streetwise staff manning an art canvasses stall, salivating in anticipation when an order was delivered unto them.

Their reaction was understandable as what was on the wooden board was simply eye appetising!

The suave youngsters, operating an art fair from the Soweto Theatre, sold paintings of Soweto talents such as Senzo Nhlapo, an oil on canvas of whose complete pending an Urban Village performance at Camp Fest 2017 – was on display, with an asking price of R27 000.

Nearby was displayed a controversially-looking piece by an artist named Mduduzi Twala depicting King Shaka burning the old Apartheid flag whilst below stood silhouetted figures of masses with arms raised in approval and relief at the destruction of the old order.

Another manifestation of young black entrepreneurship was in the form of La Funk, a bar catering for such occasions and servicing the beer garden.

They sold top wines, spirits, beers and ales at reasonably fair prices.  Situated under some oak trees flanking the cricket ground, their location made the space seem rather novel as some white visitors from Johannesburg’s north popped a bottle of champers at one of the tables dotting the area.

The VIP hospitality area had the head chef spotted at a portable kiln oven preparing pizzas whilst waiters and waitrons went to-and-from the bar and guests’ tables, with invariably empty and laden trays of comestibles and beverages.

It a space of privilege, not just for the hospitable treatment, but for the ambitious of outlook.

Man of many hats Professor Emeritus, artist, writer, Zakes Mda was spotted deep in conversation with business executive, Peter Vundla.

At the adjacent table, dancer Nomsa Manaka shimmied up to music promoter, Peter Tladi whilst even yet nearby, Johannesburg Theatres’ Makhaola Ndebele and family exchanged pleasantries with South Africa’s erstwhile ambassador to Paris, Barbara Masekela.

To the concern of what the supporting infrastructures were there for diva, Zoe Modiga’s stagecraft included her caressing a sensual region whilst swooning through suggestive lyrics.

“Soweto, the flu is killing me, but I’m gonna do my best”, began yet another of the exponents who are proudly holding the musical baton, Bongeziwe Mabandla, at the start of his set.

Fronting a three piece band and dressed in short pants whilst wielding his definitive weapon, an acoustic guitar – he didn’t waste time pouring his sonic brand onto the daring crowd below the stage.

A handsome fellow, Mabandla has this signature wont of a teasing smile he flashes between belting out lyrics which could make any man concerned about their partners’ reaction.

With the line-up catering for different genres, toward sunset, man-of-the-moment, Riky Rick had young and old up on their feet when he invited a sizeable number of eager boys and girls to join him on the stage, and to belt out some of the hits which have cemented his household status.

The unexpected moment wasn’t lost on an older boy dressed in street credo and with an accompanying swagger he must have adopted from music videos – when he energetically slayed an improvised duet rendition of the number regarding iKotini!

This was souvenir territory as at the artist’s set conclusion, he invited videographers and photographers to record images of himself with the kids on the stage against a backdrop of the crowd below.

Zoe Modiga did her job despite influenza.

With night time having gathered and the earlier rainclouds no longer anywhere with their threat, it suitably became time for Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness to pulsate any ear within vicinity with the big band’s brand of sweaty, gymnastic, havoc-wreaking performance!

Those who are familiar with BCUC know them to be one home-grown unit which can lay claim to hoisting Soweto’s flag higher than any in their genre and generally with regard to stagecraft.

When you spot Caucasians next to you lost in a trance of physiological abandon – you noddingly know that the band’s sound has been successfully induced into the intended receptor.

Whilst all the meted chaos cascaded, word was that Masekela was somewhere backstage in the parking lot resting in a car.

A friend of his Zimbabwean legend, Oliver Mtukudzi was still to ascend onto the now heated up stage – all the while a blast from the segregationist 80s’ and bubble gum exponent, Penny Penny, wearing a typical bombastic hairstyle, fielded media inquiries next to the artists’ change rooms, ahead of bringing the roof down on proceedings.

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