THE WRITTEN WORD

As a creative it is important to remain confident and not to judge one-self. Creating a regular and sustainable income in the creative field is a challenge. Yet the challenge to be oneself no matter what the obstacles is the challenge of a life-time. It is the journey of the hero … Let us journey together, for it is only through sharing that we become …

With twenty years experience as a freelance journalist and as an author of two books, and editor of half dozen others, the services I can offer in the written word, editing, design and release are at a high standard and reasonable cost …

My intention is always independence and expression, two avenues that may benefit the individual and create empowerment …

Thank you
struan@afribeat.com

Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble

Watch the performance of the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble at the above link :

This show was a knock out in many ways … hence the title – the fire that set Sophia free !

For Sophia is a mythological being deep in our subconscious … She represents the unity of the divine feminine …

To set her free is to set us free in the direction of togetherness, one-nes and united in body mind and soul …

And music performed by the great musicians in a conscious collective of collaboration and shared delight is the medium for transformation …

Sophiatown it is not about the place but the people wrote Trevor Huddleston … And now that the people have been moved, relocated, and in some instances re-united … it is even more so about the people but now particularly and also about the places that bring them together …

Thank you to one and all for making this dream a reality and in the Meadowlands mantra we say “A promise is a promise.”

Griot Sora :

Cissoko is a big griot family nation that hails from West Africa, Senegal to Guinea. One of the younger members of this vast family is Tarang Cissoko. The griot is the musikmaker in society. His mother was a griot and his father was griot. With griots on both sides of his family line he is known as a griot shora. He is a born musician.

His siblings and half siblings are all musicians. They are based all over the world from Sweden to Norway, Paris and America. And we were recently blessed by having Tarang arriving on our beautiful South African shores and symbolically extending the reach of his ancient griot heritage.

The Ciisoko family is vast. His father had 22 children. Tarang is the second to last born. He lives with his mother. She bore of 10 of his fathers children. Tarang is the limelight of his career. He is burgeoning with brilliance. He plays both kora and djembe. It is on the djembe that he is already rated as one of the finest players, it is as a hopper that he shoots the breeze with his buddies, however it is on the kora that he is extending his international appeal.

He is self taught. The music has come to him and he plays in the traditional griot way. He is a singer too. He is very active as a musician in Dakar, keeping an extremely healthy lifestyle.
The harp like instrument, the Kora. With 22 strings, eleven on either side of tuning mast, it stays in the same key. Simply speaking, the kora, is music that greets the soul. The sound of the kora is like waterfalls of notes and textures, cascading, falling, rising, always evocative, like a prayer ancient and infinite. T he instrument itself is extraordinary in its handmade magnificence. The kora sings its own tune. The overtones arise in the interplay of melody and rhythm, as they pass together in cycles of harmony. With thumb the bassline sings and then the fingers of left and right hand play in call and response in their tight expanse of melody making. Sonic wonder, it is so content in itself. This is music. The music of meditation.
This music is fashioned over many life times, quite probably 5000 years of music making. It is amazing for its power, expanse, beauty and balance in the natural elements of life; earth, fire, wind, water, ether.

Together with his brothers and sisters in Dakar, the family play in a Cissoko heritage band called Ninkinanka. Ninkinanka is translated to mean dragon. The Cissoko brothers also play in a djembe ensemble, or troupe de djembe, called SILABA.

Tarang Cissoko; a humbling and growing experience to be in the presence of the power of this young man. When he is playing he is loosing himself in the music and making space for the muse to come through.

Herewith performance at Wits

Sophiatown – the unfinished business

heritagedayThe excellent thesis by Vusi Mchunu about The relationship between the Harlem Renaissance and the Sophiatown Renaissance was donated to the Sophiatown Cultural and Heritage Centre on Cultural Heritage Day September 25th . Vusi Mchunu pictured above enjoying the dancing good times of Sophiatown has presented an astonishing piece of work that has even enjoyed translation into German. Much valuable information about Sophiatown is readily gleamed and provides further illustration how in the short space of 11 years Sophiatown did more for South African popular culture than any other location or influence of all time.

The comparison between Sophiatown of the 50’s and Harlem of the 20’s was very strong so much so that in many instances Sophiatown was referred to as ‘Little Harlem.’ The thesis illustrates that this comparison is also celebrated from an American perspective as it is confirmed by the John F Kennedy Institute lectures in African American history, sociology and culture.

Vusi Mchunu writes, “Harlemites threw “rent parties.” Sophiatonians threw “stokvels.” It was here that marabi was born.

Marabi was a musical culture that defined Sophiatown. Life and death danced with a reckless abandon alongside the best of times and the worst of times as it was often quipped. Marabi was the sound of yin and yang and Sophiatown the host of these opposites. On one hand a cultural haven for self actualisation and on the other hand a violent, flea infested shanty town. Marabi music was the meeting of these opposites, an African identity with an American certainty. It moved with the migrants: from the marrabenta of Mozambique and then hit up alongside the ragtime of the Capone brothels and minstrelsy of the slavery blues.

Popular culture was preserved in the brilliant urban magazine of the time, Drum Magazine.

“Drum wasn’t so much of a magazine as it was a symbol of the New African cult, adrift from the tribal reserve – urbanised, eager, fast talking and brash.” wrote Lewis Nkosi in Tasks and Masks – themes and styles of African literature

Vusi Mchunu writes, “Most Sophiatonians in the 50’s lived in corrugated iron shacks with no electricity, no running water. Drum journalists were poor, yet took pride in their little rooms and gave them funny names like “House of Commons, House of Saints and Can Themba’s ‘House of Truth.’ Themba’s best friends were singers and performers. He reported on a-capella groups like the Manhattan Brothers, the Cuban Brothers, the Midnight Kids, the Harlem Swingsters, the Jazz Pioneers and variety shows like the African Jazz Parade, songbirds like Dolly Rathebe, Thandi Mpambani, Miriam Makeba, Thoko Thomo, Susan Gabashane and Dorothy Masuko.” And Drum magazine documented, recorded and preserved this era, exactly as it was. It was an era rampantly urbanising, rampantly awakening. The glamour of urban life was well depicted. Casey Motsisi’s column in Drum was called “If bugs were men,” where he documented the lives of Sophiatonians.

Sophiatown provided a togetherness of culture. When the pioneering film “Come back Africa” directed by the American Lionel Rogosin was set in Sophiatown … it brought some of the best creative minds together in the spirit of culture and the shared purpose of social upliftment.

Bloke Modisane recalls … “for the scene we assembled Can Themba, Lewis Nkosi, Morris Hugh Lestwalo and I; Lionel Rogosin provided the liquor, Matha Maduma played the shebeen queen and we also got Miriam Makeba.”

“The most stimulating scene was the alienation of the rural african, the confusion of being in the midst of black intellectuals – whom Nimrod Mkele describes as displaced intellectuals in search of a morality – listening without understanding, but being stimulated.”

Vusi Mchunu writes, “This excellent film went a long way to display the concern by some Sophiatown intellectuals to bridge the gap with the laboring classes. Mayibuye iAfrika meaning Come back Africa was an ANC song.”

Other initiatives added fuel to the fire of passion of this era …

“The African Jazz and Variety Show produced by Alfred Herbert was a large cast with a lot of stars and offered dance, song, music, clowning and dramatic sketches. They toured the whole country carrying the cultural message of Sophiatown, carrying the seeds of fermenting Sophiatown all the way to Central Africa.

“A royalty award ceremony in 1953 for Solomon Linda proved the occasion for the creation of the Union of Southern African Artists. Their original aim was to protect African amateur dramatics and music from exploitation. They offered free legal advice, art lectures and workshops or skills to their members. They even promoted a series of jazz concerts in the townships,”

Vusi Mchunu writes … But there was one initiative that was very symbolic. And that was the All African jazz opera, King Kong – a musical from the Sophiatonian experience. King Kong is the story of a well known Johannesburg boxer Ezekiel Dhlamini. Through rivalry with a gansger for a women he looses his career, he looses the woman and eventually takes his own life in jail. Vusi Mchunu writes, “The script for King Kong was evolved by Clive Menell of Anglo American; music student from Cambridge, Stanley Glasser, classic ballet choreographer Arnold Dower, journalist Pat Wiliams, lawyer Harry Bloom. Todd Matshikiza wrote the music and Mankwenkwe Davashe conducted the orchestra. King Kong absorbed the black artistic talent in Johannesburg; the Manhattan Brothers, Miriam Makeba’s Skylarks; Mackay Davashe’s Jazz Dazzlers; Victor Ndlazilwana’s the Woody Woodpeckers, the Katzenjammer Kids, the Crazy Folks, the Chord Sisters, the Saints, the Swankey Spots, the Queens pageboys. It was episodic, unified in an associative manner and carried forward by song, dance, the use of mime, little dialogue.”

But somehow in the midst of a cultural renaissance that held the principles of eternity. Sophiatown was demolished and destroyed and in its stead rising from the ashes were broken dreams and broken hearts. And this leads Vusi Mchunu to call his conclusion Sophiatown – the unfinished business …

It is on the back of such passionate research that we assemble the broken dreams, the forgotten legends and the overlooked information and we begin to repair, resolve, revolve and re-create the foundations for which the renaissace was real and rewarding !

The myth of Sophia

Sally Motlana Tricia Sibbons #sophiatownheritage

Sally Motlana Tricia Sibbons #sophiatownheritage

Sophia is the divine feminine, the great Mother archetype, the feminine archetype. Sophia is all the goddesses of our mythology, African and cultural. She is an energy, that is divine feminine but united with the masculine. She is one-ness.

“Sophia energy is a totality of wisdom, we accept her as both the black goddess and the transcendent spirit of the world soul.” Laura Eisenhower

The scriptures tell us, Sophia was present at the beginning of creation . . . participating at the side of the Lord in the work of creation.’

Sophia has an extraordinary chapter in the cultural heritage of this country. Exactly 66 years ago, Sophia was at her peak in the imagination of the freedom seekers; musicians, artists, fashionisto’s, politicians and professionals. Her energy was highly activated in a place  called Sophiatown, West of Johannesburg, which become a heartland for the expression of unity and togetherness.

It was the divine mother who created the golden era of Sophiatown Renaissance. On her sacrifice to give her children a better life, the new generation set about to create a better world for one and all.

“Mother turned our home into a shebeen, worked 14 hours a day brewing and pressing homebrews called skokiaan and barberton and from the proceeds, she educated me to high school and the two girls to primary school.” Bloke Modisane

“The new mother archetype was required to bring out in her children their artistry, intellectual abilities and an integrated persona.” Olga Corner

In the 1930’s, it was the mama’s who sacrificed themselves to the brewing of beer (umqombothi, skokiaan or barberton) to give their children a better life. And by the 1950’s, this new generation of creativity came to fruition, as it set about to create a better world for one and all.

Yet in true archetypal legend, as the goodness flowed from the collective hearts, the evil rose up to meet the good. The principles and actions of uBuntu, Botho, togetherness was met with division, separation, apartheid. And thus by 1963, the energy of Sophia was chased from Sophiatown. The golden era that had formed around her was abruptly ended and the people and places of Sophiatown were destroyed.

In 1994, the Mandela government was the first symbol of a splendid transformation and the return of the divine feminine, Sophia.

“Nelson Mandela held the new mother archetype within his intelligence in the form of ‘tata.’ “He was a perfect example of a being who had attained apotheosis. The higher truths of a new kind of mother archetype that saves and redeems; a novel mother archetype that provides the necessary space and healing for us to reach the stars.” Olga Corner

Today it is 2015 and the spirit of Sophia is still moving. In the heart of Sophiatown Sally Motlana continues with her cultural activism and Tricia Sibbons has custom built a centre for Sophiatown Heritage. From these heart centred actions a new light is projected onto all the forgotten dreams and broken hearts, to forgive let, go, repair and renew.  

Where we had Father Trevor Huddleston, the Drum offices and the informal houses of yesteryear, we have the Sophiatown Culture Heritage Centre today. And where we have the great works of wisdom and imagination of the Matshikiza’s, Themba’s and Modisane’s of yesteryear we have Olga Corner’s novel “Love Coins of Sophiatown,” Vusi Mchunu’s research into the “Sophiatown Renaissance.” Where we had the boogie music of marabi catching a big swing with African Jazz yesteryear, today we have a spiritual movement of self knowledge and healing through jazz …

You see, it is all the same story. It is always us : the human family in the great dance of life, living life courageously, joyously, abundantly, where the now is all there is.

And this is the welcome of Sophiatown. You have to be it to believe it. You have to live it to know it, you have to experience it to internalise it.

Sophiatown is alive. The divine feminie, the energy of omeness, togetherness, unity uBuntu, Botho is alive. We are alive. Let’s enjoy it together.

#sophiatownheritage

Thank you Doctor Google !

In November 2013 I was walking through the bush on my way to the printer when I began to get severe chest pains. At the age of 38, and in good shape, I was very surprised. I thought I was having a mild heart attack. The attack passed. I held my heart in place and shuffled home. I spent two days in bed, read Stig Larssens awesome trilogy and when the heart had relaxed I approached Dr Google.

I listed my ailments, heart palpitation, shooting pains in the lower belly and excess gas. Dr Google started teaching me about the hiatal hernia. But with Dr Google, all outcomes are possible, it is a choice, and if you do not exercise your choice s/he will lead you to the generic outcome, which in the case of hernia is surgery.

I wanted natural healing so I augmented my search with key phrases such as “healing,” “holistic”, “love” and “music.” It was “music” that pushed me to my healing because when Dr Google saw that, s/he showed me a trumpet players thread, because hiatal hernia is common among trumpeters. Almost all trumpeters on the thread had gone under the knife and had the problem chopped right out. However the last thread some character wrote the very message that pushed me to heal. He wrote all in capitals … DO NOT HAVE SURGERY.

Once I was resolved on that major choice and had decided completely to take the natural path, Dr Google began to really open my eyes to the nature of this ailment in order to heal it naturally. The hiatal hernia is caused by a build up of anger. And if I wanted to heal my hiatal hernia naturally I had to face up to and take responsibility for my anger. Dr Google told me there is one way to do that, ‘speak to Jesus!’

I got to it. I turned off the lights, jumped into bed and began my conversation with Jesus. I explained everything; that I had developed a hiatal hernia. It was a build up of anger. And I needed to release the anger so that I could heal. And so it happened. As if watching a movie about myself in relation to my anger I came face to face with the cause of my hernia. I saw all the experiences, deep into my childhood, that I was holding onto. It took a whole night. I was crying, praying, apologising, scolding, forgiving, letting go and healing.

Next day, I got out Dr Google and typed in hiatal hernia, natural heal. And Dr Google delivered a do it yourself remedy, and a chiropractor remedy. According to Dr Google, a chiropractor can role these things out in a few minutes. I decided to go with the expert. I chose that option and then Dr Google introduced me to a chiropractor in Durban, specialising in hernia’s. I went to see him straight away. He asked me my ailment, I said hiatal hernia. He asked me who diagnosed me, I said Dr Google. He laughed and said he will investigate. He pressed deep into my belly, and said you do not have a hiatal hernia. You have two! And he rolled them out for me. Within five minutes it was all over ! ———

Dr Google is a very hard task master, s/he can come up with anything under the sun. So you have to be sure. Combining Dr Google’s advice with prayer and deep intuitive meditation is a good suggestion. The right answer is out there.

In September 2014, I went to have my eyes tested. I had not done this for ten years. The eye doctor was astonished. He said my specs were double the prescription I required and gave me a new prescription. The day after I got my new glasses I developed tiny transparent pimples on the inside of the whites of either eye. They did not affect me at all other than they were slightly unsightly and I did not know what they were. Dr Google came up with nothing, until one day a friend asked, “What those spots in your eyes?” “Spot,” what a good description. Never thought of that. I ran it passed Dr Google and got the response. Pinguecula. Surgery as always was the common quick fix but it treats the ailment and not the cause. The causes vary from wind, rain, and sun to the liver. Liver you can change. I drew up a shopping list and replaced normal tea with green tea.

And then Dr Google showed me a thread where this ailment is common among surfers. And these surfers are diluting organic apple cider vinegar and dropping it into the corner of their eye. And it is clearing up the spot!

I got hold of Apple Cider Vinegar, with The Mother, and got a little over excited. I missed the corner of my eye and hit the cornea. This was painful. So I found the guy who writes in bold online. Somebody writes in response to the Apple Cider Vinegar cure … DON’T DO IT … I stopped at once. The eyes are something you can’t mess with …

The body is not an experimental station. STOP the treatment. PAIN is a sign that something is going wrong. So I stop and the ache diminishes. And when I see an optometrist. He says, pterygium you do not have to worry, artificial tears and omega 3 will clear it up …

It is important to note that Dr Google will only give you what you are looking for. It is not a healer. I, me, you ,we are the healers. Dr Google provides a comparative analysis. It is important to listen to the body more so that Dr Google. Health is a function of our body mind and soul; health is within and healing is a tool available to one and all, if we listen to the body.

 

Barney Rachabane meets The Minister of Arts and Culture

Barney Rachabane

Barney Rachabane

Some call it the indestructible beat of Soweto. Some call it from marabi to disco. Some call it the raucus township pop jazz sound. Some call it soul, mbaqanga or jazz. And for someone like Barney who has lived through all the era’s from pennywhistle jive, through explosive inxile jazz, and driving soul music, it is all that and more.

Barney Rachabane is regarded as “the most soulful saxophone player in the world.”
Barney Rachabane born in Alexandra township 1946, grandson of a reverend, is self taught and self actualized in every way. He is a man who found himself through jazz music and the melting pot of consciousness expressed through the melting pot of music. He was an inxile, he never went in for politics and is grateful that instead have having to suffer exile, he could build a home and a family which he has done very well.

One wonders why the minister has called him in. Perhaps they will be naming a road after him to add to Ntemi Piliso Road and Miriam Makeba Road and Mahlatini avenue. Now we can have a Rachabane highway!

We are looking forward to more performances of the Barney Rachabane Sextet; a powerful show full of musical delight and surprise …

This show highlights Barney Rachabane’s sixty year career at the top of South African music with some of his most stirring compositions performed together with the compositions and performances of his super talented musical offspring, his daughter, songstress Octavia Rachabane and grandson, bebop saxophonists Oscar Rachabane; in a dynamic, delightful and musically decadent sextet.

Barney Rachabane: Saxophone
Octavia Rachabane: Vocals
Oscar Rachabane : Saxophone
Thato Modise: Bass
Tseko Motaung: piano
Pat Ngwenya: drums

The show can be introduced by jazz playwrite and actor Thami Sikhosana with scripted passages from the book The Story of South African Jazz, Volume One and Two “The Real Thing” by Struan Douglas …
Thami Sikhosana: narrator
Struan Douglas: script writer