Masekela had noted that besides maintaining South Africa’s heritage the festival was aimed at returning to a time where weekends were spent with family and friends, attending theatre shows or a concert – outdoors. The vision behind this show was to take families back to these times where a day is spent in beautiful surroundings listening to the best of music.
The turnout at the Elkah Stadium was mostly a family affair and Masekela, who was the headline artist, attracted a mixed crowd of grandmothers who are close to his age to grandkids as a young as four-years-old.
The cosmopolitan nature of Soweto has also meant that a fusion of genres at the festival would go down well with the locals, who have varied musical tastes. The artists line-up on the day was hand-picked by Masekela, including the participation of Jeremy Loops and the band, Desmond & The Tutus.
Loops played during the late afternoon while the sun was out and the weather a bit warm, while Desmond & The Tutus played in the early evening with the wind biting as blankets came out. But not a soul moved during their performances as they received some of that old famous Soweto hospitality with the crowd learning the choruses of the songs very quickly and singing along.
The dancing to these tunes was also unorthodox compared to the fare that is to be found at traditional rock concerts, with the movements more rhythmical and engaging. Desmond & The Tutus’ frontman, Shane Durrant, was eager to get the audience to participate in the songs, instructing them to follow his lead with the claw dance. The reception after every song was resounding and initially he seemed surprised at the reception. He kept saying: “Soweto you are pretty awesome for a bunch of first timers.”
By the time Thandiswa Mazwai took to the stage, the crowd was ready to erupt and she didn’t disappoint. Playing with her all-female band, Mazwai started by addressing the little girls in the audience, telling them that anything is possible; that they could be in a band one day if that is what they wanted.
Mazwai’s set moved away from the norm on this occasion, taking on a more alternative sound on most of her hits. Songs like Ibokwe lost its traditional ceremony bend, but it worked spectacularly well for Ingoma which employed a reggae line.
Widely regarded as the king of maskanda music, KwaZulu-Natal artist Phuzekhemisi was elated to be performing in Soweto. His performance was like a link to home for many in the audience who had left their rural homes in search of Jozi’s gold. Translated, his name means “drink the medicine” and his offering was cultural medicinal therapy that spoke of the hills of the KwaZulu and the pride inherent in his traditional folk music. The performance was Zulu poetry in motion, with some capable backing vocals and dancers which included his gifted son, who displayed some impressive chops on the guitar.
The older generation in the crowd only left their station when Masekela got onto the stage with the song Tsotsi, and getting down with moves reminiscent of the Sophiatown era. His trumpet playing remains particular and he combined it with a vocal performance that sent the audience home with smiles on their faces. His was an extensive set which included guest appearances from Pu2ma and Complete. The traditional tribute to Fela Kuti found its way in the set as well, rounding it off with a varied, but powerful, performance of Thanayi.