Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
30 Nov 2013
7:00 am

Both ends of the spectrum

Kulani Nkuna

Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim are jazz journeymen entitled to their eccentricities – thanks to their contributions to the South African songbook and placing this country on the map in the bad old days.

MASTER. Hugh Masekela manages to impress with each new performance. Picture: Michel Bega.

Not that their demands are unreasonable – like asking for an all-white room draped in satin, two professional dancers and Moet & Chandon, as American rapper riders often do.

No, Masekela and Ibrahim just want to enjoy a moment of solitude with their instruments and to have their work afforded the respect it deserves.

An article appeared a few years ago recalling an incident where Ibrahim reportedly swore at a photographer and journalist for taking a photo of him while he was in his private space rehearsing.

Khuli Chana. Picture supplied.

Khuli Chana. Picture supplied.

It seemed they disturbed an intimate moment and the jazz maestro did not appreciate the interruption.

Similar irritations occurred at the recent MTN Limpopo Music Festival when headliner Masekela was enjoying a moment backstage doing some yoga before going on stage.

Masekela requested that the media and public not take pictures of him in this state. This incensed some people, who called him “rude and unreasonable”. Masekela still executes a “get down” move rather splendidly, but that requires him to stretch beforehand.

But once on stage, Masekela seemed in the mood.

He began his set with the Tsonga track Languta, which proved popular in a province that boasts the highest number of speakers of that language in South Africa.

As soon as the menacing bass at the beginning of the track roused the listeners gathered on the grass, feet started moving even before his trumpet came into play.

He displayed his expert breathing, proving that age had not slowed down his playing ability. And by the time he started singing “Chela mabadi” the audience was already ahead and had to backtrack to sing at his pace.

Masekela was simply sublime, playing the hits early and following up with Chileshe.

He then payed his respects to the crowd and addressed them in the local Sepedi tongue, narrating his clan names and their meanings to great ululations.

He did, however, get annoyed by some audience chatter and instructed the bunch of young men in the middle of a song to take their conversation elsewhere.

While Masekela’s performance appealed to a cross-section of the audience, Khuli Chana served the younger crowd with a stellar performance.

Chana received a rockstar’s response before going on stage, with the whole park at attention in anticipation. It is not the norm to have a star of such magnitude come from the hip hop genre in this country. Promoter Rito Hlungwane even remarked: “It does not really matter how much Khuli Chana charges, because he will bring you the crowd.”

When Khuli Chana reached the stage he did not have to work too hard, as the crowd was already amped up.

He simply had to maintain the aura that the crowd seemed to be high on and had no problems doing so given his repertoire, which includes hits like Tswa Daar, Hape Le Hape, Hazzadaz Move, No More Hunger, his collaborations with AKA, his work with Morafe and the current favourite Mnatebawen.

Energy was not a problem for the artist, despite his recent recovery after a high-profile shooting incident.

His performance was a tour de force and, together with Masekela, Chana represented the best of both young and old.