thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “music”

Going to the gypsy fair

My boys are slightly annoyed with me at the moment. I recently changed the CD in the Panda when they weren’t looking, which caused a certain amount of consternation.

For now, it’s au revoir American rock, in the form of Journey and Steve Perry’s famously-ranging tones…

steve perry journey

 

…and hello to Irish rock and soul band Hothouse Flowers and the heartfelt vocals of Liam Ó Maonlaí. Life is about change and variety after all, is it not?

Liam Hothouseflowers

 

I tried to tell this to my children, politely and diplomatically, but they weren’t impressed. My response was to be greeted by two very mulish little faces. Ah well, they’re only ten and eight, and to their great credit they really do like the music of Journey.

When diplomacy didn’t work I simply reminded them that it is, actually, Mom’s taxi. Therefore, Mom’s music rules, she has final veto powers and she will turn bear-ish if pushed too far.

polar bear

(I know – I’ll tell Liam that this new lead singer shares his name! Maybe that will impress him.)

Anyway, that was a short while ago. We’ve since had a few instances when the CD was sneakily changed back to Journey when I wasn’t looking, but we managed to keep these at ‘instance’ level and not ‘international incident’ level.

So now the boys are starting to thaw just a little, having finally permitted themselves to discover a couple of tracks that they actually like.

My own current favourite Hothouse Flowers track, during my drives in my Panda, beckons sweetly and enticingly of running away from current responsibilities:

bareback horse

Blazing eyes, bareback horses
And a redhead smile
I’m tempted strongly, strongly tempted
By the call of the wild

Going to the gypsy fair
I’m gonna find some freedom there
I wanna dance ’til I don’t care
At the gypsy fair.

Because, you know, sometimes a girl just likes to dream of a brief hiatus with no responsibilities for a while. However, that’s not on the cards just yet, and so I will look for other inspiration from my desk area at the office, where I have an image stuck up that reminds me to ‘Look up, get up and never give up’.

But I think I could be allowed to permit myself one heartfelt sigh before I get back to work. And then I’ll put my nose once more to the grindstone, with just one proviso: every now and then, I plan to look out of the window and dream of the time when I will be free to go to the gypsy fair.

And I will dance till I don’t care.

dancing gypsy

 

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Asimbonanga for Madiba

Here is my tribute to Nelson Mandela – first published July 2012.

The world will remember the date you left us: 5 December 2013.

Rest in peace: great man, great humanitarian, humble human being. 

 

All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.

liam-school-play-smaller

Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Chorus….

Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down”?

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around Nkandla (God BLESS Thuli Madonsela!); think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: songs of an unfolding heart

Sometimes the songs and the music of your life’s personal soundtrack arrive when you are still too young and inexperienced to appreciate their significance, or even the true meaning of some of the words. And yet, because it’s part of the soundtrack of your life, the words haunt you and stay with you from youth to less youthful.

And then one day you wake up and find you can put them in some kind of sequence.

Relate them to those you love.

Realise why the song always spoke to you, when love and sorrow and even some kinds of special joy had not yet properly crossed the threshold of your life.

Yes.

“Ahhhhhhh,” you think, “I get it now. Ah yes…”

Here are a few of the songs from my personal soundtrack: far from all – just a hand-picked few for now because otherwise this post would have been even longer.

All together now: violins, guitars, piano, voices. Especially voices.

Begin.

(Click on the song titles for the video/audio links.)

John Denver

Sweet surrender

I like to imagine these words playing in the background when my future husband, then aged just 17 to my 12, was trudging along a road in the semi-desert close to the Namibian border, forlorn and alone. I like to think that the promise of me in his future was there all the while in the heat mist swirling up from the tarmac; while his soul yearned for freedom from the emotional pain and something in him still clung to a belief in better days to come.  

John Denver

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Travelled by many remembered by few
Looking for something that I can believe in
Looking for something that I’d like to do with my life

There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me
To something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more
Than enough to just be here today

And I don’t know what the future is holding in store
I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Guns ’n Roses

Sweet child o’ mine

Late teens; early twenties. Sisters. Experiencing moments of telepathy across the ocean. Crying with laughter at elephant-in-the fridge jokes on the kitchen floor – the same laugh coming out of two siblings’ mouths in a funny kind of stereo. Snaking separately through the crowd at The Doors when the song played, summonsing us to meet on the dance floor. An invisible spotlight shines on us as I look back – together, we were invincible!

To Pook, from Seet-sah. It will be okay even when it’s not. Love in abundance!

axl_rose

She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

Nick Cave

Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

This one is for all those times when I had to keep believing that the right person was still out there, knowing that if I did not believe, my fundamental faith in a mostly-positive universe would crack irrevocably and change me into someone I was not meant to be. This one became part of our wedding music.

Nick Cave

I’ve felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you’d find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my destiny? Is this how you’ll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

As you’ve been moving, surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I’ve sat and I’ve watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Out of sorrow entire worlds have been built
Out of longing great wonders have been willed
They’re only little tears, darling, let them spill
And lay your head upon my shoulder
Outside my window the world has gone to war
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

O we will know… won’t we?
The stars will explode in the sky
But they don’t… do they?
Stars have their moment and then they die

There’s a man who spoke wonders though I’ve never met him
He said, “He who seeks, finds, and who knocks will be let in”
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Cowboy Junkies

If you were the woman and I was the man

This one celebrates the romantic in me and the beginnings, finally of an ‘us’ . Unexpectedly, I said “I love you” first. I was that brave because it was right. (I like this live version of the song featuring John Prine’s gravelly guest vocals.)

Cowboy Junkies

(she)

If you were the woman and I was the man

Would I send you yellow roses

Would I dare to kiss your hand?
In the morning would I caress you
Like the wind caresses the sand,
If you were the woman and I was the man?

(he)

If I was the woman and you were the man

Would you send me yellow roses
Would you dare to kiss my hand?
In the morning would you caress me
As the wind caresses the sand,
If I was  the woman and you were the man?

(both)

If I was the heart and you were the head

Would you think me very foolish
If one day I decided to shed
These walls that surround me
Just to see where these feelings led,
If I was the heart and you were the head?

(she)

If I was the woman and you were the man

Would I laugh if you came to me
With your heart in your hand
And said, ‘I offer you this freely
I will give you all that I can
Because you are the woman
And I am the man?

 

Colbie Caillat

Bubbly

Such a funny little love song this – so sweet and innocent, and probably this is why it’s my love song for my children: for their bubbly faces, their sweetness, their innocence and the way that they make me smile. They can be tiring years, when your children are young; physically and mentally exhausting sometimes, but I’m trying to hold on to this stage for as long as I can.

Vivienne boys DStroom

Will you count me in?

I’ve been awake for a while now
you’ve got me feelin like a child now
cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tinglies in a silly place

It starts in my toes
and I crinkle my nose
wherever it goes I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
wherever you go

The rain is fallin on my window pane
but we are hidin in a safer place
under covers stayin dry and warm
you give me feelins that I adore

It starts in my toes
make me crinkle my nose
wherever it goes
I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
where ever you go

What am I gonna say
when you make me feel this way
I just……..mmmmmm

Zucchero

Il Volo (my love)

This is the song that pulls at your heartstrings long before you have ever been tempted to walk out the door during the bad times. This is the song for anyone who will ever think – with your heart breaking at the time – that you just might not come back. This is the song that gets you with its pain and its joy and its breathtaking emotion, perhaps before you have even come close to understanding the emotion’s true depth.

Pavarotti and friends

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine ways to sorrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Wild cat in a sad dog story
Nine roads to follow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love that’s torn us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Lost cat in a dead end story
Nine lines that echo
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine lives to borrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love before us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Siamo caduti in volo, mio sole (We fell while flying, my sun)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)
Siamo caduti in volo, mio cielo (We fell while flying, my sky)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)

Gonna paint this town, for you
Turn it upside down
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

Runrig

This beautiful pain

Runrig2

I write this with tears in my eyes as my father’s frailty; his subjugation to his illness seems to grow so much faster than we had ever imagined. Fittingly it is a Scotsman’s voice in this love song; this ballad and this lament that I copy down for my Scottish father, who seems threatening now to fade like the light in the song words below.

My father, Ralph, has loved my mother, Linda, all the days I have known them – and she in turn has loved him. How lucky I am to have seen this shared love for so many decades.

I have appreciated the beautiful lyrics of this song since I first returned to my Scottish homeland as a young adult and felt the hills calling me with an insistent voice I recognised  and responded to immediately. I particularly like the section that says, “You put all of my youth in my future. You put the future back into my past”, and I had always thought this to be a love song for me and mine. And perhaps it is also that, but right here, in this time right now, it is my father’s love song for my mother.

I have only just understood this.

Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

Day was young and desire was stirred.

Summer was all but gone.

Light was fading from the side of your face.

Sinking low in the corn.

All that’s constant and wise

I still see in your eyes

It was always this way from the start.

Right here where I stand on the last of the land.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Now all I have is rushing right through my hands.

Sailing over the seas.

Down that tide where fresh and salt combine.

All victories are released.

We who wrestle the years

Have traded our fears

For a glimpse of ecstasy in the dark.

Turning ice in the fire but still we’re denied.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

The skies turned red without failure.

They held their promise and dread till the last.

You put all of my youth in my future.

You put the future back into my past.

So shine a light and shine it brightly now.

You know it all takes its course.

And all the many ways I’ve tried so hard

To reach this potent source.

On the day behind time across the divide.

Along the cord came all light out of dark.

Now I stand amazed in this beautiful pain.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Midge Ure

Breathe

 This is the song of my youth and the song of myself.

This is a song that speaks to my idealistic core.

It reminds me of the unfolding young adult I once was, who struggled to combine poetry and beauty with the bittersweet realisation that life is not always malleable when you want to shape and bend it to your will.  

I did not yet know for whom I was going to breathe – and who in turn was going to breathe for me – but this was my song when it was my turn to sense the spirit of the future still destined to cross my path as part of the unfolding Plan.

This is my little bit of inspiration when times are tough, and even more so when they are good.

Always remember to breathe.

Midge+Ure

With every waking breath I breathe
I see what life has dealt to me
With every sadness I deny
I feel a chance inside me die

Give me a taste of something new
To touch to hold to pull me through
Send me a guiding light that shines
Across this darkened life of mine

Breathe some soul in me
Breathe your gift of love to me
Breathe life to lay ‘fore me
Breathe to make me breathe

…This life prepares the strangest things
The dreams we dream of; what life brings
The highest highs can turn around
To sow love’s seeds on stony ground

Breathe…

Thank you to all the artists who have produced my life’s sound track to date. Thank you now most particularly to:

John Denver

Guns ‘n Roses

Nick Cave

The Cowboy Junkies

Colbie Caillat

Zucchero

Runrig

Midge Ure.

 

My life has been infinitely more musical because of all of you.

And thank you to Frank – who notably has also played and sung live for an audience – for making so much of my sound track come to life.

Frank guitar 1

All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.

Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Chorus….

Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down?”

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around a R2 billion presidential jet; think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

Musical matters

We’ve got an eclectic collection of CDs going on in the Panda right now. By we, I really mean the music that I choose, which is sometimes endorsed by the boys and sometimes not. However, when you are aged only six and four respectively, mom’s rules apply in mom’s taxi, so basically it’s my way on the highway or no music in the car at all.

Literally. I can be a bit of a dictator when it comes to road trips. Music is my stress relief, and few things stress me more than having to listen to music I don’t like.

As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog, I’ve been revisiting Barbra Streisand lately and singing along loudly while pretending that her voice is actually mine. After a few days, my throat got a bit sore, so I decided to give Barbra a rest. Going for classic mode, I took out a Pavarotti CD and allowed my good buddy Luciano to take over the vocals for a while on the morning drives. I can’t speak (or sing in) Italian so it was an easy way to give my vocal cords a rest.

Then it was time to leave the maestro’s music and add some rock into the mix, so I gleefully hit my Runrig CDs – a Scottish rock band who were in their heyday a little while ago (I suppose you could basically say that about Barbra and Pavarotti also, right? Although I’m not yet ready to say that about me). I used to listen to Runrig during my ‘me-time’ away from South Africa when I was younger. Being a traditional bunch of Scotsmen, the Runrig men also sing occasionally in Gaelic, and there’s a track in the old language that I really love. Soul connection stuff, I think, because I was born in Scotland and I discovered Runrig as a young adult, when I was spending time trying to re-connect with my ancestral homeland and working out who I wanted to be.

Anyway, after Barbra, Pavarotti and Runrig had all been given a really good innings over a couple of weeks, I decided to stay with the rock-type of genre and so I headed over to the music of the US, for some newer stuff in the form of the Kings of Leon. They visited South Africa in late 2011 but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing them live.

‘Didn’t have the pleasure.’

Okay, let me be honest now, whether y’all like it or not.

In my very first hearing of my new album, the voice of the Kings of Leon vocalist (Caleb Followill) reminded me strongly of a yowling stray cat deciding to have a midnight jam festival a little out of time with the rest of the band of cool cats.

I’ve got images from Disney’s The Aristocats in my head here.

And Caleb is kind of yowling a bit fuzzy and off-key. Whereas the rest of the band are seriously tight. So it felt like a mismatch.

Anyway, I bought the CD in December last year because I was feeling like a bit of a dinosaur on the music front and thought I’d better start getting with the programme again.

No really, I was feeling like a fossil (most dinosaurs these days are fossils by default, with a few arguable exceptions like the awe-inspiring coelacanth and maybe – imagine! the great Megaladon shark).

I actually used to be quite hip with my knowledge of music. I mean, because of my then-job, I used to get into the VIP boxes at big concerts with international and eternal rock stars like The Rolling Stones and Sting, back in the day. And then I found, mournfully, that I’d apparently become a fossil.

But why? How?

Easy to explain. But oh, how it crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.

These days you see, when I’m not listening to my own music, either while driving or at home, my default choice is a serious talk radio show and with it, I try to catch the news as often as I can so I am current and mostly-aware of the world’s goings on. (It’s really a necessity for my job.)

So basically it’s my music, or current affairs. But not the current and  fun music stations, not even the one I used to work for when I was younger (I mention this just to prove that I did used to have street cred on the music front).

So I was still getting used to Caleb Followill’s voice one morning, on the album Youth and Young Manhood and thinking that I wasn’t enjoying my morning drive as much as usual. But I wasn’t quite ready to embrace fossildom yet so I gritted my teeth and skipped the tracks manually after a tortured minute or so per track.

And then I discovered the last one: “Holy Roller Novocaine”, which I now know is about a preacher man who’s, shall we say, a bit naughty with the attractive female members of his flock. He’s a bad man, basically. But oh my soul does the song have a catchy tune, and somehow Caleb’s voice is less yowly on this one and a bit clearer. And quite frankly the whole thing just rocks – vocals, instruments, the whole package deal.

So I skipped into work that day on a really good music high and only later on, after a bit of googling, discovered what it was all about.  Heehee. It didn’t take away the happy vibes, but it was still the only track on the album that I liked.

And then my children discovered The Kings of Leon.

They asked for them incessantly.

They turned them on without my permission.

They bopped their heads in time to the music – little baby headbangers in the back seat.

All of a sudden Liam was no longer enamoured with ‘Panarotti’s’ number five and ten tracks, and they were both demanding the Kings of Leon, with Matthew’s beaming immortal words: “Hey mummy – thith ith wock and woll!”

So the Kings of Leon are now kind of growing on me over time, but every now and then I insist that we go back to Runrig for a break and the voice of Donny Munroe instead of Caleb.

Now, Donny has a voice.

An amazing voice.

A true and soaring voice that lifts me into inspirational and emotional heights and reminds me of my Scottish ancestral homeland, where the hills roll onward in shades of green and purple and the lochs and misty mountains are the most beautiful patches of nature you could lay eyes on.

But at least, thanks to my children’s current fondness for the Kings of Leon, I am back on the modern wock and woll twail.

Trail.

However reluctantly, sometimes!

They do say that children keep you young. I guess I’ll find out as time goes by. And in the meantime, Scottish rock still rules. At least in my car.

Epilogue – speaking of voices…

I once had the opportunity to sneak into a practice session when Luciano Pavarotti was in South Africa, quite a few years ago. My friend Ray and I were total youngsters and one night, knowing that Pavarotti was practising with the national symphony orchestra, we snuck along the dungeon-like bottom corridors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the SABC) in the long-shot hope of finding him. Coming to the end of an obscure passage, we cautiously creaked open a door and to our great joy, found that we’d hit the jackpot – the great man himself was sitting not fifteen feet before us in full voice!

While we were still sucking in our breath in amazed and awe-struck delight, an officious little man came along and grumpily waved us away. Crestfallen, we started to close the door when the great man actually stopped singing and told the officious little man (with a rather marvellous wave of his maestro’s hand) to allow us to stay. With his trademark bearded beam, Luciano Pavarotti himself beckoned us into the room! Ray and I landed up sitting cross-legged on the floor almost directly in front of him for about fifteen minutes while he sang his glorious song, and then we went back to work.

I have never forgotten it.

Rest in peace, oh great man, and thank you again for your kindness that day. I hope the section of the universe where you are spending eternity still rings to the irreplaceable sounds of your truly beautiful voice.

(extract from) The siren song

When I was very young and all the lessons lay before me, I revered the music makers as god-like creatures from another planet. Each week, with fanatical devotion, my friends and I would buy the magazines that printed interviews, photos and song-words, and from these and top-40 radio we were informed, entertained and guided.

The music makers fed our emotions. They said:

This is good, or

That is bad, and

we believed them, and were mystified if we didn’t understand. We wondered then what they heard that we were deaf to.

The music makers are

male

female

tall

short

mostly thin

often long-haired

bald maybe

bearded

clean-shaven

old, young or somewhere in between

smartly-dressed

scruffy

drugged-out

drug-free

usually friendly, and

always opinionated.

In other words, music makers come in various guises, but there is always some mark that sets them apart. I always thought it was something in the eyes. If you look closely, and in the right light of course, you will see a different sort of soul shining through.

Different. There’s the thing. Different how? Different why? And do we envy the music makers, or pity them for this mark that sets them apart?

This depends. When they soar through the heights, we envy and adore. When they fall, we are mocking, scornful or sad, depending on our own innate generosity.

I shared my life once with a music maker. I put words to his music and spiritually, for a while, we were twins.

A genius with the guitar, he had a voice like honeyed smoke, with that bad boy allure any good girl worth her salt wants to tame. His hair was long and said ‘So what?’ to the rest of the world, and I really liked that – later. In the early moments of seeing him though, he had no street cred for me at all except in his soaring fingers, because he was stuck in a raucous pub doing bad covers for the drunken Friday night masses. Wasting his considerable talents being the background notes to a bottle blonde who fancied she could sing, he was disillusioned with life and hungry for something new. We met at the bar counter while the blonde was strutting her stuff without him in the misguided belief she was doing the song unplugged.

He smiled at me, and in the dim light at that particular moment I saw in his eyes the shadow of the mark. Noting the ‘So what?’ hair, my gloom lifted and I smiled back. He asked me then if I was enjoying the music – careless, unspectacular small talk. It irked me because I suddenly and instinctively knew he had much better conversation to share. I looked away briefly to order another red wine, and looked back. Red wine always makes me very truthful and sometimes a bit stroppy, especially when it’s a common-or-garden box wine as this particular glass was, and I decided not to get bogged down in small talk because it was boring and predictable and I really couldn’t be bothered any more.

So I replied truthfully: “No, not really.  It’s a pity you’re doing this commercial crap, covering other people’s songs, because I noticed you can actually play.”

His eyebrows shot up just as the barman returned and slid a red wine towards me and a whisky towards the music man.

“Put her drink on my tab,” said the music man, and the barman nodded and moved away.

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