Connect with us

Arts

30 Years And Still Grooving

mm

Published

on

Emotions run high as Mango Groove celebrate three decades of one of their biggest-selling albums. The mixed race band, formed during the apartheid era, reflected the pain and politics of the time in their music. 

South African music has evolved over the years but its African authenticity remains in the notes of the 35-year-old pop band Mango Groove.

FORBES AFRICA shared a few moments with them as they rehearsed in their North Riding studio, 40kms north of Johannesburg, one glorious summer afternoon in February.

To celebrate 30 years of their 1989 eponymous hit album, the band will be performing a one-off anniversary concert at Teatro in Montecasino, Johannesburg, in March.

Vocalists of Mango Groove at 30 years. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

We first speak to Claire Johnston, the lead singer of Mango Groove, who has been with the group for 34 years. Johnston started at the age of 17 when still in school.

Those memories are still fresh. 

Born in England, she had moved to South Africa when she was three with her parents at the height of apartheid. 

“In 1989, things went big for us [Mango Groove]. Prior to that, we had been playing around clubs and small venues. We had a few singles on the radio between 1985 and 1989, and then we had this lovely record deal that got us to all South Africans and huge exposure at the right time. South Africa was ready for a mixed race band called Mango Groove,” Johnston recalls.

In one year, the band sold out six shows at the Standard Bank Arena.

“The album had just come out – we were all over radio, television, and magazine covers; it was very exciting and we were putting on a show at the arena which accommodates about 6,000 people.

We sold the one show, then the second, then the third, the fourth, fifth, sixth and eventually we had to do the seventh, but because tickets were pirated, we had to put on a show for free for all the people who had been conned.


Claire Johnston

That was the night Johnston saw ‘the Mexican wave’ for the first time.

It wasn’t easy being in a mixed race band, because of the racial segregation laws that existed in South Africa. It was during this tense period that they released their Another Country album with a song written by group founder John Leyden about the state of the country. It was an overtly political song, however, their African tunes saw them through. 

There were also instances when the band couldn’t play together at certain venues. They would play in downtown clubs in Johannesburg where black and white South Africans would jam and interact as if restrictive apartheid laws did not exist.

Post democratic elections in 1994, Johnston says she was proud to be South African. She recalls the band’s performance at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration that year as one of her most memorable.

“That experience was amazing. It was just an amazing sense of optimism and possibility. South Africa was on the world stage for a positive reason and for change. Then, we performed for a massive crowd at the Union Buildings, it was black and white South Africans, it was the best time, it was mostly emotional,” she says.

The band, nonetheless, has lost a few members over the years and Johnston sobs as she remembers the late Mickey Vilakazi.

“When I joined the band in 1985, Mickey was 64 and he passed away prior to 1989 and he missed all the excitement, he missed the changes in the country, he missed the wonderful release of The Hotel Room.

John Leyden of Mango Groove at 30 years. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It makes me sad that he wasn’t around to have seen that, and of course Banza Kgasoane who’s the father of Mo T (band member of popular South African house band Mi Casa). He was our trumpeter for many years. Phumzile Ntuli has also passed on. We ultimately had to keep going, move on. I imagine if I go, I hope Mango finds someone to replace me,” she says.

As the conversation flows and the band rehearses in the background, a cheerful man wearing khaki shorts appears bearing a glass of whiskey, walking towards a water container to mix his spirit. He is Sydney Mavundla, a trumpet player and one of the new members.

“I joined the band in February 2008, just after getting married. The trumpeter before me was Johnny Bower; I used to play for him when he was not available. He got a full time with an orchestra, that’s how I got the job,” he says.

Mavundla describes the band as family. He used to listen to them growing up; little did he know he would be a part of it. He was fortunate to work with legendary artists such as the late Hugh Masekela.

“We recorded two albums with Bra Hugh and then an album with the late Oliver Mtukudzi. If we are talking about Mango Groove, I want to believe it is different from the beautiful energy the old-timers had. Now it’s a bit youngish in terms of the horns, it’s not the original horn players who started the band,” he says.

Playing a tune, Mavundla talks about the freedom they now enjoy as newer artists.

“I am very excited about the upcoming concert. The first time you heard Mango and the very last time you heard Mango – that is what you should expect to hear. Thirty years is a long journey and that is 30 years of what you are going to hear. Better than that, you are going to see a very energetic, groovy Mango Groove. Come with your dancing shoes if you want, you won’t be disappointed,” he says.

The trumpeter wishes Africans would read more about South African music instead of western artists and their music, and recalls Masekela’s quote:

One day, our kids will be asked ‘who are you’ and they will respond ‘we used to be Africans, they used to call us Africans’.

The band’s founder Leyden also joins the conversation, saying he just wanted to be in a band as a teenager.

Leyden is Zambian-born but came to South Africa at the age of eight. He lived his life through the political transformation of South Africa and as an artist, never affiliated himself with politics. Instead, he started a band.

“In terms of the influences of Mango and what drove me, it was a pop act but we were very easily influenced by South African urban music forms from the 1950s and 1960s like kwela music, marabi music and African jazz sounds. They were music forms we loved.

“Mango was a funny little group of people, some came, some went, it was totally an organic process and we did what we did. When the first album broke big, we were more surprised than anyone.”

Sydney Mavundla of Mango Groove at 30 years. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

For the upcoming concert, Leyden and the gang are working on a huge production. They want the event to be about memories of the late band members, as well as celebrating the band’s journey.

Elaborating further, Johnston says the big night will be about nostalgia, energy and emotion.

It will be the eighties all over again in a country that has neither forgotten its bitter apartheid past nor the music that defined the long hard years of pain and political fervor. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Arts

This ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Demands A Rewrite—And 1.2 Million Sign Petition

mm

Published

on

By

The creator of the notorious Game of Thrones petition calling on HBO to remake the show’s eighth and final season only learned of its success (more than 1.2 million have signed) on Thursday, days after it went viral.

HBO’s high fantasy series Game of Thrones has for years been a juggernaut, giving the network some of its highest ratings ever. But the show’s final episodes have drawn the ire of fans and some critics who say the writing has been sloppy and plot points were unearned.

After offhandedly making the petition more than a week ago as a way to vent, Dylan (he declined to give his full name to Forbes), a 30-year-old analyst for a health system in Fort Worth, Texas, hadn’t given it a second thought. That is, until a coworker approached him after work.

“Hey, is this you?” the coworker said.

And that’s how he learned his Change.org petition had blown up. After learning of his newfound internet fame, he provided an online update, where he told the world that no one from HBO has approached him. He doesn’t reasonably expect HBO to remake anything, he said, but he wants to send a message: he’s disappointed.

In an email exchange with Forbes, here is what Dylan had to say about the petition. Warning: This contains spoilers.

What exactly prompted you to start the petition? You said it was a few days after Episode 4. What in particular were you disappointed by, both in that episode and the next one?

Really it was a combination of Episode 3 and 4’s failures that brought me to the point of writing the petition. There were many, many qualms I had with the episodes, but I’ll mention a couple. The Battle of Winterfell was a strategic disgrace. I mentioned in my long update that the show suffered from “everyone is stupid” syndrome. I’m sure there is a better term for it, but when the plot is intense and dramatic simply because every character involved is an idiot, that is not great writing. You had some of the wisest, most experienced individuals in Westeros all in one room, and THAT was the defense strategy? As for Episode 4 I had many lamentations, but the specific one that made me facepalm the hardest was how Rhaegal died. Easily one of the cheapest deaths of the whole series. I could probably go on for a long time about it, but that’ll do for now.

Have you started other Change.org petitions before?

I have not. I understand that they are normally for more social and humanitarian issues, but maybe this whole thing has drawn more people to the site that can browse these other petitions.

What do you make of the overwhelming response this petition has gotten? And some of the backlash about “entitled fans” and whatnot.

Well in my long update I talked about how I started it and how surprised I was by the response when I checked back in after a week. I was mostly just chuckling at it, taking it lightly, then I learned my parents had contacted news institutions and reporters and I was taken aback. This petition isn’t about me. Any passionate nerd could have written it. Heck I clearly put like the minimum effort into the original post! I have seen a few things calling out the petition and its signers as a whole, but nothing yet that calls me out directly. I guess if we’re entitled, we’re entitled together. I hoped to clear some things up in my update post, but I may have taken too long to put some clarifying words out there.

Did your parents reach out to reporters after you found out the petition had been doing well? Are they fans of the show as well? (Author’s note: I asked this question in a follow up email). 

Yeah I had called them on my way home from work after I found out myself, just to say, “Hey check this out, neat huh?” They were notably more excited than I was about the “internet fame” and started reaching out to reporters on their own. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about it, but they were excited for me. Yes, I got my parents into the show maybe around season 5 or so…can’t remember when, but I introduced everyone in my immediate family to the show.

Has your life changed at all since the petition blew up?

Well since I only learned of its success [Thursday] after work, the only life impact I have experienced so far is a lack of sleep for one night. I think I was too pumped to sleep well last night! I would imagine that after the finale the petition will garner more attention, but we’ll see.

What do you hope to get out of the petition now? I know you said you don’t expect HBO to actually remake Season 8 and that no one from HBO has been in contact with you.

That’s the question isn’t it? Sometimes acknowledgement of the outcry is enough, and decisions are made behind the scenes to adjust for such backlash. I am also one of the somewhat disgruntled Star Wars fans as well – relatively unhappy with the writing of the new trilogy – so seeing D&D (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) lose their Star Wars contracts might be interesting. I have seen people call for that. I just don’t know why they should be rewarded with another beloved story after what we saw from the end of Thrones, but who knows? If we get a Star Warstrilogy from them that’s as good as the first few seasons of Thrones, I might be eating my words.

Do you still think Game of Thrones  is one of the greatest TV shows of all time?

Absolutely. It is a universal cultural phenomenon. I heard someone once say something along the lines of, “This show shouldn’t even exist. It’s this crazy, convoluted fantasy epic with dragons and zombies and castles and political drama. We should be happy it was brought to us.” That’s some huge paraphrasing, but I do agree with the sentiment. In my long update, I say that D&D deserve praise for their adaptation of the books during the first several seasons of the show. Obviously the praise stops short towards the end of the rushed series.

-Rachel Sandler; Forbes Staff

Continue Reading

Arts

Business is my obsession says Sjava

Published

on

The award-winning South African musician Jabulani Hadebe, known as Sjava, on why he would choose money over pleasure.

1. What sets your music apart?

I always try to make it different.

I think most of the time when people create music, they create it according to what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘popping’; they never really talk about things nobody talks about…

So I just always try to sit in my corner and stay true to it.

2. What specific qualities do you need in order to last in the music industry?

I think talent and discipline, in terms of respecting what you do, and being dedicated towards it. You also need luck and a lot of people don’t believe in that.

They believe that you create your luck, but I really believe in luck.

3. In the future, do you see yourself as a more of businessman or a musician? 

Music is my first love and I have been doing it professionally since my first album came out in 2016, however, since then, I have seen and learned a lot of things.

There have also been many business opportunities and lessons on how to use money correctly.  Branching into business is my new hobby right now; it has become my obsession. 

4. Why do you think it took you longer to find success in the music industry?

Time. I really believe that God’s timing is the best, and I thank God every day that it took forever because I don’t think my music would be what it is today.

I talk about my experiences, and how I view things. I don’t think if I made it 10 years ago, I would have been the same person, and I don’t regret it.

5. What is your philosophy in life?

What keeps me going is not really caring about what people think of me. I also take things as they come. I am not the kind of person who says, ‘I see myself, in five years, achieving this and that…’

I just take it one step at a time. Because what if I say, ‘in two years, I want to achieve this’, and it doesn’t happen, only to find that it is going to happen in the third year? That would mean I have already been mentally defeated.

6. What did winning the BET Awards Viewer’s Choice for Best International Act mean to you?

It was crazy. It felt like they were still rehearsing… I didn’t believe it was real at the time, but it is what it is. I also didn’t think I would win, because of how expensive data is in South Africa as compared to other countries on the continent from where artists were also nominated. I really thought my people wouldn’t have the resources to help me win. They surprised me and I won, that is why whenever I see a group of people, I get out of the car, so I can take a picture with the award, because they helped me get it.

7. What is more important: money or pleasure?

I would definitely choose money. As black people, we have been made to believe that money is not everything and it cannot buy you love and it can’t bring you happiness, and that is not true. We need to teach people to like money, and that it is not a curse.

I come from poverty, so I know what I’m talking about. Where I am now, and looking back to where I come from, my life is better. I might not be as happy as I was then, but my life is better. So I wouldn’t choose the happy broke life I had. I would rather choose where I am now, so I can take better care of my family.

Continue Reading

Arts

New Ways Of Thinking On Health, Arts And Humanities Are Emerging In Africa

Published

on

By

Imagine bringing the best of all academic disciplines, artistic creations, activist experience and health care knowledge to bear on understanding and addressing current health care concerns. Rather than silos of people working in their specific areas of interest, imagine collaborations committed to listening and learning from all participants.

This is the vision of Medical and Health Humanities in Africa. It’s a field that grew out of the medical humanities in the US and UK. It brings together academics, researchers, practitioners, creative artists, health care seekers and providers.

Essentially, it straddles disciplines and practices in an effort to address health concerns. Artists compose music to open up understandings of health care and specific conditions, such as delirium. Some academics open up new conversations about existing health concerns like AIDS or use everything from yoga to photography to observation and drawing to help educate health sciences students. Others pair academics and artists to help young people talk about sex and sexuality or tuberculosis.

At its core, Medical and Health Humanities is about conversations and collaborations between people who are interested in health. This encourages new understanding, practice and knowledge. It also seeks to provide “translators” who can make often complex ideas in science and humanities accessible. They can also use creative arts to change perceptions, frame new questions and direct new discussions that result in more nuanced answers to health issues.

While still a relatively new field on the African continent, it is growing and gaining momentum. The latest milestone is the first English-language special issue of the globally respected BMJ Medical Humanities Journal to deal exclusively with work on and about medical and health humanities in Africa.

The special issue came out in December 2018. It showcases work from various countries in Africa, among them Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

The projects profiled in this special issue, and others elsewhere on the continent, reveal the vital role Medical and Health Humanities can play across Africa in bridging the gaps between disciplines to improve people’s experiences of health care.

Beyond disciplinary boundaries

One of the Medical and Health Humanities projects highlighted in the BMJ’s special edition deals with digital storytelling and antiretroviral adherence in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Another article shows how opium, thalidomide and contraceptives contributed to the making of modern South Africa.

The projects and articles themselves are, of course, important. But another critical element that must not be overlooked is how the field exemplifies inter-, trans- and multidisciplinary research and practice. It removes people from their disciplinary silos.

This is becoming increasingly important across academia. In the worlds of medicine and health, people often work on similar concerns in familiar ways; in doing so, they miss out on new perspectives. Working across disciplines and practices is a way to learn from each other and reflect on how things could be changed for the better.

And, crucially, it creates conversations about how we might improve our collective understanding of health and wellness.

Different forms

On the African continent, the Medical and Health Humanities community is also trying to do things differently when it comes to how research is conducted and presented.

If a field is genuinely committed to collaboration, collective engagement, building networks and relationships, it must do more than work quickly to “produce measurable outcomes” limited to academic articles. It must spend time building connections that extend beyond one event or “outcome”.

We attempted to do this during the writing of the special issue of the BMJ Medical Humanities journal. We were among a group of practitioners in South Africa who pooled resources from two universities to bring as many people who were working on the special issue together as possible. We wanted to ensure that experienced and emerging writers from multiple disciplines and practices had a chance to benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

A workshop was held in 2017 at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER). Participants came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa, the UK and Canada and presented and discussed their work.

From this, people put together a range of material for the journal and the blog linked to the special edition. Some of this material took the form of academic articles; there are also podcasts, photographs, pieces of music, images and poetry.

This allowed us to present creative and academic work in a format that was more accessible to those with digital access and moved beyond academic journals. After all, part of what the field is concerned with is maintaining critical, intellectual rigour while making information available to people in a number of ways. In doing this the field tries to break down some of the barriers that prevent people from sharing work or ideas.

New networks

There is more to come for the Medical and Health Humanities field in Africa. A group called the Medical and Health Humanities Africa networkhas been established. CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, among others, has been drawn into discussions about growing the field’s networks on the continent. The second conference organised by the Malawi Medical Humanities Network will be held in Zomba, Malawi in August and a workshop in Johannesburg in March called State of Dis-ease will continue these exciting new conversations.

-Carla Tsampiras; Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities, University of Cape Town

-Nolwazi Mkhwanazi; Senior researcher, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand

The Conversation

Continue Reading

Trending