In a small fishing village on South Africa’s rugged west coast, restaurateur Kobus van der Merwe is struggling to process his meteoric rise to gastronomic stardom.
He recently got back from Paris, where four days ago his 20-cover Wolfgat was named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards, also winning the remote location prize.
“In our category, which was for the off-map destination… there are restaurants that we literally hero-worship and we were like, this is insane,” the food-journalist-turned-chef told Reuters TV on Friday in his first interview with foreign media since returning home.
Others on that shortlist included Japanese wild dining sensation Tokuyamazushi.
Of both prizes, he added: “We never dreamed of making the shortlist, let alone winning.”
Situated in Paternoster, about 160 km (100 miles) northwest of Cape Town, Wolfgat’s speciality is seafood.
Van der Merwe’s seven-course tasting menu pays homage to the region’s long-gone indigenous inhabitants, and his signature dishes are flavored and supplemented with ingredients foraged locally, such as seaweed and succulent plants.
They include Rooibos tea-smoked yellowtail with dune spinach and buttermilk rusk, and freshly baked bread served with bokkom (salted dry fish) butter and infused herbs.
Guests at the 130-year-old whitewashed restaurant, nestled above Wolfgat cave within hearing distance of crashing waves, pay 850 rand ($60), or 1400 rand including drinks.
Van der Merwe, who took the plunge into full-time cooking before completing his culinary studies, said he had no wish to expand or replicate Wolfgat in an urban setting.
“We certainly don’t aspire to be in the city because the west coast is our muse and I can’t see Wolfgat existing anywhere else,” he said.
His clientele is split evenly between foreign tourists visiting the village and well-heeled South Africans.
But those who make the two-hour drive from Cape Town had better be sure of their reservations before they set out – because he’s fully booked for the next three months. -Reuters
– Wendell Roelf
30 Years And Still Grooving
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Oliver Mtukudzi The Soldier With A Big Voice – Yvonne Chaka Chaka
In January, Africa lost Oliver Mtukudzi. His friend and fellow musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka fondly remembers the global icon.
In October 2012, Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi, South Africa’s Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Kenya’s Suzanna Owíyo produced Because I Am Girl with musicians from around the world.
It was released to promote the global launch of Plan International’s ‘Because I am A Girl’ campaign, marking the first UN International Day of the Girl Child, on October 11.
Dressed in African prints, they sang together, spreading the word about the empowerment of the girl child.
Mtukudzi’s bass and Chaka Chaka’s soulful voice in harmony, they became more than co-artists; they become brother and sister. It was the first performance of many for the two.
Seven years on, Chaka Chaka is teary-eyed about Mtukudzi’s death 23 days into 2019, when not just she, but Africa lost a music legend.
In a strange coincidence, Mtukudzi died the same day the continent lost the father of South African jazz, Hugh Masekela, last year.
On the phone for this interview, Chaka Chaka describes Mtukudzi as a soldier at work.
“When he was on stage, he was a totally different man. When he had his guitar, it was like a soldier. Like a soldier who has a gun at work,” she tells us.
“I think there were two different people. Offstage, he was just an ordinary man, and on stage, people ate out of the palm of his hand.
“I’ve never known Oliver to never be fit. He has been a skinny man and he would just twist that body with a guitar and that gravel voice of his. A big voice in a small body,” she says.
“He has never called me Yvonne, he has always called me Fifi… Fifi means sister.
“The man was always humble, he never raised his voice, I have never seen him angry and all he has ever wanted is just to see Africa thriving. He wanted to see Africa beautiful. He wanted to see Africa with less disease, less hunger, less corruption, a happy Africa – that was his wish.”
One anecdote Chaka Chaka shares is when Mtukudzi was made a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Zimbabwe in 2011.
“You know he sat there with me and asked, ‘so, what does this entail, my sister? You have been a goodwill ambassador for a long time. You will tell me what needs to be done. How should I act? How should I react? How should I do things?’
“And I’m like, ‘no, but you know, you are more of a star than me and you have been in this industry long before I’. He was just so down-to-earth and had no chip on his shoulder.”
The last performance the two did together was in October last year in Harare during the Jacaranda Festival, attended by more than 2,000 people and other artists around the continent.
“Oliver was not in his changing room or at home. He stayed there and watched other artists perform, which was so great,” says Chaka Chaka.
“This year, he promised that we would do it [the Jacaranda Festival] in Bulawayo,” she said. They had planned to make it a big show and use their status as goodwill ambassadors to encourage and inspire more youth.
But sadly, that promise will never be fulfilled.
“The legacy he will leave behind is a legacy of love, the legacy of pro-African and I think for me he was a pan-Africanist. That’s what he was,” she says.
READ MORE | Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi Dies At 66
To this day, Neria is still one of Chaka Chaka’s favorite songs by him.
Mtukudzi, who died aged 66 of diabetes, was laid to rest on January 27 in his home village of Madziwa.
Thousands sang and danced to the melodies of his songs.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared him a national hero, posthumously, a status that has previously been reserved for ruling party elite and independence veterans.
He may be gone but his music will live forever in the hearts of the fans that loved this legend who soldiered on until the end.
2010 all over again: a musical extravaganza to honor Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s centenary brought together headline-grabbing A-listers and pledges of over $7 billion towards pressing global issues. Though for some, it didn’t end well.
It was exactly 10 years ago when Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans, along with his friend Simon Moss, launched the Global Poverty Project, committing to end extreme poverty by 2030.
That dream launched Global Citizen, and with that, an eponymous festival in 2012.
“Over 5.65 million actions led to 58 commitments and announcements worth $7,096,996,725, set to affect the lives of 137,368,628 people,” summed up the Global Citizen Festival, held in December 2018 for the first time in South Africa, hosted at the FNB Stadium, in the historic township of Soweto, in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary.
On a hot Sunday afternoon that also saw looming rain clouds, thousands wearing straw hats and shades, trooped into the stadium, some arriving as early as 5AM for what was billed a mega concert.
Presidents, delegates, CEOs, activists, musicians and more gathered for the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
Among them, a galaxy of international and local celebrities such as Beyoncé, Trevor Noah, Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Usher, Danai Gurira, Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Bob Geldof, Ed Sheeran, and dignitaries such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former South African First Lady Graca Machel and many more were all gathered for the one-day spectacle.
The Daily Show anchor and host of the event, Noah said: “This is 2010 all over again,” referring to the euphoria in South Africa when the country hosted the FIFA World Cup that year.
“Everybody is here in Mzansi to celebrate the work of Nelson Mandela,” he added.
More than 75,000 people were in attendance at the stadium.
On stage, dignitaries committed actions taken to end extreme poverty, achieve gender equality, and ensure food security, education and global health.
“Everyone is a global citizen and how you want to take action in helping others using your voice, reaching out to a representative and holding rallies, coming together, uniting to make a change is wonderful. Everybody has a voice now today,” model and activist Campbell who was on stage told FORBES AFRICA on the sidelines.
“To have a 20-year with the great man, President Nelson Mandela, is something I will treasure for the rest of my life and it’s an honor to be here and see everyone come together, and to see the young generation understand what this man Mandela stood for, what he sacrificed and what he wanted to achieve. And we are still trying to achieve what he wanted to, which is to eradicate poverty by 2030,” added Campbell.
Nigerian musician Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, who performed and got the crowds dancing, told FORBES AFRICA some of the issues he holds close to his heart are equality, poverty and the importance of accountability by all leaders worldwide.
“Every citizen must take responsibility for tackling these problems,” he said.
“My father is a really good example of this, Bob Marley is a good example of this. If musicians did not talk about such issues, we would probably be naïve.”
One of Nigeria’s best-selling musicians, D’banj, agreed.
He performed his hit song, Oliver Twist, wearing his hallmark dark shades, a pair of metallic gold pants and jacket.
“Before I went on stage, I was so glad that this is Africa, I have performed everywhere in the world but this is my home, and my people are here,” he told FORBES AFRICA.
“Getting out here and seeing my generation, the next generation, the millennials, and everyone coming out, I am just so humbled. I can just say that, from here, the future is going to be bright because the message of us stars coming together will leave a mark.”
The Nigerian artiste is not new to the Global Citizen scene.
In 2015, he performed alongside Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am at the Global Citizen Earth Day in Washington D.C in the United States.
“Global Citizen coming to Africa meant a lot for me… Because after we leave here, we are going to leave a mark that is going to awaken them and everybody is going to want to challenge our leaders to give us the right change,” he said.
Back on stage, the host Noah addressed the crowds about why Africa should indeed be celebrated.
“When it comes to resources, Africa is the richest place on earth,” he said.
“We have more booty than any other continent on the planet. Men and women… The point is, Africa has a lot of natural wealth. But what’s crazy is that even with all this wealth, 40% of all children across the continent are stunted due to lack of access to food. Tonight, we are calling on African leaders to commit three percent of their countries’ budgets to nutrition by 2020.”
All through the concert, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were unraveled.
The now former president of the World Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, said it was important to contribute to issues related to health because, “the crisis is much bigger”. As a result, the World Bank Group invested an additional $1 million to health and education.
Other celebrities and global leaders not present made their own pledges through pre-recorded videos screened at the event.
Businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson pledged a $105 million joint commitment to end the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced an investment of $4 billion made at the G7 Summit towards education for vulnerable women and girls globally.
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, pledged €63 million ($72.2 million) to Global Citizen over the next three years.
From a South African perspective, the Motsepe Foundation, a hosting and presenting partner of Global Citizen, committed more than $104.4 million towards education, economic inclusion and equality of women and girls, as well as the current debate on land reform in South Africa. Entrepreneurs Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious received a rapturous applause when they appeared on stage.
President Ramaphosa committed R2 billion ($144 million) for youth in South Africa, and announced the government’s intention to spend R60 billion ($4.3 billion) to provide free access to schools for poor children in South Africa.
But with all the pledges announced, the biggest question remained, what next?
The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who was in attendance, weighed in on this.
“What I’d really like to see is we coming up with an integrated action plan so that it is not just raising the money but we absolutely identify how is this money going to be utilized and how we can work together better to support one another and to make sure that it is more likely that these issues will be delivered,” she told FORBES AFRICA.
“What I hope will come out of this is concrete action which will make a difference to the lives of the people who are so desperately thirsting for change.”
At the end of the day, what the 75,000-plus in the stadium had really come for was the culminating act by Beyoncé, one of the world’s highest-paid musicians listed on FORBES.
In one of the outfits on stage, Beyoncé wore a sequined body suit, thigh-high boots, and a dramatic cape that paid tribute to Africa’s 54 countries. It was designed by Mary Katrantzou, who said in an Instagram post: “Her coat has the 54 countries of Africa mapped out and on each country there is a different embroidery representing its diversity.” Beyoncé also wore a colorful beaded mini-dress with an elaborate back-piece, which according to her mother Tina Lawson, featured “one hundred thousand African beads”.
Some of the other designers the artiste wore during the visit included South African designers Enhle Mbali Maphumulo of Manual Rossa Apparel, Rich Mnisi, MmusoMaxwell, Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye’s label Adama Paris, Sarah Diouf’s line Tongoro Studio and Ivorian label Yhebe Design.
Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z brought Africa to its feet to their tunes for the first time. It was a breath-taking, epic production which saw them perform hit songs like Halo, Perfect, Bonnie & Clyde, Formation and Forever Young.
But despite the success of the Global Citizen Festival, it was a chaotic end to a beautiful night for some.
While heads of state and celebrities were escorted back from the concert venue, some festival-goers were left stranded in gridlocked traffic at midnight to face attacks by criminals.
Many took to social media to explain how they were mugged at gunpoint and were victims to violence.
One of the attendees, 23-year-old Kayleen Morgan, who witnessed the attacks, told us: “What was upsetting was for something like this to happen at an event organized on such a huge scale. People’s experiences were not taken seriously…”
A month after these unfortunate incidents, some suspects have been arrested and investigations continue.
It was a night Beyoncé stole, and a night some audience-goers will never forget, for being stolen from.
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