So we all sat out under leopard trees ( the achingly beautiful Caesalpinia ferrea with its tall slender trunk dappled like the hide of a leopard) and the skies over our bowl of a valley filled up with stars and the milky light of late summer. The musical genius with the six-string guitar was not in a mood to perform so he sat under a climbing aloe at the far end of the garden, alone and palely loitering, while a white jazz singer from Atlanta, Georgia sang to us.
It wasn’t a bad performance, but we have mind-blowingly good jazz out here in Africa (well, we would, wouldn’t we?) so the audience was a little underwhelmed. Think Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Letta Mbulu, Sibongile Khumalo. Then a couple of youngsters jumped up and began riffing and the music got a whole lot better.
Like jazz everywhere, South African jazz comes out of the broken places. Heartbreak, poverty, violence, bereavement. The mining compounds, the prison cells, the shebeens and experience of being homeless on the streets, the years of apartheid.
Nothing beats jazz under African skies on a summer evening.
Seriously. If you’re new to sobriety and can’t imagine how you could ever dance or sing sober, buy yourself a ticket to the next Cape Town International Jazz Festival and get over here and start living it up. We were given hips for moving, fingers for snapping, a heart for soul. Here’s the laidback Sipho Gumede, from his album Blues for My Mother, playing When Days are Dark, Friends are Few.