Get Down with S. African Art III

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Pocketed into the foothills of Table Mountain lies Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Interwoven into this verdant expanse, founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora, is a system of walking paths which snake through zones of specialized vegetation (medicinal, aromatic, etc.) a greenhouse surveying plants from different S. African regions, outdoor sculptures, and featured art exhibits. Kirstenbosch offers so much! Explore the greenery, lounge with the Momma Duck and her ducklings by the pond, study the earthworks on exhibit, or if you’re a mountaineer, begin a trek up the ravine of Skeleton’s Gorge, test your endurance in ascending Devil’s Peak, or pass through the waterfall and boulderfields of the contour path on your way to Rhodes’ Memorial.

Kirstenbosch is the most beautiful and diverse botanical garden I have ever discovered, and though I’ve hiked its mountainous labyrinth many a time, another feature has served as its main attraction to my person—the concert venue. Situated on a vast, downward sloping hill, with Table Mountain hanging magnificently over, Kirstenbosch may be my favorite venue in the world (so far as my live music experiences go). I was fortunate enough to be in Cape Town for much of the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert Series. First I tried the nation’s most popular flavor, RnB, seeing singer-songwriters Loyiso and Chad Saaiman. While the music was pleasant, it wasn’t exactly up my alley. Nevertheless, the setting and atmosphere were enough to motivate my return. How relaxing it was to sit with friends and picnic! Like most concert-goers at Kirstenbosch, we drank wine, ate cheese, laughed, and moved to the groove.

On my return to the Kirstenbosch concert venue I saw the electro-jazz sensation, Goldfish. I had already had the pleasure once before at a club in Sea Point called St. Ives and had since then been craving more of the Fish. The duo, hailing from Cape Town, consists of Dominic Peters and David Poole. Their dance-friendly electro beats are infused with African percussive elements and glazed with groovy jazz hooks. Indeed, like almost every electronic artist, Goldfish employs synthesizers, samples, and loops, but their improvised remixing and live instrumental performances make them outstanding. It’s refreshing to hear live saxophone, flute, electronic double bass, and vocals (by guest artists from S. Africa and Zimbabwe) vivify the electro foundation. Goldfish has already garnered international praise by musicians and critics alike. Their LPs have been mastered by UK’s Soundmasters, who have worked with other big names such as Zero7, Fatboyslim, Depeche Mode and Groove Armada. I anticipate the group’s continued success and strongly advise you to catch them live if you have the chance.

But Goldfish is so much more than an interesting and dance-provoking listen; they are culturally and historically profound. In particular, the electronic double bass (an instrument I previously didn’t know existed) emblemizes the group’s unique amalgamation of genres and modes of past and present. I applaud Goldfish because their creative synthesis not only represents S. Africa’s diversity, but goes further to celebrate it as well. Goldfish brings different people together all in one common and positive interest to party, dance, smile, love, and enjoy life. The endeavor toward racial harmony has been long, difficult, and painful in S. Africa – it continues today – but it in some way, be it minor, Goldfish triumphs over the discord. It is significant that one of Goldfish’s singles, “We Come Together,” alludes to the nation’s motto, found on the S. African coat of arms: “ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke,” which translates to “diverse people unite.” Music: the universal language.

South Africa's coat of arms

Goldfish at Kirstenbosch, March 6, 2011:

“In Too Deep” by Goldfish:

Get Down with S. African Art

I have been living in Cape Town, South Africa since January 25th, 2011, doing a semester abroad at University of Cape Town.  I chose Cape Town for two simple reasons: 1) I wanted to visit the continent of Africa and 2) I heard that the Cape Town culture was rich in the arts.  To my great satisfaction, Cape Town isoverflowing with creativity.  Hearing the acrobatics of vocalists and instrumentalists spilling out of UCT’s College of Music, it was immediately obvious to me that Cape Town is a magnet for the talented artists of South Africa and other nations.  In this series of blogs I will chronicle my many engagements with the arts in South Africa, sharing the magic with all of our readers and imparting some of my beliefs about art.

 

1)    Green Dolphin Restaurant and Bar

 

Upon my arrival, one of the first questions I posed to locals was “where can I find live jazz?”  The unanimous answer was Green Dolphin.  The Green Dolphin website really captures the essence of the establishment: “The Green Dolphin is Cape Town’s only premier Jazz restaurant that is dedicated to the preservation of Jazz.” Since 1990 this restaurant/bar/jazz venue has catered to the most faithful music lovers of Cape Town but most importantly, to up-and-coming musicians looking for exposure and a space to explore and hone their skills.  Its location on the V & A Waterfront is ideal.  Every night you will find the area thriving with the same inviting energy.  It bustles with swarming bar-goers and couples linked at the elbow on romantic dinner dates.  The Green Dolphin is no exception to the energy.  The intimate atmosphere is reminiscent of the smoky Speakeasy club, but modernized and with heightened class.  The schedule of performers is organized such that, come Monday to Wednesday and you’ll find small crowds and trios—or, come Thursday to Sunday and you will join in the thrilling scene of rowdy parties, hungry for the specialized performers: vocal ensembles, avant-garde groups, big bands, etc.  Whichever day you go, you are assuredquality jazz. Green Dolphin prides in their relentless showcasing of jazz musicians for over 7000 consecutive nights!

My experience at Green Dolphin attests to its greatness.  Before the main act went on I indulged in tapas and cocktails, both of which were exquisite.  The jazz hit the spot as well: the group performing was an amalgam of young student musicians and seasoned veterans who were absolutely genius.  I walked away satiated with my jazz fix and certain I would return soon.

A couple weeks later, however, I read in a local newspaper of Green Dolphin’s imminent closure. Naturally, citizens and musicians citywide were disheartened with the news.  Despite the disappointment we feel from the disappearance of such a historic music venue, I must say this: Green Dolphin, from all who ever had the privilege of experiencing your greatness, THANK YOU.  You have provided the city with an invaluable service.  Here at Boijon we take after such establishments as Green Dolphin by exposing artists to the world, promoting them, and showering them with both genuine critique and genuine praise.

 

Check out the Green Dolphin website:
http://www.green-dolphin.co.za/

 

Gianni Abbott
May 10, 2011