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: