Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Midweek Musical Muse XV: Sade in Columbus

Sunday morning. The thermometer is predicted to reach the high nineties. Another hot one today! Tickets have been purchased a week before. A four star hotel has been booked and an elegant French bistro has been identified for dinner before the show. An overnight bag has been loaded. Let the four and a half hour drive to Columbus, Ohio begin. Sade is in town for their first tour in more than 10 years. At this rate, the next time they may come around again I may be too old to rock and roll or too deaf that I can’t hear them anymore.

Since I first heard Smooth Operator and Hang on to Your Love and other memorable songs from Sade’s first album, Diamond Life (1984) I have been a serious lover of Sade’s music. Their repertoire of catchy jazzy rhythms, classic R&B riffs, great saxophone and guitar licks, masterful percussions and emotional ballads, all weaved together by that smoky voice of Sade Adu, has made them one of my preferred bands to listen to when I want to sit back and reflect or feel like experimenting in the kitchen.

The opening act was Grammy winner John Legend. I have to admit I have never heard of John Legend before, but I enjoyed his show and his music dovetailed well with that of Sade. During his show I thought the bass drum was too loud and it reminded me too much of those cars driving past you and you hear nothing but doof-doof-doof as it approach and long after it passes you. But in general he sang a good collection of songs and was at his best when it was just him and his piano. But the bass drum issue was absent from the Sade show.

Then, after a long intermission when the stage was totally cleared, the concert hall lights dimmed, the crowd started to cheer, and with the first strands of Soldier of Love filling the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio, Sade Adu emerged in her trademark black turtleneck blouse and ponytail through a central stairway onto the pitch black stage, highlighted from beneath by a single stream of white light. The huge crowd responded overwhelmingly in great anticipation of what was to be experienced in the next two hours for their lives.

A red wave of sound and light.

The performance jumped around through the six albums she has produced, from well-known radio hits like (Smooth Operator, Is It A Crime?, and The Sweetest Taboo) to lesser-heard ballads and R&B gems. The set constantly change, from re-arranging of the equipment, to the disappearing of the equipment. Enhanced by videos in the background or drapes falling from the top of the stage, even singing from behind a see-through veil that surrounds the whole stage. The whole show was very professionally thought out and directly by Sophie Muller. Unlike most modern day female artists that try to impress their audience with fancy dance moves, crotch-clutching antics and constant barely-dressed costume changes to hide their poor singing and tinny repertoire, Sade Adu was all VOICE, passion and emotion, backed by a superb band and they only wanted to do as she herself exclaimed at the beginning of the show: “Make up for all the lost years.” The one-in-a-million smoky voice and the Sade Group succeeded brilliantly.

This video of By Your Side that I recorded on M’s little red Panasonic DMZ-ZS7 digital camera (it thinks it is a video camera more than a digital camera), is not an attempt to piracy, and if it appears that way then I apologize to the Sade Group. It is more an attempt to entice people to go and see a breathtaking show.  

This was one of the best shows I have seen in all my years of going to live performances. It ranks up there with the Rolling Stones and U2. Not better, but up there. And I am not saying that lightly. Visually engaging, the sound was excellent, the lighting superb and all together a great atmosphere and great performance.

After the show M and I walked back to our hotel just across the Olentangy River from the concert center and appreciated the night views of a full moon and the lights from Ohio State university buildings reflecting on the river.

The highlight of the evening was Jezebel with Stuart Matthewman on the saxophone. Although this video was done in 2002, Sunday night’s performance was nearly identical in a very black and white setting, Sade Adu sitting on the edge of the stage and the sound was just as good, although I think Matthewman was slightly more edgy, more forceful during the solo part.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The White Afrikaner: To Be Or Not To Be Ashamed.

White South Africans should refrain from commenting on political events and should in general feel ashamed for their past wrong doings and their permanent state of privilege because of their whiteliness.

During a recent business trip to Mexico in early June and with time on my hands to surf the Internet I came upon a philosophical website that wrote about a paper from a lecturer at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, that is causing quite a storm in the South African teacup. I started writing a personal response for this blog but never got to finish it. Dr Samantha Vice, in her paper called “How Do I Live in This Strange Place?” say many things that are rubbing many people up the wrong way. And when a fellow Afrikaner blogger, Boer in Ballingskap, recently also commented on this paper in his post "Oor skuldgevoelens en skaamte", from a slightly different angle than what I saw it, I felt this is just a too juicy a subject to ignore and dug up my initial blog notes on this issue.

Basically, I feel there are several holes in Dr. Vice’s logic. As a philosopher she feels that she has the responsibility to strive for a higher moral for all white South Africans, but that white South Africans can never really achieve that moral state if they don’t denounce their privileged state of being born white.

Here are my issues:
“That whiteness is a problem all over the world does not however fully explain the problem that whiteness is here, nor does it fully capture the nuances of our moral experience. The problem in white South Africa is not just with being white, but being white South African.”
There are many white nationalities that never were colonial powers and will strongly object against this generalization that whiteness is a problem to them too. I am thinking here in particular of Scandinavian countries. Furthermore, this statement also implies race superiority and that is not necessarily only a white race issue. There are Asian peoples and African peoples that think they are superior to their fellow Asian and African peoples.

“I talk from a personal, but what I hope is still a fairly representative position. While I am not an Afrikaner and so have escaped the taint that identity brings with it, I am a white South African, undeniably a product of the Apartheid system and undeniably still beneļ¬ting from it.”
I assume, maybe incorrectly, that she is from that other privilege group called Anglo South African, people that have always seen themselves as English, from that island up north, associated their whole being as English and just happen to live in South Africa, but with the backdoor always open toward England. I may be wrong, but those kind of people don’t usually have a truly patriotic view and deep passion for South Africa and has in the past looked at white, Afrikaner South Africans with derogatory eyes, which is probably why she stated:

“One need not be especially patriotic to recognize this—in the sense of feeling pride in one’s nationality, having a personal stake in one’s country’s prestige, identifying oneself deeply with its culture or history and feeling personally harmed when it is beaten or belittled. I, for instance, am not patriotic in any of these ways.”

I am not defensive toward Dr. Vice’s writing; she certainly is making some points that are worth contemplating. After all, apartheid can only be condemned in the strongest terms. Nor am I an arrogant white South African, Afrikaner if you like, and simply reject her point of view. But she tends to ignore history and what usually happened through the millennia when one ruling group replaces another ruling group, namely, the acceptance of the rulers, but with a grudge. This grudge is sometimes forgotten over time by the generations that lived through it and the disassociation from it by generations that come after it. In this sense, three or four or five generations from now, whiteness might not be a problem in South Africans. However, it is quite perceivable that a form of blackness entitlement, very similar to her definition of whiteness might become the norm in South Africa. Therefore, replacing one unmoral state of mind with another. Furthermore, South Africa never had and still now does not have a unified culture. The Rainbow Nation is exactly that; different bands of colors that might never unite to a single color. If it does it can’t be called a rainbow anymore.

She states the problem as:
“What is it to acknowledge one’s whiteness? Is it to acknowledge that one is inherently tied to structures of domination and oppression, that one is irrevocably on the wrong side?” I think the answer to Alcoff’s question in South Africa is fairly obviously “yes.” Whites in South Africa ought to see themselves as a problem.

Should Tibetans also see themselves as the problem because the Chinese are their rulers? After all, whites willingly gave up their political power in South Africa. Furthermore, the blacks have not openly chased them away either. All three South African presidents have stated categorically that South Africa needs white South Africans to keep the country moving forward.

To say whites should see themselves as the problem and look inward and refrain from complaining or criticizing the political situation or to retreat into themselves and be shameful for what happened in the past is nothing short of mental suicide, and denying oneself to exercise ones constitutional right to freedom of speech and to become a zombisized hearing, seeing mute who walks around with downcast eyes whenever a black person is around.

As I see it, white South Africans have three options.

One, you accept Dr. Vice’s advice to a certain degree, pull back behind your physical and mental laer, become a apolitical zombie and complain if you have to in private to who ever wants to listen.
Two, you speak your mind in public about rights and wrongs when you feel the need and in that way contribute to the constructive debate to try and achieve a higher moral standard for all.
Or, three, you carefully contemplate the realities of the above two options and, if you can become a regrettable zombie or feel your single, blowing-in-the-wind voice can contribute and make a difference you stay, but if you feel this is not possible for you “jy pak jou goed en trek Ferreira.”

Therefore, a decision to be or not to be ashamed, at best, must be made on a personal level, based on personal preferences and ideals, and personal personality traits, and not on national or race or cultural level.

I am just a simple man, trying to do onto to others as I want others to do onto me and trying to find general "moral" happiness in my own (white) skin, rather than pursuing a higher moral state of mind that I feel I will never achieve in any case. It is not because I feel ashamed of my past or what my forefathers did that I will never achieve this high moral state, but it is a rather a case of knowing what I am, who I am and what I want to be and I just do not wish to ever achieve such a state. I don’t think I am much different in thinking than many other people in general or many other white South Africans. Yes there were many white on black wrongdoings under Apartheid, but there are also many wrongdoings, black on black wrongdoings, now under the ANC. Should they also not feel ashamed for their current black entitlement attitude?

You can read Dr. Vice's "How Do I Live in This Strange Place?" here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day 2011

 The 4th of July is always a starry starry, bang bang night in America.

"Blond Bombshell" 

"Double the Delight"


"Big Bang Theory"

"Exploding Flower"

"Red, White and Blue"