My latest notebook is littered with words and phrases. I heard so many speak on a variety of topics that it feels as though I have gained a new vocabulary to write music with.
It started with a Heritage Tour of the Bo Kaap, an area in Cape Town with a rich, mysterious and complex history. It upset me greatly watching tourists of every hue and creed traipsing through the colourful neighborhood, snapping pictures. Is this what we are still I wondered? The area is one any rich developer would love to grab and build apartment blocks for the rich on. The Bo Kaap community has had to face and fight the hungry claws of developers and the government to hold on to their land and heritage for decades.
When I travel it’s the small things that remind me I am home. The sound of a Malay choir singing in a taxi, the warm taste of koesisters and the call to prayer. Oh, and all the food made by Muslim hands, or by old auntie’s while bad Jesus music plays in the background and the sound of Afrikaans drifting through the air.
I watched a documentary called District Six, Rising from the Dust and it asked the same question. Just what does one do with a past, a people wanting to return home when so many forces are set against remembering, restitution and healing?
And so I kept on jotting notes in my book as speaker after speaker shared stories; small and big histories. I could feel it, the familiar ring of a song taking shape, the lyrics fermenting slowly within me. I know what sounds I will use and above all, the feeling I want to convey. Honestly, I never thought I would write a song about the history of a piece of land and the people who have walked on it.
Tonight, right now, there’s a wind blowing. I doubt that it has a proper name, but the wind and the taste of it against my skin feels like a calling of sorts. It’s dancing with the tree branches, teasing the legs of young and old with it’s mischievous gusts and smells of….newness, of something beautiful just around the bend. Will you let me guide you, asks the wind. Or will you pretend I am just an old person you can ignore eh?
I love my country, and this Cape Town with all its complex and untold stories. But I think I will go wherever the wind guides me this time round. I can always pick up musicians along the way and come home when I need to. Yet, if I listen carefully it whispers of other things, lands, people and music just around the corner. Or is it that I has deaf before? Perhaps I am just being overdramatic and sentimental.
Wait a second, I can be all those things. Isn’t that what a storyteller does anyway? Add in a dash of music and I have all the license I need to weave, to conjure a time and place I was not part of….but that reaches out to me, in to me nevertheless. Longing. The song will be rooted in memory, longing and dust. That’s all I am sure of right now. Not the dust of the desert, but the dust of bulldozers and the Group Areas Act, of colonizers and guns, of a forgotten people….who still carry small prayers in their clothing to keep them safe.