‘In South Africa, everyone dances with the Devil and they don’t even know it. ‘ Those words secretly found way into a song the minute my friend uttered it, while drinking coffee in the early morning hours.
It’s funny how the devil takes different forms to trap and ensnare. The first time I felt unsafe in my skin was in France. Most of the prostitutes were black in that area. And so being approached at night when minding my own business became a bit sketchy, even though I was always within arm’s reach of someone I loved. All I really wanted was a tree, some open spaces, perhaps a beach…so I could breathe. I felt the busyness of the city creep into my bones and unsettle me.
Maybe I am being presumptuous, but it feels as though everyone in India is acquainted with the multifaceted nature of the devil and all have charms and incantations to ward him off. It’s as though the collective understand inherently the concept of oneness and contrast without batting an eyelid.
In South Africa, one is so aware of race, class, privilege, distorted history, misappropriated money and morals, sexual violence, crime and poverty. Gods, that’s why I don’t watch the news. One has to question everything one sees. Our nation is one that has disguised propaganda en masse and dished it out like sweets to little kids. We are all in recovery from the cool aid we drank, became addicted to and passed down genetically to our kids. You simply cannot afford to ignore what you ingest – whether it be food, news, people, music or what is viewed as the ‘norm’ by the media.
I heard in the news of a concert being staged in Greenpoint market. The same area where refugees protested, and rightfully so, their disgust at the hands of the South African government. The irony being that during apartheid, many of those African countries welcomed freedom fighters from our shores. Only to have their people treated in an inhuman manner time and time again. A concert to celebrate what, some asked? That they got rid of a group of people inhabiting a spot where tourists visit and spend stupid amounts of cash? An event to mask the fact that South Africa isn’t all sunshine and rainbow nation happy eh?
Even the musicians are being blamed for partaking in the event. That irks me also. Everyone has to take a stand yes. Yet in SA, there is a small cabal of artists that get all the jobs, are seen on every stage. This isn’t said with bitterness. It is an observation. Yet one never knows what lessons those musicians are being subjected to while at the centre of everything…
I refuse to sing a popular Miriam Makeba song. That Woman of Song….risked so much for her artistry, her country. So to sing one of her songs without the understanding of the depth of meaning behind her words and its history is a disservice to what she stood for and my own evolution as an artist. There must be purpose behind everything I do.
India has reminded me of that and given greater clarity than I know what to do with. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. The richness of spirit, the musicality, food and nature herself can make one weep. We are people still struggling, still reclaiming, still mourning a past denied to us. But it took being away from Her to know what it is I need.
I am so glad I was spared from dealing with everyone’s bullshit for the last few weeks. The last time I got this kind of clarity was at Afrika Burn and things shifted. The devil I was dancing with use to whisper in my ear, ‘Auriol girl, you need a relationship and roots honey chile..’ Uhm, no…I desire greater exploration of the world and music. I had a sense of this as the new year rolled in. For too long I allowed myself to get involved with the many battles and wars other people fought. Not anymore. I will advise if asked….and even then my people – these are my office hours. Boundaries will be enforced and greater risks taken. This is my year of Musical Yes.
Sometimes it takes travelling to another country to gain sanity and silence the devil whispering in one’s ears. India has shown me this: there is a gentler way of making transitions in one’s life and it requires stillness. It you are extra lucky you get to experience that with a group of people who view the world in a manner unlike your own.
One’s life does not need to be thrown into disarray or one’s body, heart and mind battered and bruised before deciding what one needs. There is a better way…as my Beloved Ben Harper once said.