Monday, December 15, 2008

Hips Don't Lie

It’s been a concert-filled three days. Top of the list definitely was Wyclef Jean’s “private and exclusive” gig at the Bassline. To say he rocked the party is the understatement of understatements. This man performed for over three hours. I have never been entertained like that before!

Best bits?

- The way he cheekily sauntered onto stage, with that naughty smile that he wore throughout his show – together with the lower-than-low-slung jeans.

- He started the show – as he ended it three and a bit hours later – with a heartfelt song penned in honour of Lucky Dube.

- The medley he did of Fugees hits – No Woman, No Cry; Fu Gee La, Ready or Not – and the mix he created out of it all.

- The version of Lil Wayne’s Millionaire he adapted, Wyclef style, complete with his own take on Wayne’s lil voice.

- During my fave track (next to Hips Don’t Lie and Gone Til November) Dollar Bill he jumped right into the crowd, singing the chorus over and over, before stopping and starting an impromptu

- When he made us fling all sorts of paraphernalia in the air during Carnival – and then Clef went on to do flick flacks and head stands just after that!

- Towards the end, when he ran into the crowd (again), and made his way to the sound desk at the top of the stairs. He stood on the beams and hoisted himself up onto the rafters, doing a few pull-ups, before sliding halfway down the banister, positioning himself in the crowd, and asking for his guitar and micstand to be brought to him. He then performed a tender version of Redemption Song, which the crowd lapped up.

In the hype of it all, I laughed (especially when he did the flick flacks), I cried (during his version of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here), and I shook my hips like I love to do! He promised he’d be back to play a stadium size show. I can guarantee, it’ll be the best couple of hundred bucks anybody ever spends on a concert ticket.

Meeting him was an experience in itself too. I rarely get star-struck, but Wyclef had my stomach doing flick-flacks. I have long admired his music, since my brother first played Gone Til November for me. And just a few days ago, I was thinking about how much I would like to see him perform. Can tick that one off the list!

Staying on a hip hop tip. The Roots’ drummer Questlove was in town to play a DJ set at Carfax on Friday night. The line-up was stellar – Tumi and Papercut, 340 ml, Zubz, Kenzhero, Richard the III and so much more. By the time Questlove came on, the place was absolutely packed.

It was right about then that someone decided to screw things up.

Apparently, someone in the VIP area above the dancefloor threw teargas or pepper spray onto the crowd. All I know is, I started coughing badly and my throat was stinging. I looked around and realized it wasn’t just me. We all evacuated outside. I was fuming. It had been a stressful week and I had been looking forward to this gig. Now all I wanted to do was go home and forget about it. My friend Daniel tried to convince me otherwise, saying that it would be a waste to let whoever did this rob me of the chance to see Questlove in action.

Eventually, I decided to stay and ventured back into the club. I enjoyed Questlove’s set from then on. He really surprised me – mixing the likes of Justin Timberlake with Jackson 5, contemporary hip hop with old 60s classics. Of course I went crazy when he played my fave, Seed.

And lastly, Maroon 5, with “special guests” One Republic at the Coca Cola Dome. I missed Goldfish and the Parlotones because the show started quite early, but I am sure they rocked it in their usual kick-ass style.

One Republic were nice enough - doing the South-Africa-is-the-best-country-we’ve-played routine with genuine gesture. The set was mostly down tempo and laid back. But when they closed with Apologise they gave me goosebumps. Still such a beautiful song.

Maroon 5 were good. Not mind-blowing but enjoyable. They played most of their hits within the first few minutes of the show – and I was like, now what?! Adam Levine’s cover of Wicked Game wasn’t too shoddy and it was nice the way he moved into ‘She Will Be Loved’ straight after.

Ended up meeting most of the band afterwards – and had drinks with James, Matt and Micky. It was nice to just chill with a band and not talk to them only as part of an interview.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Sure he may not be the hippest cat to visit our shores in recent times, but there's no denying Lionel Ritchie is legendary. This man has won an Oscar (for Say You, Say Me from White Nights) and Grammy awards (a handful), yet he is as warm and approachable as if he were an old friend. Plus he could show celebs of today - his daughter Nicole included - a thing or two.

He looks good for a 59-year old, really healthy - like he's taken care of himself (or had lots of work done!). His charismatic personality also makes him a likeable guy. 94.7 Highveld Stereo's Rude Awakening held its version of Idols - called "Lionels" - where each member of the team sang Lionel's hits for him to judge. Lionel played along so well - such a good sport! When Sam Cowen threw off the wig she was wearing to declare how much she loved him, he went along with it - even running around the room so she could chase him. When Bongani Nxumalo sang All Night Long he joined him to make it a duet. And when, at a tree planting ceremony, he made a whole lot of journalists move over to the other side of where we'd been standing, he apologised - genuinely. Not that he even needed to. He's Lionel Ritchie, he can go where he wants, right?

Contrast that to some of the younger celebs I've had to work with, er, I mean, chase. Ex-Destiny's-Child-now-solo-singer Kelly Rowland comes to mind. Last week she kept journos waiting at least two hours in the evening for a press conference that still entailed watching an hour-long documentary before she would speak. Knowing what the doccie is about, I understand. Walking into the venue and then going to have some dinner while we all wait, I don't.

Hmmm, wonder if Respect is a song only the likes of Aretha's generation knows the lyrics too...?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Madonna and Me

So I just finished reading Christopher Ciccone's book, Life With My Sister Madonna, which I was reviewing for Jenny Crwys-Williams' show on 702. I'd read another biography of the singer written by the British music journalist Lucy O'Brien a few months ago, but this was a totally different take on the Material Girl.

And what a take it is! This is no holds-barred look at what it's like to be Madonna's brother. To live in the long shadow cast by her superstardom. I found myself wanting to skip through the parts where he describes how his passion for dance came about or his first gay relationship, and just get to the parts where he talks about Madonna. And I suppose that right there shows just how far that shadow extends. We don't really care about him - we want to know all about Her!

Ciccone alternates between loving words about his sister and bitchy remarks - like this one: “I hope that it is Kabbalah’s lesson that she is not the center of the universe.”

He details the fortune Madonna has made as the highest earning female singer in the world and contrasts it with his meagre living as an artist and interior decorator. He did the decor for many of Madonna's houses, but she was terrible in paying him. In fact, in one instance, he bought a painting she had requested for about sixty thousand dollars, which he paid for expecting to be re-imbursed. But when he presented her with it, she told him she didn't like it anymore and wouldn't pay for it. And apparently Sotheby's does not accept returns!

He also talks about her adoption of the little Malawian boy David Banda and the controversy that erupted. I remember rushing off to the airport when Madonna's people were taking the child from Malawi to London via Joburg. There were about ten people looking after him and trying to shelter him from the paparazzi flashes (and my microphone!). Her brother says it was all done to keep up her image in the public and that she is indeed trying to "one up Angelina Jolie". It's that age-old debate of celebrities endorsing charities - who benefits who?

Speaking of celebs who're into charity: what an amazing performance by Annie Lennox at the American Music Awards! I am so used to seeing her championing HIV/Aids for the past few years that I almost forgot how beautiful her voice is. She didn't perform at the recent 46664 concert I covered in London, but only came on stage to compare pictures of a little child who wasn't on ARV's with one of another child who is on ARV's (and posing cheerily with Annie) to urge support for adequate treatment to be in place. Her performance of Why that night was a wonderful reminder.

Monday, November 10, 2008

R.I.P Mama Afrika

An early morning call - with a question I had to find the answer to: has Miriam Makeba died? A listener had sent an sms to 702, saying she had suffered a heart attack after a concert in Italy last night. And when another call came through with confirmation, it was off the gym treadmill and onto autopilot for me.

Writing up stories for the bulletins, interviewing fans and friends, doing live crossings from her home in Northriding. The emotion comes later.

I interviewed Mama Afrika, as she was affectionately known, in March last year when she celebrated her 75th birthday. Sitting before her, I felt somewhat nervous. I've interviewed the likes of Will Smith, Billy Joel and Annie Lennox but Miriam Makeba is up there when it comes to the star-struck scales. This is a women who was revered the world over; who worked with jazz greats Dizzy Gillepsie and Harry Belafonte; who had paved the way for so many of my favourite local female musicians. She had had a tour schedule to rival artists half her age and a work ethic double the size. But she was incredibly down to earth and humble; saying her children were her greatest achievement and that she had no use for being called a celebrity.

It's always something I think about after the beast of radio news has been fed for one more day - how do you sum up someone's life in 30-40 seconds? It's both radio's gift and curse: the message gets out there quickly and succintly, but more often than not it's a shortened form of what you wish you had so long to say. At the end of it all -perhaps the most effective words are indeed the shortest: Rest In Peace Mama Afrika.

"She was South Africa’s first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours."
- Nelson Mandela

"...Our world was slightly better because of her serenading and we are poorer for her death. We give great thanks to God for this tremendous gift of Miriam Makeba. May she rest in peace and rise in glory."
- Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drama Queen

It's the second anniversary of Lebo Mathosa's death tomorrow. It's funny how life reminds you of these things in the subtlest of ways. I know it's this time of the year, in October, but in the day-to-day running of life, I had forgotten the exact date. But today I drove passed a wall that had a painted picture of Lebo on it for an advert of sorts, or something, I couldn't quite make out. And I remembered.

It's not that I've forgotten her. Or the music she made. Most of the shows and concerts I go to I wish I could see Lebo on the bill again - doing what she did oh so well. Her songs were catchy and her dance routines were always well-rehearsed, energetic and vibrant. I often joked with my friends that I wanted to be a Lebo dancer, and become one of her back-ups. Very few in the South African music industry have come close to matching that kind of stage performance; that kind of magic she produced.

She was only 29 years old when the driver of her car lost control and hit a tree. On the day I found out about her death, I had been doing the radio news thing for about ten months and was getting used to having to urgent phonecalls turn into developing stories - good and bad. It was a Monday, my day off, and I got a call around 6am, saying the station had word that a local singer had been killed in a car crash and the suspicion was that it was Lebo. I had to call some industry friends to confirm it - most weren't even awake yet, and hadn't heard. I felt so terrible being the one to possibly break the news.

When the confirmation came through, I just went into overdrive - writing and recording an obituary detailing her achievements and getting friends and fans to comment. I remember writing the words over and over for new bulletins - the reality not quite sinking in. The thing is, if I had stopped to think I wouldn't have been able to continue. And I wanted to be the one who would try distill Lebo's legacy into words (as much as was possible in a short newsclip).

I had come to know Lebo in my own way. Aside from interviewing her a number of times, I had danced with her at parties, giggled with her when we were both out and about; and chatted about cute boys. Just a few weeks before the news, I had been interviewing her at a fun day at the Tapologo Aids Hospice in Rustenburg when she broke down and told me how sad she was for the babies with HIV/Aids living there. But she pulled herself together and entertained the older children, dancing with paint on her clothes and her face. It's a memory of the Lebo I knew and the legacy she left behind.

It's a legacy that lives on, and not just in the songs that I still sing at the top of my lungs during traffic - providing amusement for taxis swerving past. I should probably admit that I had been speeding passed that painting of Lebo, rushing off to a story, and perhaps this was her way of telling me to slow down?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Princes

I had wanted to start my blog with a list of reasons why I love Jozi and how it plays out as the backdrop to many of the fabulous things my job allows me to do...but instead, this blog is about Durban - Port Edward, actually. And Two Princes.

I've just come back from a trip to the Wild Coast where the Royal Brothers were starting an 8-day epic journey from Port Edward to Port Elizabeth - all to raise money for three African charities. I had convinced my boss that it would be brilliant to go there and get the story - straight from the Princes. She agreed - on the condition that I get an interview with the Princes themselves. Should have been an easy enough assignment, right? Especially since they are doing this for charity and would want publicity. Well, as with most good ideas, not necessarily so...

So I flew to Durban and drove along the beautiful route that is the N2 South - passed Port Shepstone, Southbroom and Margate, and got to Port Edward - a town so untouched, I could count the number of restaurants on one hand. There was, however, a Peg, done up to look just like the Keg. No sky-high apartments and no Spur - this place is holiday heaven.

Late Friday afternoon I went to the place where a handful of media (mostly British - ie, Sky BBC, Daily Express, etc) were meeting the Princes' PR person, the organisers and charity reps. I couldn't believe that the Royals were staying at the same resort as all the other bikers - it was a pretty average place. Anyway, we were lead to a photo opp set up for the photographers and TV crews. We stood behind a line and watched the Princes from afar, talking to one of the organisers, before putting on helmets and whizzing passed. That was it. I got sound. Of motorbikes revving. But no Royals talking.

Prince PR person said, not tonight. I asked him, tomorrow then? He said, perhaps, but "they are Princes, you know." So I chatted to one of the organisers and tried to pry out info from him about the boys' preparedness for the rally. Then, Prince PR told us they were going to come say hello to us, but I must put away my microphone or else I will scare them away. Okaaaay. But then how will I record what they say?? No, this was meant to be an informal chat. No one was allowed "equipment" - no cameras, no pens and pads. Damn those print journos who can just write down what they remember - I need soundbites!

Okay, so Prince William comes in first - waves hello and says, "I need a cup of tea", and runs into the hall where we had all been meeting. He went to the back of the room where a little drinks table had been set up and made himself a cuppa. I was flabbergasted. Isn't tea meant to be brought to him - made already?? He's a Prince, isn't he? Then we all went inside and Prince PR said, go on, go talk to him. So I went up, put out my hand and said, "hi, I'm Nadia. I'm from Joburg, sorry Johannesburg."
Prince William: "Oh yeah, I had my luggage lost there at OR Tambo."
Sky News correspondent pipes in: "Great - now you've had the true Joburg experience."
Me: "So anyway...what's it like being a Prince...?"

Okay, so I didn't ask that question but for the next twenty minutes or so we got to chat to them. Someone asked William about him flying Ecomomy class here. "Credit crunch, you know," he quipped. He was very funny. Kept joking about how much he is going to fall off his bike during the rally and how unprepared he really is. One of the TV people said they should've given him a mini camera to put on his helmet and record his voice during the trip, to which he said, that wasn't a good idea 'cause the only thing we'd hear would be 'oh no, I'm falling' and 'ouch, ouch, ouch'.

I moved over to the very cute red-cheeked Harry. He was wearing flip flops and just looked the epitome of Harry Casual. He was talking about Zim - but not Chelsy (fortunately or unfortunately?), and bemoaning the fact that newspapers lead with stories about celebrities and not important world issues. Bless. One of the journos wouldn't shut up about economics and the history of some place I tuned out. Just let Harry talk, I thought, or let me talk to him! He seemed a lot more into world issues than his brother though - and a lot more engaging. Showed me his arm bands and told me about which charities they represent.

And then they were gone.

Such lovely stuff about them spending time together as brothers, about how William hasn't seen as much of SA as Harry, all this stuff and we weren't allowed to record any of it! Afterwards, my photographer friend asked me whether I saw Williams' bald spot. No, luckily I am too short to see that. Wouldn't want to spoil the illusion...

So did I get my story? Eventually, yes! Hallelujah. Four of us were given ten minutes with them the next morning at the rally start, and they said some great things - especially Harry about riding through some parts of the former Transkei where Madiba grew up: 'it's only a pity Nelson Mandela won't be joining us'. And when they were asked to pose with some bikes, which someone went to fetch, Harry said to William, 'let's just go fetch them ourselves it will be quicker.' Down-to-earth.

And me? Miss Head-in-the-Clouds.