He's the man who has given us sad songs such as Goodbye My Lover off Back to Bedlam and Same Mistake off All the Lost Souls - even You're Beautiful even had a touch of melancholy to it. But Mr Blunt is sounding a lot happier these days. Witness the new single off his latest album called Stay the Night.
There's a different kind of energy that comes though in Some Kind of Trouble. Blunt himself acknowledges this, saying his two previous albums were a pair of book ends - action and reaction. Some Kind of Trouble starts a new chapter.
Some Kind of Trouble is out now.
Follow James Blunt, the self-confessed performing monkey, as he gets more comfortable on Twitter here.
This is the advert Sharlto Copley made for Nedbank. I love that Sharlto, who is currently in talks to star in the upcoming Men in Black 3 movie, was involved in filming this in downtown Joburg. It has such a great message - one that I have been taking to heart.
John Kani also made one, that will air on TV as a follow-up to this one.
Well done to Nedbank on bagging two of the country's finest actors!
Hotep was one of the first interviews I did when I started out as a music journalist, while I was living in Cape Town. He was so warm and friendly, and full of knowledge - knowledge he was so eager to pass on. He remained that way, up until I last saw him a few months ago in Cape Town.
He may not have been as well known as Abdullah Ibrahim or Hugh Masekela, but Hotep was more comfortable behind the scenes, as writer Evan Milton attests in this piece he wrote last year. But the contributions Hotep made should not be forgotten and will live on in the many young students who gained so much from his wisdom and warm smile.
Hotep's death comes in a year in which we've lost many a wonderful soul, like Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Robbie Jansen, Rex Rabane and Ezra Ngcukane. As the new Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile says, it's been a sad year indeed for jazz lovers.
So we knew this was in the pipeline but as good, law-abiding citizens over here in Newsville, we like to make sure the I's and T's on the contracts are all dotted and crossed before we start getting as excited as we should be for one of the biggest concerts of our time!
This stage from the band's concert in Barcelona is the same one that will be used in Joburg and Cape Town next year.
The two dates in South Africa took many years to confirm. Organisers Big Concerts say the world-class stadiums in Cape Town and Joburg sealed the deal. The size of this tour will be unlike anything we've seen here before: 150 containers will be shipped in, with 120 of those being transported back and forth between Cape Town and Joburg. The stage itself is 190-feet-high, weighing 180 tonnes. Then there are the fans: 100 000 people can fill the FNB Stadium standing, with about 56 000 in the Cape Town Stadium. And you can be sure these shows will most certainly sell out!
U2 play Joburg and Cape Town on the 13th and 18th of February, respectively. Tickets go on sale this Saturday.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu turns 79 today. He announced two months ago that he would be retiring on his birthday, and there are some great pieces that have been published, reflecting on his legacy here and here.
I've always loved covering events that The Arch attended because he just has such a wonderful personality (and makes for great radio with his jokes and charm!) This photo was taken at his 75th birthday celebration at the Sandton Convention Centre - where Samuel L Jackson, Santana and Alfre Woodard came to join in the fun (and fundraising).
And this right here - from the World Cup Kickoff Celebration Concert in June - is one of the reasons why he is so loved:
A few posts ago, I expressed my ambiguious feelings about Die Antwoord where I said I was hoping the group would stick around long enough for me to make up my mind about how I felt about them. Much has happened since then, namely that the band signed a major deal with Interscope Records, home of Lady Gaga and Eminem. They're committed to 5 albums so have to be around for at least that long.
On Saturday night the group performed at the Bassline before heading back overseas on the second part of their world tour. They also previewed the music video for their new single, Evil Boy, which features a young Xhosa rapper called Wanga, as well as a whole lot of penises. These made their way onto the stage too - see Exhibit A and B below.
The video is as controversial as you'd expect from a group that uses the words "poes" and "naai" as easily as "please" and "thank you". But the track is slick and US producer Diplo has worked in his magic into a tale about circumcision and "big loving". It's as hot as Die Antwoord's stage show, which is filled with non-stop energy, fast raps and great costume changes. Oh, yeah, and Ninja's prosthetic District 9 limb. He showed me later the D9 tattoo inscribed on the inside of his bottom lip. Fans to the max!
As for me, I had fun and that's that. I think I am going to stop over-analysing the band too much. Although I am still intrigued by things like meeting an American girl who has flown over here just to watch the band because she's "seen everything else out there, from dubstep to industrial, and there's nothing like Die Antwoord".
Duran Duran have been working with Mark Ronson, cooking up a new album, called All You Need is Now. It's almost ready to be released, and lead singer Simon Le Bon says they will be premiering tracks from it when they tour South Africa in December. It's been 17 years since the group last performed here.
Duran Duran play Durban at the International Convention Centre (ICC) on 7th December 2010, Johannesburg at Carnival City, Big Top Arena on the 8th and 9th December 2010, and Cape Town's GrandWest Grand Arena on 11th and 12th December 2010.
This whole week I have been getting smses and emails about Justin Bieber. It goes with the territory, this I understand. However, I would like it if the smses didn't come at 5:45am! Nonetheless, Bieber's visit to SA coincided with the news that a) he had just been snapped making out with a fellow teeny-bopper singer and, b) he had released a line of bedding and curtains with his face all over. Now comes the news to satisfy all those Bieberites who haven't managed to get their picture taken with him while he's been cosying up to cheetahs and kite-surfing (barring those who took pics with the "fake Bieber"). Bieber dolls! Collectible Bieber dolls - that will hit stores in the US just in time for Christmas.
And that has proved to be a good thing for the sequel to Wall Street, which hit the big screen in South Africa and the rest of the world this past weekend. Showing it is worth its weight in gold, Wall Street: Money Never Sleepsstruck it big at the box office during its opening weekend.
At Cannes I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella and director Oliver Stone to talk about the movie. Stone said he wanted to preview it in Cannes, see people's reactions and then tweak it a little before its worldwide release. It seems that move has paid off.
Here is a snippet of Douglas talking about how it came to be that he reprised his Oscar-winning role of Gordon Gekko...
This interview took place before it was announced Douglas was fighting throat cancer - a battle he's fighting with his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones and their two children.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that it felt surreal to hear Die Antwood's Enter the Ninja on high rotation in the UK. Well, in a very short time, the track has entered the BBC Radio 1 Chart at Number 37 - alongside Eminem and Katy Perry. That's no mean feat. But then again, it's not like we should have expected anything less from the group that seems to be fast becoming everyone's favourite group du jour. As this article by the fantastic Diane Coetzer relates there is just no stopping Yo-landi Vi$$er, Ninja and DJ HiTek, as they conquer the world's music territories, one by one.
In a telephonic tete-a-tete with Yo-landi, she says they weren't even aware that they were in the chart. "We don't even know what the chart is," she said.
"But it sounds important," adds Ninja.
They've been working on the new music video for the track Evil Boy with a Xhosa emcee called Wanga, whom Ninja says brings a "fresh twist" to things. And they're keeping mum on upcoming videos they are working on but I have a feeling at least one of the heroes he speaks about meeting is involved.
Here's the interview - where Yo-landi and Ninja talk about officially releasing their debut album, which has a "cute cover that you can stick up on the wall", and the 23 Die Antwoord tracks that are "floating around."
How gorgeous do Malin Ackerman and Ryan Phillipe look at the premiere of The Bang Bang Club at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Last night there was a gala screening of the film - it was one of only 15 movies to be selected for gala screenings at the fest - which was also the world premiere. Much more fanfare than the low-key screenings that happened at Cannes earlier this year. So far, the film's reception has been good, but a Reuters' critic felt it "lacked grit". I got an sms from Jesse Clegg at around 5am to tell me he thought I deserved an Oscar for my cameo- too sweet! Haha! But he said he was very impressed with the film and really enjoyed it.
Two other South African films - State of Violence and Life, Above All (which is South Africa's official submission to the Academy Award board in the Best Foreign Film category) are also shining the spotlight on the country at the festival.
I love the 969 Festival because it gives those of us who missed out on this year's National Arts Festival (thanks to a little thing called The World Cup) the chance to see some of the best productions from there. Last night I went to see Athena Mazarakis' Elev(i)ate 2 at the Nunnery at Wits University.
She won a 2010 Standard Bank Ovation Award for the piece, which is a follow-up to the dance installation she presented at the Dance Umbrella in March. For that piece she worked with a digital artist and invited audience members to interact with her - thinking about certain things as she physically lifted them up. The footage from that was recorded and forms part of Elev(i)ate 2.
Photo by Suzy Bernstein
It's a wonderful, imaginative and evocative insight into the weight of matter, and the weight of what matters.
Next week I am going to see James Cunningham's Kaput about two brothers whose lives are disturbed by a foreign invasion. Check out the line-up and go see some of the best of the best!
There have been rumours and reports that the Irish supergroup are going to bring their 360 Degree tour to South Africa in February next year. According to major concert promoter Big Concerts' CEO John Langford, this is the real story:
Obviously we'd all like U2 to come here, and Big Concerts has been trying since we last had them here in 1997. But the problem with the 360 Degree tour is that it is incredibly expensive. There are 150 containers that need to be shipped over. At this stage, the rumours are not true, I'm afraid.
That doesn't mean it's not going to happen at all though...we'll be waiting anxiously for the latest update!
Being away on a much-needed holiday means I have missed out on a few big things that happened on the SA arts and entertainment scene over the past two weeks. So quick catch-up then:
# Damon Galgut was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize...
The Pretoria-born, Cape-Town-based author made it to the coveted list of writers up for the Man Booker. He's been nominated before, for The Good Doctor in 2003 and he's also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book from the Africa region.
The winner will be announced in October and will add £50 000 to his/her bank account plus, of course, the prestige of the title. Book SA reports that poet laureate Andrew Motion leads the panel of five judges.
We'll be rooting for him!
# Freshlyground stirred the Zim pot...
Award-winning and all-round fantastic performers Freshlyground teamed up with ZA News to bring the spotlight back onto Zimbabwe in this video:
As a result, the group's visa has been revoked by the Zim government meaning they won't be performing there next month.
#Literary great Lewis Nkosi passed away...
The famed Drum writer, author and intellectual died in Johannesburg last week, after a long illness, at the age of 74. Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana paid tribute to him with these words: Prof. Nkosi made major contributions to our literary heritage as a playwright, novelist, and as a fearless social and literary critic...the world has lost a great writer and intellectual. He will be deeply missed though he will continue to live in us through his work. We convey our sincere condolences to his twin daughters Louise and Joy, and to his wife, Astrid Stark.
#Life Above All was submitted as SA's official Oscar entry...
Back in May, I was lucky enough to be in Cannes when this local film received a standing ovationand the Oscar buzz already started developing around it. Well, now it's been officially submitted by the National Film and Video Foundation and SA's Oscars Selection Committee (yes, we have one of those) for consideration. If it's selected, then it will become an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film. Following in the footsteps of Yesterday and, of course, Tsotsi, which went on to win the award. Hold thumbs 'til the announcement in February!
Yes, yes, London-based group The xx were the bookie's favourites to win, but that wasn't why I had been rooting for them. Ever since listening to the band's debut album xx I became enamoured with The xx. Opening track Intro draws you into an album that sometimes brings up feelings you may not be ready to face, but by the end of the album, it feels as if you've gone through a kind of catharsis.
Some of my other Mercury faves:
The banjo-driven gusto of this band, together with the passionate pleas of Marcus Mumford, helped me get through some very long hours while travelling to my latest destination.
Thanks to Q Magazine for the heads-up on this Dublin singer who goes by the moniker of Villagers as a kind of collective for the producers he works with. Singer-songwriter at his best!
I just love the spunk and character behind this three-piece. They're a stadium-rock act, but with a quirky spark firing inside that takes them a step further (And I am loving lead singer Simon's new "sexy-Santa" look - sadly not seen in this video)
Ultimately, what I love most about the Mercury Prize is that it exposes me to music I just have missed - plus the fantastic weekly emails they send out to with info on all the fantastic new music that's bubbling under!
I've been in the UK for two weeks now and while I haven't been watching reality TV while here (okay, except for the chunk of Jerseyshore I just had to share with my mum for a few laughs), certain characters have jumped out from the shows they've been on and made their way onto other platforms.
From the good off of Must Be the Music...
She answers the phone with a "hello, this is Fran."
Before the line had dropped, we'd established who I was and where I was from. So now - in an instant - it was like talking to an old friend.
"Hi Fran, it's Nadia."
"Yes, hello there. Tell me, Nadia, what is the weather like there? I'm busy packing...hot? cold?"
And so began the interview with Fran Drescher, aka The Nanny (named Fran!). What an easy interview. Ask Fran one question and you get a lovely, thought out answer. Okay, so it's an 11 minute one. But c'mon, did I really expect anything less from the woman with one of the most-recognisable voices in the TV world?
Fran - a survivor of uterine cancer - is heading for South Africa to help spread the message of education and awareness about HIV/Aids. She may be a humourous woman, known for her comic act, but Fran can be desperately serious too. She's been through a lot - raped in her home, divorce, cancer, and more. It's given her a purpose beyond acting. Now, Fran has become a diplomat, lobbying for women's rights.
Oh, and she, surprisingly, doesn't actually sound like The Nanny - her voice is a lot deeper and not quite as chipper!
I spot his Springbok sweater before I spot him. In the foyer of the Beverly Hills Four Seasons – the one where Pretty Woman is set – Sharlto Copley is waiting for me. “Geez, when I said you should try come to the Oscars, I didn’t realize you actually would!” he chuckles as he we find a spot to sit down. South Africa had a strong presence at this year’s ceremony: District 9 was nominated for four Oscars – along with two nominations for the Madiba-inspired Invictus – so it was important for me to be there. Fast forward a few months later and Copley is spotted at airports around the world, promoting his latest film, the action-packed, star-cast The A-Team. One set of paparazzi-like pics shows him arriving at LAX wearing the green Springbok sweater again. “I love that top,” he says to me when I tell him about the gossip site that published the photos. “It’s so comfortable to travel in so I wear it all the time. I guess I won’t be any more,” he says, ruefully.
Much has changed for the Joburg-born Copley. For one, he’s added a number of nominations to his CV: Teen Choice Award nod for Best Sci-Fi Actor, MTV Movie Award nod for Scared as S**t Performance, and of course those Academy Award nominations. He won the Favourite Hero and Best Performance of 2009 awards at the IGN Summer Awards, but whether or not the 36-year-old has scooped the awards he’s been up for, Copley’s gained a fair bit of exposure from all the attention. Being part of a big-budget Hollywood film meant that his life has been spun into the global orbit of international stardom. From cardboard cutouts of him in a cellphone shop to gossip websites lamenting the fact that he has a girlfriend, Copley’s business is now the stuff of international interest.
“I’m trying really hard not to do anything that’s going to perpetuate that,” he says earnestly. “That’s not a place I’m interested in being. I really want to focus on the work. I’m not interested in this celebrity culture where people create drama out of your life for entertainment. I’d rather just create drama for TV, or movies,” he chuckles.
One of the great things about going to the Cannes Film Festival (because there are just so many horrible things about going to the South of France) is that you get a sneak peak into some of the films that are going to be coming up in the near future - those that are finished and those that are still in early production stages. It was in May that I got wind about two big movie stars heading to South Africa: Oscar-winner Halle Berry and the gorgeous Gerard Butler. They'd both be working on two different films in different locations. Halle was to film Dark Tide in Cape Town, which meant I'd have limited access to finding out more about where she'd be and all of that. So when an opportunity to go to Cape Town came up, I scheduled in some time to find out more about the film and its stunning star.
On Friday I went to Bertha's in Simonstown - a restaurant that became a mini-Hollywood set when the cast and crew of Dark Tide spent the day filming there. Halle, Olivier Martinez and British actor Ralph Brown (Alien; Withnail and Us) together with South African actor Luke Stein were all shooting scenes in the restaurant. I couldn't really hear what was going on but it seemed that father-and-son Ralph and Luke were having lunch when Halle and Olivier come in and sit down to talk.
Halle had a sore throat so when she did come say hello, she was half-whispering. In between takes, she laughed with the crew and hugged the wardrobe designer. Oh, and I don't mean to be starting rumours or anything, but she held onto Olivier quite a lot when the cameras stopped rolling - rubbing his back and hugging him.
Hmmm...perhaps this is a watch-this-space hookup with Kylie's ex in the making.
There was talk that Halle would pop up at the Cape Town Fashion Week Afterparty...but she did not. One can understand why she would choose to spend her 44th birthday with her family after a day of shooting. Halle wraps up filming in Cape Town at the end of this week and then heads to London to finish the movie.
Refresh. Revive. Renew.
This has been the theme of Cape Town Fashion Week, showcasing the ready-to-wear collections for Spring and Summer. Thanks to the lovely people at AFI, I have been here in the Mother City, and get to witness the collections and work in the city for a few days. As a former resident, I am a fan of Cape Town, and feel it is good for one's nerves to work from here for a little bit every once in a while. Although, I still seem to bring my Joburg-ness with me - aggravated driving-style and all!
So, the big highlight on opening night was Kluk CGDT celebrating 10 years in the industry. The design duo of Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel du Toit reflected over their past decade and looked forward to the future in their collection. It left me wanting to gather all those dresses up off the runway and into my arms so that I could take them back to my Joburg cupboard. Gorgeous materials and even more gorgeous flowing dresses.
These are some of my faves:
Joburg-based label Stoned Cherrie also celebrated a decade in the fashion world at CT Fashion Week. Nkhensani Nkosi was meant to show this collection during the World Cup, but the game between Uruguay and Ghana put a spanner in the works of that so we had the chance to see it here. And it was worth the wait! Nkhensani put a spin on some of the Cherrie classics and gave us some cute new items too.
Some of the items are available through a partnership Stoned Cherrie has done with Foshini called Love Movement, which is fantastic news! Now as for all the rest of the items I covet, a big bank balance is required!
Here are some of my favourites out of the up-and-coming talent...
The festival - often referred to as South Africa's Glastonbury - turned sweet sixteen this year. I wasn't able to be there for the whole 3 days, but a year wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Northam farm, even if only for a day and night. And what a night it turned out to be...but more about that later. This year's fest sold out, for the first time in it's teenage history. As Carel Hoffman said: "It's amazing to think that we started this thing in the trenches and now look where we are."
Saturday night really got going with Radio Kalahari Orkes on the James Philips Mane Stage. They make boeremusiek very, very cool. Add a touch of Jack Parow and it all becomes even more so. Valiant Swart, the man whom this year's fest paid tribute to, joined them on stage for a song too, and it was a slice of Oppikoppi music heaven. I loved how everyone sang along to the infectious chorus of Blaas Jou Vuvuzela.
Saturday night was also perhaps the festival's most "commercial / radio friendly" night, with Flash Republic, Prime Circle and Gang of Instrumentals all performing. Nothing wrong with that though. Flash made its debut at the fest, performing in the dust for the first time. But Tamara Dey - no stranger to the bushveld party - still brought along her trusty stage accessory: a fan.
Prime Circle started their set with a little bit of an Indian influence - no doubt picked up on their recent tour of the country - and the group also played some new songs, sounding as tight as ever.
Popping over to the Levi's Bushveld Originals Stage, I took in some Voodoo Child and then the infectious sounds of Gang of Instrumentals. Voodoo Child have come a long way from being a cover band and are sounding really good together. GI have a new backing band, made up of various musicians, as their previous band, New Academics, had conflicting schedules with the group. I always love hearing My Number One from them, even if it doesn't quite sound as good live as it does recorded.
Earlier Dutch singer-songwriter Lucky Fonz III performed in a setting perfect for his Afrikaans-sounding folk lyrics. There were snippets of other artists I caught here and there, but I must say, one of the highlights had to be The Narrow making a welcomed return to the South African stage. Lead singer Hanu de Jong has been living in New Zealand for about four years. It was awesome to hear Lonely, Lonely and The Banded again. Plus new music that the group has created, which they'll be performing at a few shows in SA before Hanu is off again.
Sure, there were loads of other artists I really wanted to see - Tumi dropping rhymes in his trademark way, Canadian rockers Billy Talent, the "zef-coolness" of Jack Parow and of course the Valiant Swart tribute show. Thank goodness for Oppikoppi's streaming live feature and more gigs in Joburg!
I woke up to what I thought was the sound of a duck quacking on a roof top somewhere nearby. Turns out it was a duck quacking on a roof top somewhere nearby. Gotta love Cape Town. Oh yeah, I’m in Cape Town. Feels a little surreal. One day I am in London, the next in the Mother City. It's been wo-wo-wonderful but now I am so-so-tired! Hence the reason for my two-day-Time-Out in Cape Town.
I consider it to be the theatrical event of the year. Sir Ian McKellen - veteran of the stage and screen - is starring in a 2-week run of Waiting for Godot in Cape Town. It's, unfortunately, only in the Mother City and not travelling to Joburg, so I came here for opening night this past weekend. A number of my fellow arts journos also made the trip - all to witness a true talent on the stage.
It was, as I had believed it would be, a trip worth making. Sir Ian McKellen's performance is filled with nuances that breathe life into a character that is essentially waiting to die. Every cough, every clearing of the throat, every hobble onto or off of the stage has been thought out so that it becomes fluid and natural. He brings such comicality to the role of Estragon that lifts the production from what could otherwise be (and sometimes, I'm told, is) quite a sombre mood.
The show, directed by Sean Mathias, has been touring the UK and the West End, then Australia and New Zealand, and now South Africa. It will head out of the Fugard Theatre - a beautiful, historical, four-storey building in the heart of District 6 - to Khayelitsha on Monday evening, for a once-off special show. Sir Ian himself admitted he was somewhat nervous about this move, as it requires a changing of the set design so that it fits into a venue that was last used as a fan park during the World Cup. Acoustic issues aside, Sir Ian says he happy to be able to take the production to the people, in an area he established a relationship with years ago, when he first started to coming to South Africa in 1994.
I think it is an inspired move, one that will help ignite the spark of passion for acting in some youngsters who might otherwise have never had the opportunity to see this particular performance of Samuel Beckett's classic.
I'm backstage at the Wembly Arena. Preparations are being made for opening night of the UK run of Saltimbanco, the show that will make Cirque du Soleil's debut in South Africa.
There is a man wearing a 2010 Fifa World Cup t-shirt hanging from a rope. As he tumbles his body, which is wrapped up in a ball, over and over in midair, his t-shirt lifts ands waves up and down. There are two sisters - Ukrainian, I'm told - who are warming up on a giant swing, lunging their bodies back and forth on the little stick they're sitting on. They're swinging higher and higher, as if they are in a playground and not suspended dozens of metres up in the air of an arena. But this is a circus, a playground of sort, only bigger and bolder than the playgrounds any of us has ever been on.
Costumes being fan-dried!
The Ukrainain twins
With Vanessa Gurie the South African responsible for treating injuries
Well what do ya know, I arrived in London to find that The A-Team were also popping into town. Sharlto Copley and co drove onto the red carpet in The A-Team van as the film made its UK premiere. They came in from Spain and are headed to Berlin now, before Sharlo and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson come to South Africa next week, for premieres in Cape Town and Joburg.
Wonder if the van is coming with them?
It has been a dream of mine to watch a Cirque du Soleil production ever since I was a little girl (which some might say wasn't too long ago!). I get to fulfill that dream this week, as I fly to London for the opening night of Saltimbanco, one of the titles in the stable. I will be getting a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into putting on a show like this, and meet some of the performers. The best part about this is that the show is coming to South Africa next year, so you'll get to see it too!