April 6, 2015. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.
The culmination of our trip was the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, “Africa’s Grandest Gathering."
As the festival celebrated its 16th year, they chose to honor the 50th anniversary of the legendary South African mbaqanga singing group, the Mahotella Queens.
One of the original members, lead singer Hilda Tloubatla, is still with the group.
“We’ve got the spirit of the true musicians," she said, when asked what keeps the Mahotella Queens going strong. "We know how to go about a song - how to do a song.”
Well, you can believe that! From the first note, these ladies energized the crowd, which gave them a rousing reception.
Rounds of thunderous applause and loving shouts and screeches of approval echoed throughout the huge concert hall.
The concert of South African musical icon Hugh Masekela was the one that moved me most. The trumpeter is internationally revered as one of our master musicians.
More than any other artist, he has introduced the world to the music and culture of South Africa.
To be in the midst of an adoring South African audience as Hugh Masekela performed was a thrill I will never forget. You could feel the love they have for him, and he for them, his brothers and sisters.
My soul stirred as soon as I heard the familiar introduction to “Coal Train” (Stimela), Masekela’s dedication to the men who work in South Africa’s mines.
I’ve heard this song many times before, but this time, I heard it with new ears and a new understanding.
There is a train that comes from Namibia and Malawi
There is a train that comes from Zambia and Zimbabwe,
There is a train that comes from Angola and Mozambique,
From Lesotho, from Botswana, from Swaziland,
From all the hinterland of Southern and Central Africa.
This train carries young and old, African men
Who are conscripted to come and work on contract
In the golden mineral mines of Johannesburg
And its surrounding metropolis, sixteen hours or more a day
For almost no pay.
Deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth
When they are digging and drilling
For that shiny mighty evasive stone,
Or when they dish that mish mesh mush food
into their iron plates with the iron shank.
Or when they sit in their stinky, funky, filthy,
Flea-ridden barracks and hostels.
They think about the loved ones they may never see again
Because they might have already been forcibly removed
From where they last left them
Or wantonly murdered in the dead of night
By roving and marauding gangs of no particular origin.
We are told they think about their land and their herds
That were taken away from them with a gun, and the bomb
and the teargas and the cannon.
And when they hear that Choo-Choo train
They always curse, curse the coal train,
The coal train that brought them to Johannesburg.
Thank you, South Africa. Thanks to our hosts Hema Shah of Immersion Journeys and Judy Pillay of South African Tourism, and their respective staffs.
In Hema’s words, you are “awesome!”
Thanks to my colleague Simon Rentner for your hard work and for facilitating this trip, and to the team at WBGO.
Most of all, thanks to all of the wonderful people who were part of our group, and with whom we shared this amazing journey.
© 2015 WBGO
April 3, 2015. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.
Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City,” is a photographer’s paradise.
It’s breathtakingly beautiful – from the top of Table Mountain, you can see miles of white sandy beaches that rim the coastline, and crystal clear ocean, in every shade of blue.
More spectacular vistas can be seen from the Upper Lighthouse at the Cape Of Good Hope.
Looking out from Table Mountain, you see a small land mass in the ocean.
That’s Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and hundreds of other political prisoners were incarcerated under Apartheid.
I always assumed the island was named after a person, but “Robben” is the Dutch word for seal. Today, it's home to over 20 species of mammals and is a bird sanctuary with a large African penguin population.
We were privileged to have a former inmate, Jama Mbatyoti, as one of our guides.
He was arrested in 1976 for planning a march in his hometown of Port Elizabeth, and was confined for five years.
You could hear the pain in his words, and see it permanently etched in his face, as he spoke of the indignities he and his fellow prisoners suffered.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years. He spent eighteen on Robben Island.
Mandela’s cell was in section B, where the leaders of political organizations were held, in isolation from the rest of the prison community.
Mr. Mbatyoti told us that Mandela liked to garden, and worked this small patch of land whenever he had the opportunity.
© 2015 WBGO
March 29, 2015. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.
Yes, WBGO golfs. And when we found out we were just minutes from one of the best courses in the world - Sun City's Gary Player Country Club - the golfers on our trip couldn't pass up the opportunity to play. We were in for a few surprises, to say the least!
Look how excited Simon and I are to tee off!
We’re used to seeing deer on the fairway in New Jersey. In South Africa, that's not a deer - it's an impala.
The animal that rules the green in South Africa is the mongoose - they are too cute!
This is strictly a walking course. Since no golf carts are allowed, each of us is assigned a caddie. My caddie, London, turns out to be a jazz fan who listens to a weekly South African jazz radio show.
Lucky for me, he is also an excellent reader of the greens. Here he is, helping me avoid an ibis!
The resort has a second Gary Player-designed 18-hole course, the Lost City. It's famous for the 38 crocodiles in the water at its 13th hole.
I'm pleased to say we didn't play anywhere near those beasts.
But... playing golf in South Africa! I kept having to pinch myself.
© 2015 WBGO