24 April 2010

Today it all made sense.

Bat cave - Nepal

There was some guide, but he had disappeared a long time ago. He was visibly drunk and seemed to have far too easy going approach to the whole bat cave walk we were busy with. Like a car salesman he had promised us all sorts of things that were soon to be proved at best incredibly exaggerated and at worst blatant lies proving how little value was placed on us beyond the money from our pockets. Everyone else – my sister and her friends – were closer to the end of this tour that was still terrorising me; I was in between two massive rocks trying to find a place for my foot in order to climb up. It was dark with a few rays of hot midday sun pushing through from the holes I couldn’t locate. And then there were the bats I was only too aware of. Is the talk about vampire bats a myth or do they exists? I am not even interested in animals – why on earth did I want to do this?

I am sure no one had taken a particular pleasure in this exercise, but I wasn’t feeling like I could remember ever having felt before. After struggling myself into the daylight I think I told my sister that it’s possible that I am a bit claustrophobic. It was 19th of April 2004 in Pokhara; the main town of Nepal’s Annapurna region.

Today, just over six years later, I am trying to find a parking space near the Main Road in the Cape Town’s busy student area in Rondebosch. The familiar unease is taking over; the music starts annoying me, my wife's words become blurry as my focus is split and my body is feeling uncomfortable like so many times before. I dislike traffic here, especially on any main road and I’ve always explained it to myself as a cultural difference. Us Finns may be known to a few as the fastest nation on earth; whether or not we ever were or still are, I do think our culture more often than not promotes the good driving and following the rules of the road. Maybe this is just heart grown fonder with nearly a decade of distance, but when compared to Capetonians, we drive well.

BAM! It hits me in the head like a mugger in the underpass. These things are connected. I am not just frustrated impatient driver feeling superior in the midst of soccer mums, taxis and the ones who feel that an expensive car is a reason not to care about the laws; why else would they have paid that much money for them, and I am too polite to point out that it might be to compensate other physical attributes of one’s body in a form of extension. It’s not me being unable to understand the carelessness to the point that I am reacting to it with physical discomfort and the early signs of road rage – it is me being mildly claustrophobic.

It’s a breakthrough moment for me. It’s just me getting to know myself a little bit better. I don’t intend to hide behind it or to let that impact my life in any negative way, but I am glad to have realised this connection. My fear of narrow places is hardly out of control; it’s barely even worth mentioning, I guess, but it is the reason why much of this traffic has felt overwhelming for a few years now.

I feel good today to have grown again – to know myself a bit better and to find a concrete explanation which can be understood and countered, instead of just general unease that – and you can take my word for it – has not been a stranger on these roads.

18 April 2010

To get this off my chest

I wonder if this Ugly School of interior design will catch on.

Finally Sunday. This week needed to end ages ago. On Friday I mentioned how I’ve been struggling with people who we pay money in exchange for basic services – car, the house we live in and such – have taken liberties and felt that we for some reason care about the excuses of sick parents, new telephone lines and in traditional South African style misunderstanding that have stopped them to meet even the lowest expectations of a paying customer. Or just a person in general. In all honesty I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere where there’s so many misunderstandings with such regularity. Do people not listen or what’s up with this. Answers to my email.

Now after having waited for several months for a new stove – the old one gave increasingly strong electric shocks which started from painful only to proceed into burning a bit of skin away when they hit. Having communicated this to our agent and not receiving any form of response we finally had to make it very clear that this situation has got to stop. Then of course we heard a list of reasons why this has been fully someone else’s fault and not at all can be attributed to the one who is paid to co-ordinate the whole matter. Why should I care whose fault it is? It’s our practical problem and the difference is that we pay to deal with these matters while the agents and such are paid to deal with the same matters. That’s a big difference in my books. Unfortunately they are also paid even when the excuse themselves from these tasks and that’s why it is so easy for them to insult us with so many reasons why it isn’t their fault that I can’t feel my fingers now.

Of course, you could say that I should’ve learned from the firsts shocks. I did. I became quite good at avoiding these things, but cooking being a daily activity, as the months passed I did end up getting handful of these stings of unnecessary pain. So I am sure, or hope at least, that you can understand how the matter not being taken seriously by someone whose salary you are contributing might feel rather insulting.

So finally this morning – Sunday morning – we receive a call that they’ll come with the new cooking set up to fix the problem at 9.30 in the morning. Never mind the unusual timing, I was just glad to put this thing behind me so I didn’t care. We were told that it’s very quick thing so even better. I just imagined the lovely brunch that I could do with the new stove.

Three hours later without access to our kitchen, no electricity, not having eaten anything and an impatient and hungry child running around us, the guy says that the stove has got scratches and he needs to come next week to change it. As unbelievable as I found this, I couldn’t help but point out the more obvious problem; the new oven filled maybe around 75% or the hole that it was supposed to. This thing had been measured by so many people on so many occasions, not all of them convenient to us and yet this rather ugly whole had materialised in the middle of our kitchen breathing out cockroaches with steady flow. Apparently the quote was only for the machine and new one is needed to fill the hole. Knowing the people we deal with we’ll just have to live with it as long as we are here. But whatever may be, it does not look too nice especially if you're expecting guests. Or even if you just have the sense of sight.

Since he left we’ve been sorting out the mess that was left and which will make its next appearance in a few days when he comes to do it all over again. Oh you incompetence veiled with incoherent and poor excuses – you irritate me.

16 April 2010

Linkage: another helping.

Focus Mode
Focus Mode: Rattex about to take the mic on. Download his whole album from his Bandcamp site.

What a week it has been. I feel exhausted. The David’s battle against the corporate Goliath has taken it out on me. Instead of rocks I’ve been slinging long elaborate emails which have largely been ignored or half read – you know how it is. But instead of begging your pity on this Friday early evening, I have decided to share and spread the love in the form of online music. Today is a good day for that, partly because I need some upliftment, but much more so because this week has been great for music.

A few years ago I was living in Birmingham, UK. I lived in an unusually central location; in a kind of place that when I told people, they didn’t believe that there’s flats there. Right next to the massive shopping centre – Europe’s largest I’ve been told – and generally just bang, right there as central as one only can. I had just come back home to my small room from a long walk listening to my music and as I took off my headphones and put my digital radio on; almost immediately a sound bigger than anything I had heard in a long time was roaring from the BBC’s 1Xtra station. It was a song called Shakespeare by Akala. I listened to the song in a semi-trance and as soon as it had finished I walked to that massive shopping centre to buy the album It’s not a Rumour. That record is one of my all time top three albums together with Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner.

Now Akala is coming up with a new album (there was also one, Electric Lasso, in the middle) called DoubleThink. I suspect it will be amazing. Akala is a poet and a library worth of knowledge in one package. There’s a new F64 freestyle video that he did for the SBTV and also a snippet of Yours and My Children from the forthcoming record. The Twitter tells us that Lowkey is going to be on a remix of that track. That to me is the dream ticket.

Well, to that dream ticket you could also add Chuck D. And I will, although not on the same track. After a free sign-up you can download his brilliant song Tear Down That Wall from his Slamjamz online record label. There’s actually a wealth of free music there. And has been for years since it’s these guys who started this whole online music thing.

Ill-Skillz is a Cape Town crew. One of those that was part of the new wave when I was introduced to Cape Town and saw them live for the first time in Hip Hop Connected I think in 2005. Now they’re doing big things and pushing hard as independents and I always have respect for that. Download the free song called Soul Vibrations which features John Robinson from Scienz of Life. If you like that song, go and vote it on 5FM website as well. I clicked them there on the side column – to support them, not 5FM (I don't know how long it will be found from that link, but try it).

So there. Enjoy the weekend.

8 April 2010

Future Classics


Just earlier today I made mention of how I will have my first music studio experience today. And I did. This is the after to the before.

I think I learned a few interesting things about how music might be made and had fun just in general chatting with the good people present: Damian aka Dplanet and Hipe who I have never met in person before but heard so much of – more importantly I’ve heard his productions. They’re good people. There was also Steve the studio guy and the one who I went to see and talk to specifically: Rattex.

Rattex is cool guy. We had good three quarters of an hour chat which I recorded so maybe at some point there’ll be some material to share. I am doing this for another project which is writing one, but it’s always good to record audio as well.

So there’s definitely more to come from me and from Rattex there is rather big sounding EP on the way, I can pretty much promise you this. 

First time for everything

<a href="http://rattex.bandcamp.com/track/cape-town">Cape Town by Rattex</a>
One of my personal favourites from Bread & Butter, the debut album of Rattex. The track is Cape Town featuring El Nino and Ma B from Driemanskap.

Today is a very exciting day. It’s one of those first times and in my age you don’t get a first time of something that often. Or is it just my unadventurous stagnant and unjustifiably middle class existence? Who knows. But regardless of any existential angst, today, I am going into the studio to witness recording of some music. With all my years in radio and as a big fan of music, I’ve never really properly witnessed this so it certainly calls for some excitement.

Rattex is recording an EP on Hipe production and I’m going to be there hanging out, making some notes, even asking some questions. Since I’ve never been part of anything like this I am not absolutely sure what it will be like, but I’d bet one of my perfectly functioning kidneys that it’ll be interesting.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say when it’s done.

2 April 2010

Quick Stint to East

Road to Mthatha

Ever since we came back from the Eastern Cape I’ve been doing two things. I have been writing and pretending to write. There’s been a few other things taking place, of course, but to summarise it really comes down to these two things. And as you can see, I haven’t been writing here. It’s been the second instalment of my Political Communication essays. I really am not going to say more about that, because if I want to write anything that’s got to do with it, I may as well write the actual essay. But no digressing here.

Although, if you pardon me digressing one small observation still, I’ve noticed that my first paragraph is inclined to end off topic nearly every time. I wonder what this kind of formula is about. Maybe it will catch on – who knows.

So yeah, I haven’t posted any photos or any mentions of my first ever trip to proper far far Eastern Cape. That excludes the nearer end of the province in Graaff-Reinett where I’ve been many times to visit family.

What can I say – here’s my few observations of the road and the trip.

  • Walter Sisulu University is on Nelson Mandela Road in O.R. Tambo Municipality in Mthatha.
  • Mthatha as a capital of the former Transkei seems to has forgotten the old slogan – as I have been told it went – Keep Transkei Clean. It really isn’t.
  • The area that used to be Transkei, outside of its main city, is beautiful and completely different to anything that I have ever seen. The hills, the houses the greenery. 
  • It’s ridiculously far from Cape Town.

A few photos to fill you in further on how it might have been.

Road to Mthatha

Road to Mthatha

Road to Mthatha

Very lastly; the reason why we went there and spent such a short time was the wedding of my wife’s longest standing friend Qaqamba. It was massive wedding and an amazing experience for me. Even though I really understood very little of the speeches and such.

Now we’re back in the everyday grind. Big things are approaching and my degree is nearly done. The next few months will be busier than ever and better as well.That is almost definite.