31 May 2011

What a weekend.

Vusi Mahlasela in Helsinki 2011

The exhausting mixture of age and raising a small child have turned me into a person who thinks “Aaah, weekend, I am not going to do anything.” Of course, should our energetic four year old hear this, he’d laugh at my face. He tends to have other plans and always one part of those plans – and usually a very central one – is to jump on me when I try to lie down. But let’s just say, the idea of doing nothing on weekend doesn’t sound boring; it sounds great.

Occasionally there are, however, certain social gatherings or presentations of counter culture that I jump up – metaphorically – and abandon my utopian notion of relaxation in exchange for something even better.

Last weekend we went to the World Village Festival in Helsinki and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We didn’t check all of the performances, but for us there were definitely two highlights: Vusi Mahlasela and Daara J Family.

Vusi Mahlasela in Helsinki 2011

Vusi Mahlasela, to me and actually to whole of our family, is a bit of a super hero. He is that for many South Africans as well. His voice is one thing, but his poetry and political insight is really what makes him the object of our admiration. I consider myself very lucky to be able to add him on my list of great people I have had chance to shake hands with (some others on the top ten are Chuck D, Desmond Tutu, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, George Bizos and like him or hate him Zola). Nice thing about this festival was the artists interviews which were basically like press tent taken to the people. Already in the interview Vusi Mahlasela gave me the moment I had been dreaming of when he did an accapella opening of the When You Come Back song. I had been most looking forward to the moment when he shouts out “Mayibuye iAfrika” into the Helsinki late spring afternoon. It’s very powerful stuff. He came across incredibly humble artist and kind person and the actual concert was truly an experience. In the end, the title track of his most recent album Say Africa wrapped the show up in a mild rain. It was just perfect.

Daara J Family Live in Helsinki
The day before Vusi Mahlasela some similar emotions went through me with another group I like, but don’t have the same kind of history with. Daara J Family is Senegalese Hip Hop group that suffers slightly from the narrow mindedness of calling them a Hip Hop group. They are a lot more than that. Not that being a Hip Hop group isn’t something to be – it is – but Daara J Family fuses a lot of reggae and more traditional sounds with Hip Hop aesthetics of the vocal duo which is backed up by live instruments and a DJ. They performed in Helsinki this Saturday and gave a great show characterised by skillful musicianship, intense energy of the performance and political wisdom to seal the package.

Daara J Family Live in Helsinki

Their album School of Life has been pretty much the only one in the rotation in our flat after this gig. And not just because I like it, but because we all do. 

See the whole set of photos from the slideshow by pressing the play button.

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