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Hartenbos goes bos

2011-01-12 08:54
Enter ATKV's 'capital', Hartenbos. Same moon, same pale gaze, only now it's literal. This is a town owned by a cultural ministry of conservatism and order; we are ragged minstrels who believe in freedom of speech and organic order, a state of self, soul and whole intensified by days of camping uncomfortably together, uncannily happy and partly washed.

It is here that Tidal Waves' lead vocalist and lead guitarist Jakes (Zoyisile Wulana) puts his arm around me outside Skoffelsaal and says, "come, walk with me to the bus, I want to give these kids something to think about." So we two-step, arm-in-arm, a yin-yang against the gang.  

Jakes has a point; Hartenbos may be orderly, but it also seems heartily (or heartlessly?) old school – a town apparently populated purely by low- or no -melanin types; macho men, women with too much makeup on,  overfed children and hysterical teens (who express their adulthood by puking in the parking lot, in the alleyway, or in front of your feet. Or was that a welcome of sorts?).  Strange place.

To our delight, we have a whole fun park to balance the act beforehand, and take rides that turn recently-eaten burgers into a bellyache. For the most part, the show itself is a headache, in a room with awful acoustics that smells like a urinal. Instead of succumbing to  a wave of nausea, however, MK Avontoer brings a mini tsunami to this little town tonight.


True to its censorial sensibilities, certain bands (like The Guns, Isochronous and Jack Parow) have not been invited by the powers that be to tempt the teens on stage. The musicians don't sulk, of course; they engage in good, clean carnival fun; something, I suspect, done specifically to wipe the smile off the authorities' all-knowing faces.  

Despite all this – the conditions and the conformist cloud over our wonder-world of music - Tidal Waves rocks the room to its roots, and the crowd of kids roars in return while twelve-year-old couples make out messily in the dark.
The thing about this band is that they never let up, and they never let work conditions, crowd temperament or sound engineers spoil the fun. Aptly dubbed 'the hardest working reggae band in South Africa', they are unstintingly professional, ridiculously tight, generally magical and marvellously musical.

Theirs is a sound formula – a unique intermarriage of rock and reggae that works. But it's the spirit and synergy in their performance that gives the compositions wings. Their ethereal falsettos pin Wrestlerish to the floor, their churlish chants against capitalism make you want to cut up your credit card (or someone else's).

This is the band that reads the riot act righteously and joyously, lifts hearts and feet equally, and will not rest until everyone in the audience is happier. The photos do not lie, and America will soon know why, as the band flits to the States for thirty days of jam-packed gigs.

Tidal Waves? Smoking. Hartenbos? Choking.  Still, we come away certain that, in spite of excess testosterone and bad role models, given a bit of good music, the kids are alright.

Previously: Gees Fees in Stilbaai
Next: Dit maak nie sake in Mossel Bay

MK Avontoer day 2: Hartenbos is a town owned by a cultural ministry of conservatism and order; we are ragged minstrels who believe in freedom of speech and organic order.
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