I could not possibly have conjured up a better way of concluding June 16 than the way it all turned out. We were off to Soweto, ntwana! Going back to the township where the youth marched and died for their (and now our) rights, was already in itself, a soul-satisfying moment. On the drive to Soweto, the Afropolitan Explosiv gig was still fresh in my mind and its relevance was to play out before my eyes in the upcoming hours. After all, I was off to an event that was about the youth and the Arts. I was super-psyched: Soweto Up+Rising, here I come!
Before we even parked the car, the youthful and free-flowing energies of those already inside Club Pelican throbbed out into the street. A white couple entered through the doorway and climbed up the stairs: screw the fears there may be about going to Soweto at night, the BLK JKS are performing and it’s Youth Day!
It’s worth mentioning that Club Pelican’s location is rather on the dingy side; it being the only building occupied that night. But as scary as it may have been on any other night, on this particular night it was inviting, beckoning one and all to enter. There was a sense of safety in this joint, filled with a colourful mix of youth: a variety in ethnicity and background. So many languages whizzed past my ears as my companions and I made our way to the bar… how beautiful it sounded! And to think that this simple right for one to converse in one’s own language (albeit it was at school) is one of the precious things the youth of 1976 fought for!
As expected, even before we got to Soweto, the BLK JKS’ performance would be reserved for last. That suited us just fine. Squeezing past the crowd, I caught a glimpse of Motsatsing; I had to get closer! Her voice rung out over the packed club as she sang a number of songs in Sesotho and other indigenous languages. That’s when my mind drifted back to the Afropolitan Explosiv gig, once more. Here was a young woman making use of language in her artistic expression. Bodies jammed to her tune; black, white, coloured, Indian, whatever – it was music and they could feel it.
After Motsatsing’s performance, a young colourful girl with a truckload of energy and crazy, did her thing. This young thing, who goes by the name of MoonChild, was fresh, funky and fearless (a lot of comparisons were made to Nikki Minaj). MoonChild, supported by two members of the BLK JKS and Siya Shezi, rapped-sang with attitude and wowed the crowd with her fun I-don’t-give-a-damn dance moves. She was a delight to watch and hear.
Keeping with the youthful vibe, another young act got up on stage. Battle Cock, a rock band with a rapper as their lead vocalist, represented our current Model C high school kids: they spoke their minds and had full-blown confidence. A lot of the older members of the youth bopped their heads and swayed from side to side (I can’t believe I’m already in that category), while the younger, fresher kids jumped up and down, hands waving and heads swinging in all directions. I feared a moshpit would erupt at any time. But I have to admit, I had a jol.
While awaiting the BLK JKS performance, I marvelled at how great this gig was. The sound was on point, the lighting was effective and creative, the smoke machine gave the club and performances a wonderfully mysterious vibe, the service at the bar was efficient (and it helped that the bartenders looked hot), and it was obvious and appreciated that all the artists who had performed took the time to rehearse and pull off a fabulous show. Many of us have attended events put together by black people and a lot of the time we walk away a bit disappointed and embarrassed by their failure to pay attention to technicalities such as time, sound and lighting. And when a group of aboDarkie do get it right, I feel it should be noted and commended; black youth should stop believing they are somehow inferior to their white counterparts, such accomplishments (without a doubt the Soweto Up+Rising was a successful gig) prove that we are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.
My thoughts were disrupted by the sound of Linda’s guitar as the BLK JKS set up. As I joined the crowd (it was suddenly jam-packed), I wished I were a little bit taller as I struggled to see over the bodies in front of me. “Down by the lakeside…” sang the lead vocalist and the crowd enthusiastically joined in. The BLK JKS, mixing a range of South African languages and sounds in their music, are truly something special. They have reached international status. And on that night of June 16, with a crowd comprising of both the youth and a mix of cultures, they managed to make us feel as one. We all belonged. There was a sense of unity amongst us – the crowd; we were not just spectators, we were a part of the music that rang out loud and clear through the speakers. Tsepang, BLK JKS’ drummer, captivated us as always, flinging his dreadlocks and beating the drums mercilessly.
And did I mention Tsepang was topless? Yes, in that freezing weather, Club Pelican had transformed into what I shall refer to as the place of ‘The Birth of a New Identity’ (taking from the Afropolitan Explosiv’s gig I had attended earlier). Watching the BLK JKS perform Mzabalazo, truly appropriate for the significant day we were celebrating, people jumping up and down, lighters up, fists pumping the air and eyes glistening with gratitude and remembrance, I saw myself surrounded by The Cool Kids. We were The Cool Kids. Sure of ourselves. Knowledgeable enough to open ourselves to further learning and experiences. Filled with Love for our fellow human beings. Overflowing with Love for the Arts. Determined to make it in Soweto, in Joburg, in South Africa, in the World. All four members of the BLK JKS portrayed professionalism and passion and this poured over the thirsty crowd and we drank! For we know that this is the era of The Cool Kids!
Follow Amandla on Twitter: @JoziChicSA