view counter

Convergence ‘throwing the proverbial middle finger’ by Tseliso Monaheng

Photography: Andreya Triana by Tseliso Monaheng

"They say that in the 1970s, black people were angry enough to go down to the government offices and stone the government. Instead, they came out with government jobs, and the revolution was over," rippled the booming voice of Reginald D. Hunter across a full Roundhouse on the fourth day of the music, art and technology festival Convergence. The UK-based American stand-up comedian, a late addition to the line-up of artists gathered under the musical directorship of The Invisible's Dave Okumu to celebrate the life and the music of Gil Scott-Heron, proceeded to launch into the late poet's The revolution will not be televised.

To say the audience loved it would be to downplay their reaction. A rapturous applause carried along with it shouts of encouragement and meditative mouth-along’s. Those who'd either grown up to the music or experienced it later in life interpolated in rap songs (check Common's '99 delight "The 6th Sense" for an example), were transported via a one-way tunnel into the heart of blackness -- a universal blackness which speaks equally to kids growing up in Brazillian favelas; thugs trapping in American ghettoes; and tsotsis running rampant in South African townships.

Andreya Triana's (pictured above) rendition of Winter in America saw the singer-songwriter writhe around the microphone as though in worship mode. Frequent bursts of energy launched from her lungs notes so pitch-perfect they threatened to uproot her from the stage. The bands groove, intact and laden with future-forward interpretations which strayed just far-off of the original musical pieces to excite and not alienate, did well to hold her down. Kwabs, Joan As Police Woman and more joined in the express, each artist forthright in giving the music their utmost.


Photography: Dave Okumu by Tseliso Monaheng

                                                 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A few days earlier…

It's the opening night of Convergence Festival at the Village Underground. We're early, eerily so in fact. I'm eager to see as much of the city as my reserve energy shall allow. I had landed at the airport from Johannesburg only a few hours ago and had been taking in sights of the city in concentrated bites. We pass by a small crowd gathered outside of the venue, Jamie (my host at Run Riot) and I, and climb the stairs leading up to the overhead compartment where shared office spaces located inside shipping containers are stationed. We survey the city from somewhat of a vantage point, Jamie pointing out the areas which may be of interest. When we do venture out, it's to head deeper into the alleys of Shoreditch. We walk past a group of young'ins smoking dutchies and make a pit-stop to inquire about some matters. They don’t give in to our request, so we continue walking in a Southerly direction. We're walking in concentric circles and stopping briefly to spot recently-closed/changed spaces.  

Bits of the old crack through Shoreditch's gentrified facade to reveal a storied past, one which immediately draws to mind my ends of town - a section on the eastern edge of Johanneburg's Jeppestown district called the Maboneng Precinct. Established in the lead-up to the 2010 football World Cup by a budding property magnate with generous support from daddy's money, Maboneng's been a point of contention for detractors of gentrification. They see it as capitalism's way of reminding the invisible men, women and children that there no place for their kind in the city. The unofficial mantra of the area, something to the effect of them 'bringing people back to the city', constitutes erasure in that it fails to mention that there actually were people in the innercity before. Unfortunately, they aren’t the desirable kind; the well-to-do consumers who are sheltered from the daily realities of the black South African majority tick that bracket.

On the other hand, Maboneng's a welcome respite from a city where danger lurks a few metres away; where feeling safe is a veneer unlike that of my current location, covering up the silent, murderous and hurtful mutterings of a city content with seeing its young, black and unemployed suffer to no end. The few blocks which have been bought up by Propertuity, said magnate Jonathan Liebmann's company, are clean and walkable. They stand in stark contrast to much of the innercity which saw a flight of its white residents in the lead-up to the country's first democratic elections in '94.

Later when we return, the Village Underground has been transformed into a hive of activity. Bearded men negotiate their be-beer'd steps around the venue while thriftshop gurgles impound ears courtesy of Ah! Kosmos's electronic music explorations. We await the headliners Chk Chk Chk (!!!). We walk about the room and make conversation with old heads on the scene; underground party and club organisers who are being pushed further and further away from London, forced into nomadic existences by a city which refuses them the right to associate beyond its strict dictates. Who the fuck plans to exit a party before 2am, I wonder as one legendary deejay shares his story of being bullied by the po-po.

These thoughts visit my mind in different forms throughout my week-long stay in London. I wonder whether, much like the workers of the '70s Reginald D. Hunter spoke of, we'll give in to the system, or whether we’ll continue throwing the proverbial middle finger in its direction while stoning, in our own ways as creative communities, the strictures of Capitalism which oppress us worldwide -- whether in the boroughs of Hackney or the precincts of inner city Johannesburg.

The author’s trip was made possible by the assistance of the British Council Connect ZA’s #ConnectingCitites journalist exchange programme.


Photography: Convergence Opening Party, by Tseliso Monaheng

Photography: Ah! Kosmos by Tseliso Monaheng

Photography: Convergence Opening Party, by Tseliso Monaheng

Photography:  Chk Chk Chk (!!!), by Tseliso Monaheng

Photography: Nic Offer in Stereolad, by Tseliso Monaheng

view counter