Sounds of the Slowveld
Words and pics Bridget Hilton-Barber
There’s a whole lot of ear candy going on in the Slowveld, as Nelspruit environs is fondly called by locals. The area is famed for its natural attractions, especially the Kruger National Park (KNP) but if its music and a different kind of wildlife you’re after, there are some hip and happening venues, musicians and grooves. Bridget Hilton-Barber went in search of Slowveld sounds.
Sunday afternoon, good food and mountain views, the sweet strains of guitar and trumpet. A festive gathering of Slowvelders is getting on down to the music at the Bohemian Groove Café in Kaapsehoop, about 25km outside of Nelspruit, one of the coolest music venues around. Local musician and guitar virtuoso Andrew Kay and ace percussionist Justin Behrendt joined the Space Kadets, an Afro-Celtic-Hawaiian looping outfit starring Steven Howells, an ex South African who’s been Honolulu-based for the last fifteen years.
Andrew Kay definitely won the best shoes award with his golden footwear, Howells a close second in red tekkies. Trippy guitar grooves, penny whistle, drums and a whole lot of soul. It had the people grooving – and that’s exactly what venues like the Bohemian Groove Café are doing across the Slowveld - giving a voice to contemporary music and providing a fulcrum for good times. Heaven knows we need them now.
The Bohemian Groove Café is run by Andrea and Charl Fourie. She is a fine artist by training and runs the good food and funk side of the show, he is a blacksmith artist and restores old Beetles and VW kombis when he isn’t also helping to run the show. Most weekends they feature live music and people trek up here in happy droves from Nelspruit, Barberton, White River, Hazyview, to hang out and be fed and entertained in this quirky little village. Kaapsehoop was once a gold rush town - for about ten minutes - and today is famed for its wild horses and lovely walks, as well as a cast of interesting local characters, bistros, bars and the proverbial arts & crafts and pickles & preserves places.
If you’re after something a little rockier and racier, then weekends at Die Stoep in Nelspruit is where you need to be. Managed by Elsabe Malan, Die Stoep is a groovy spacious venue at the back of a street-facing coffee shop at Sonpark Boulevard. Decorated with pink pillars and fairy lights, eclectic posters and unusual signs, Die Stoep is where Andrew Kay started his Wednesday open mic sessions, encouraging local musicians to let it all out.
Die Stoep has featured some seriously cool Slowveld outfits, like Gibraltar, Sound Dedication and Stonehenge. The Space Kadets also rocked the house there with Howells and Behrendt giving it stick – and trumpet and guitar and pennywhistle – and were joined for a set by the Minanzi Mbira Band, featuring Tendayi Kusaya and Enock Madau on bass mbira and Danmore Kusaya on vocals and mbira. They also played together at Da Loose Mongoose, which is another live music venue, a country restaurant and pizzeria and generally laidback spot in Plaston on the outskirts of White River. It’s popular with both locals and tourists. A group of German visitors were particularly keen on the mbira guys, and even the waitresses and chef got onto the stage for a boogie.
In downtown Nelspruit, The Pub in Jones Street also has live music and many visitors. This big open plan venue is more rock driven, which seems to be the preferred genre of Nelspruit. They recently held a benefit concert for Andrew Kay who is suffering renal failure and is raising funds for further medical treatment. (Email [email protected] or check out www.gofundme.com under Andrew Kay’s name).
The audience was treated to a string of local bands - from serious long-haired okes playing hard core rock to bakgat boeremusiek quartets. Italian based percussionist Kholeho Mosala and Justin Behrendt joined the Space Kadets again for a fabulously Afro-funk set. Final act was local band Goat and Hare – kind of like Mama Cas meets Rammstein – who wowed the house.
• Check out Da Loose Mongoose on Facebook.
• For the lowdown on the music scene check out www.mpumalangahappenings.co.za