I had forgotten how captivating the song Special Star by Mango Groove was. It had me dancing at my primary school concerts.
But as the band was being introduced in Greenmarket Square last night, at the Free Concert of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the audience cheered with anticipation for a performance that even my grandmother might have dreamt to see one last time.
The fusion of old and new marinated like meat on burning coal – and boy, were we about to have a lekker braai, with their opening song Wenyuk’uMbombela (The Train Song). It had first been composed by Welcome Duru and sung by the late Mam’Mariam Makeba and later recorded by Harry Belafonte. I was wondering where Mam’ Claire was during the song, but I sure got over that as I was captured by the electrifying guitars, burning red-hot trumpet solo and blended melodies from the saxophonists and jive from the backing vocalists.
Then Mama Groove made a classic entrance: a controlled vocal arrangement over a sequence of graceful steps, and ended the song with a bang of fire. It was a melting, golden moment when she said: “It is our first time at the Jazz Festival, and we feel at home”.
Mango Groove is back. The juice in the mango quenched us with flavours of Home Talk, as well as a taste of the new album and Solomon Linda original, The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
Penny-whistle and the roaring drum… I knew it was i Special Star, and I found myself dancing next to Doris Day Miller, aged 72. “I knew them 40 years ago and I still love them,” she says. The rocking guitarist pulling a Chuck Berry duck-walk reminded me why jazz is an influence on all music forms and people.
And we Danced Some More!
Story by Philadelphia Makwakwa