Recently there was an outcry from Anna Cox and the Greenside Residents Association in regards to what they call, “the new Melville, with illegal pubs, drinking, drug dealing, noise and disturbance.” But on the 27th of July over a thousand patrons converged upon 7th street to witness a real taste of the new Melville.
In contrast to the outcry in Greenside the Melville Residents Association embraced arts and culture – hosting the second edition of Fete De La Musique in association with Alliance Francaise. Fete De La Musique is a global phenomenon which started in France during 1982. The intention of the occasion is to promote music (as well as culture) as is candidly suggested by the events title which translates to Festival of Music. A celebration of the diversity of music, the Fete is open to performers both amateur and professional with the only requirements being that all performers donate their time free of charge, and the concert be free to the public.
In Melville you feel the organisors could not have chosen a better suburb. It almost feels wrong calling Melville a suburb – Bohemian town seems more accurate when describing this diverse but connected community of students, artists and foreignors.
Upon arrival attendants were transported to what resembled a pedestrian-only street market in France – just without the cobblestones. The street was strewn with various pop-up stalls selling a variety of goods including vintage clothing, beaded sculptures, Mandela memorabilia, prime-steaks and even beer on tap. Alongside the regular bars, restaurants, cafes, thrift shops and antique stores of 7th street; it was difficult to decide where to begin as the choices were endless.
The festival was family-friendly providing something to do for everyone. For the younger ones Dibuka created a dedicated childrens area with a jumping castle and various fun activities to keep entertained. For those who preferred not to walk, Renault was inviting attendants to test drive one of their vehicles for a Va-Va-Voom Experience. The Converse truck was also there, providing a scenic view of the entire street.
However the atmosphere was nothing without the music. After all this was a music festival. At any stage of the festival there were up to seven musical performances taking place simultaneously at the various stages. This was truly a multi-cultural experience as you could listen to anything from afro-soul to rock ‘n roll. Notable performances were made by Bye Beneco, Tailor, Nakhane Toure, Tumi, Shadowclub, The Brother Moves On and The Muffinz.
On the Jo’ Anna Melt Bar stage, Bye Beneco delighted the audience with their whimsical folk sound. Lenny-Dee Doucha vocals were strong and evocative and the band mixed it up a bit for this performance, introducing xylophone which added to the quaint appeal of the group.
As is customary for major events lately, the independent Just Music boasted not one but three artists on the bill in the form of Tailor, Nakhane Toure and Shadowclub.
Solo artist Tailor performed in Die Grot Otter bewitching the audience with her pensive but primal music. With a precise control over her vocal range Tailor is able to portray varied emotions which is vital in dramatising her music.
Meanwhile on the stoep of Liberation Cafe, singer-songwriter Nakhane Toure liberated the audience with his neo-soul folk. His music seamlessly combines afro influences, such as Fela Kuti, with the trending genre of folk to create a timeless synthesis of sound.
The last of the Just Music alumni, Shadowclub, also performed on the Liberation Cafe stage. It was a great chance to see the band in a different light as the performance was a mellowed out blues show with the first couple of songs performed on acoustic guitar while Jacques Moolman was seated in a stool. Even without huge sound and lighting rigs the band delivered a solid intimate performance to the audience which spilled onto the skirts of 7th street. The absence of a huge rig lent the performance an authentic blues vibe.
Melville residents and emerging artistic fundi’s, The Brother Moves On were late entrants to the festivals bill. If you managed to catch their performance in Fro Music Lounge you must realise the festival may have not been the same without them. Even before the band had started, the music lounge was packed with some audience members standing on tables and even spilling onto the performance stage. The energy in the room was palpable and it felt like the group had invited the audience to their rehearsal space on home turf. Clad in khakhi uniforms and red berets the “union for artists” delivered a sterling performance piece with Siyabonga Mthembu effortlessy switching between narrator and vocalist. The band is rapidly consolidating their stake as South Africa’s most exciting live performance group and you don’t need 5FM or the SAMA’s to understand the truth this statement holds.
At its prime, Melville was a bustling destination for live music entertainment playing home to renowned Roxy’s Rhythm Bar as well as Cool Runnings (now Kingston on 4th). It is safe to say that the Fete De La Musique is making huge strides towards this bohemian town reclaiming its fate as a creative hub.
Here’s to the next Fete De La Musique
Jusqu’à la prochaine fois.
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