Monday, November 7, 2011

friday night kwaito show

On Friday morning, I found myself facing a rare weekend with no plans. I generally try to avoid this because then I start hatching up crazy thoughts like “I wonder if 48 beers in 48 hours really is possible?” or “Maybe I should drive down to San Jose for the next Canucks playoffs game” or “I really should go into the office on Saturday”. Luckily before I started plotting world domination just to pass the time, I got a call from Julia informing me that we were going to a hip hop album release party at Zenso Lounge. I put down my map of San Jose and headed out to meet with the others.

Mr Makoya is a Namibian kwaito hip hop artist whose album release party lineup ran like a regular Who’s Who of the Namibian music scene, with a crazy circus feel. There were intense competitions between several dance troupes, performances by men in masks which I found simultaneously fascinating and terrifying, a little person acting as the most enthusiastic master of ceremonies I had ever seen, and a lot of spontaneous shirtlessness on the part of the male rappers. There was something like a dozen opening acts, including big Namibian names like Sunnyboy, and this guy Exit who released this album called I am Rockaz and was getting the whole crowd to chant I AM ROCKAZ. Out of principle I generally refuse to chant grammatically incorrect slogans of ambiguous meaning, but this guy was catchy enough that he won me over. I briefly considered starting a mosh pit, but figured that this wasn’t the right kind of Seattle crowd for it to go over well.

The venue, Zenso Lounge, was a really picturesque setting, with the stage placed in an open air courtyard surrounded by palm trees under a bright moon. It also only had one washroom for women, and so it was Friday that I discovered that it is apparently Namibian custom for five or six women to share the same bathroom stall together. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this is, since it doesn’t actually save time, but maybe we women are just exceptionally social creatures.

By the time Mr. Makoya appeared on stage as the main headliner, it was after 1AM. As the night progressed, the temperature outside was dropping and I found myself shivering, so I joined Leio, Pinehas, Saima and her man Pa at the front of the stage, hoping that the crowd and the dancing would keep me warm.

The music managed to be catchy enough that I frequently found myself singing along, even though I’d never heard the songs before, even though they were in various African languages that I certainly don’t speak. The true test moment came when Mr. Makoya came down from the stage and hooked his arm around Andrew, who was the only white boy in the whole crowd, and stuck the microphone in Andrew’s face. I briefly remembered that scene from the Family Guy where Lois and Peter are rocking out at a KISS concert, and then Gene Simmons sticks a microphone in Lois’ face and there is an embarrassing silence as she realizes she doesn’t actually know any KISS songs. Andrew, however, had no such trouble and was enthusiastically singing along, arm in arm with the star of the show. Quite a sight. Meanwhile Leio, who had been excitedly waiting all night to see her star Mr. Makoya, was standing right next to Andrew but for some reason was looking off in the distance and had no idea what was going on. Finally Andrew dug his elbow into her ribs (without missing a beat) and Leio turned around, saw who was standing with them, and started shrieking in excitement and clapping her hands.

Despite the big names that were performing that night, I was still surprised to see that it was a very Windhoek-sized crowd. I had heard there were a few other competing parties going on that night so maybe that was why the courtyard was not particularly full. Still, the energy and enthusiasm was enough to keep the show going till a quarter to three in the morning, and I had danced so much that I was no longer feeling chilly, but hot, sweaty, sore, and maybe a little deaf.