Mpho Matsitle makes notes about Love, Crime and Johannesburg’s music director, Andile Qongqo.
The choirmaster halts the choir midstream. They really thought they had it. They really did. But again they go – from the top. And still manage to gooi in a little dance. Something Andile Qongqo doesn’t mind but cautions against, “Don’t get lost in the music; you must think.”
He’s just pacing rhythmically in front of them. They stop of their own accord – the thing he said they must fix hasn’t been fixed. He doesn’t have to point it out this time. He hardly ever has to point anything out more than once. They launched in too quickly onto the next verse. They get him, and cast esoteric albeit slightly embarrassed smiles his way. They go again.
“Are you telling me that three of you guys sing the same note?”
Seemingly there’s confusion as to who has which note. After asking this question he leaves it to them and attends to the keys man. They wrestle with melodies. These are to a large extent nice life problems. The sort of problems you have when you have an abundance of talent in your troupe – not to mention passion. None of the vocalists is happy to just “do their part”; they’re ready to slot in wherever necessary.
“You need to come back and become one voice,” he interjects their caucus.
“I’m here,” John Paka chirps in, pointing low. The rest nod. They are still in a vocal battle to achieve harmony. “Let’s give them [battling vocalists] the space to echo what you say,” he pleads with TK Da Poet on the song Jimmy Long Legs.
It quickly comes together, and without further prompting the band climbs in. Andile gets back on his pacing track – this is a sign that all is on track. If one studies his movements carefully, one might reach the conclusion that the track is not completely straight. Therefore, logic dictates that it bends a little. Presumably in a concave shape. That’s if we are not overstretching our inferences, in a shape of a smile. Well, that’s the closest you’ll get from Andile as far as smiles are concerned.
Not that he’s emotionally dead. He whinces when a note hits him right – which happens quite as often. And when the music is particularly affecting, he shakes his head furiously from side to side, and less often throws his fists to the heavens, but catches them just in time before they threaten to tear open the low hanging G24 roof.
The rest of G24 though is quite cheery. One need not look for smiles; they’re offered gratuitously and generously. This despite the oppressive heat in the tombstone of a building that is Pacofs. Kay Abimiola, the drummer for Colourful Souls, the band roped in to render the classic music of Love Crime & Johannesburg, is locked in a corner behind the vocalists. But one can never miss the broad smile escape his big bearded gentle face, even when his boss for the duration of this musical Andile berates him for losing his timing on the last verse of For the Love of Money (Hololo).
“Cymbals all the way. You don’t keep time, you follow his time.”
His band mate Chere on the other hand almost looks as if he looks forward to this bitter medicine served generously by their maestro: “It’s like you’re tripping on something; there’s a connection that I’m missing. Give yourself time. It sounds rushed. Accent that ‘A Flat’, I’ll be happy.”
He is wide eyed and nods furiously as this is delivered.
“Band, mind those silly mistakes of coming in too early or too late.”
They are all just happy to be at the feet of the master and, to quote Vladimir Lenin, “learn, learn, learn”. The band, especially after each rehearsal, stays over to incorporate each session’s feedback. Having directed music in Masedi Manyane’s plays before, there is hardly anyone who knows better what is needed from the musicians. And being an academic and teacher, who best can take out what is needed from them?
The directors have opted to bring the music of Love Crime & Johannesburg in its classic form. So theatre doyens will probably be able to sing along throughout the comedy musical set to play from March, 20 – 24, 2018.
However, with the tough, perfection-obsessed music director at the helm, and a talented, professional and eager to learn cast at his beck and call, this will not be a run of the mill production. But rather, it will be, as he is wont to castigate his charges, love, crime and music, “with a lot of air!”
Mpho Matsitle is the Publisher of ART STATE.