Amanda Black, Lira and Thandiswa Mazwai were among the highly-charged acts at Macufe Divas Concert, reports Teboho Mpholo
The night is still young
It’s a chilled Friday night and I’m wearing my sleeveless top with matching Stilettos, hoping it won’t rain—and it doesn’t. Well-prepared, with my camera, an extra battery in the bag, a power bank for my cell phone and a notebook, I was more than ready for my first Macufe Divas Concert experience—even more excited to write about it.
The temporarily erected Macufe Dome is packed to capacity. Not that I’m expecting anything less because I’m told that tickets for this concert are sold out.
I’m eagerly seated on the front row, just a stone throw away from the VIP section. I can already hear people around me talk about performances they are looking forward to. Everyone is holding their breath for the show to start.
As promised, at exactly 19:30 it’s down to business and the MC of national importance Somizi Mhlongo (Metro FM) rocks up on stage to everybody’s surprise (most of us didn’t know he was coming) and sets the place alight with his energy.
Everyone starts screaming with joy as he launches the night: “Hello, batho ba Bloemfontein, Free State.” He breaks the ice by telling us about his new relationship, and takes the moment to make fun of single people. “Lona ba single re tlo le rapella,” he cracks the wowed audience.
One thing for sure: Somizi’s presence in the room excites everyone. In the whole of South Africa, this is one personality that connects with people without much effort. He is not in a hurry to move on to the next item. He is here: mind, body and soul.
Nonkosi marks her territory
When we think it’s now time for him to welcome the first act for the concert, he chooses to rather get into the crowd, high-five his fans, before strutting back on stage to introduce the first artist: Nonkosi.
Beautiful, lively, short in height, yet tall on dance moves, Nonkosi charges to the stage like a woman who knows the world is hers. As if her lovely white jumpsuit didn’t announce her loud enough, she starts first by introducing herself and her proud Botshabelo roots. A part of the crowd that I believe is also from Botshabelo cheers and screams with hometown pride.
Honestly, I was not aware that Nonkosi has such a beautiful voice until now. Girl has brought it all on, guns blazing, as if to make a statement that she is the host diva here. In a few minutes she has the crowd on their feet. When she spices up her performance with Brenda Fassie’s hit song Promises, we become her children.
The Dome immediately turns into one big happy dance floor as everyone sings along. Every woman wants to be left alone to be herself the best way she knows how. It becomes clear through this song. Women are tired.
What a brilliant performance, I think to myself when Nonkosi’s set comes to an end. It was lit! We wanted more; we were ready for more.
By just a mention of the name of Amanda Black, the masses were willing to lose their voices. Somizi correctly calls Amanda “the girl who never gave up”, which makes sense to me when I think about how her amazing music career kicked off. After being rejected on Idols several times, she persisted nevertheless.
For a minute there I thought Brenda Fassie’s Promises was a theme song for the night because it was the first song Amanda performed.
Amanda has an amazingly unique voice that matches her power as a modern day woman who is nevertheless still in a relationship with her origins. She glows from within and is blessed with a radiant soul. She wants us to know this truth. So, the second song she performs is from her hit album Amazulu titled: Undiphethe Kahle.
The level of litness at the Dome increases with every performance. The songs she sings, such as I Do and Separated, show that Amanda knows her fans very well, or that they know her all too well.
Her fan base knows no gender, I notice. After taking a few pictures of her performance, just behind me a group of five gentlemen are singing along to Separated: three have their hands in the air, while the other two’s hands are on their hearts.
Well, my camera doesn’t waste time to fail me—the flash light refuses to go on. I try to fix it as quickly as I could but dololo flash. I missed a good shot, but the show goes on; a woman always makes a plan.
Not all artists have the ability to crack the art of live performance, but Amanda hits all notes the same way she does on the studio recorded album when she sings Phumelela, and collapses the gathering with a powerful closing of her performance by singing South Africa’s second national anthem: Amazulu.
We dance again
“I would listen to Amanda Black 24 hours a day,” resumes Somizi, now wearing a black and white suit. Earlier he was in a floral outfit. He wastes no time: just as we’re about to catch our breaths, he calls on stage the Grammy award-winning Beninese singer, songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo, who doesn’t give us a break at all.
I don’t think I have ever seen anyone dance that much in my entire life. Angelique made us dance until the two ladies who are sitting on my right remarked, “Ho lekane, Angelique,” in amazement of her power. By now I have no words whatsoever. I’m ready to let go of my Stiletto game and change to flat shoes.
Clearly the Agolo hitmaker is not stopping any time soon. She is inviting the crowd to join her on stage, and gives each fan a chance to share a dance move with the rest of the gathering. This is no ordinary divas concert; issa party. Plus her drummer goes wild with beats towards the end of the performance, and the crowd is entertained as they join on every beat he plays. Although the crowd was not familiar with the lyrics of some of the songs she performed, the beat kept them dancing and wanting more. What a refreshing performance.
Prepare ye the way
This break of 20 minutes after Angelique’s performance is needed, for two main reasons: (1) her performance demanded a lot of energy from us, and (2) Thandiswa Mazwai is the next act, and we need to clear the way for The King!
This is my first time witnessing Thandiswa perform live on stage, and by the end of her set I was left in a state. Thandiswa Mazwai is the epitome of art. She is magic. You don’t have to know the lyrics of her songs to enjoy her music. She is a dazzling performer. Consistent in all her ways. She’s creative and astounding.
From the beginning of her performance until the end, she still has the same energy levels. In fact, when she finishes, you’d swear she has just started. She stole the entire concert.
She performs like someone who does this every single day. My favourite performance of the night was definitely hers. I loved it so much I immediately rushed to Twitter to tell the rest of the world about what I just saw, and upon arrival on Twitterland, found others who had been there before me tweeting their admiration for her. “@ThandiswaMazwai is a god. I’m still in awe. #macufe #divasconcert,” a user tweeted. Reading the comments, I feared for the artists who were yet to perform after the Zabalaza powerhouse.
We are now on our second last performance for the night: the very much anticipated performance by Chante Moore, who steps on the stage to offer us a rather relaxed performance with not much dancing in it. She cools us off as she shows off her amazing voice, hitting very high notes that remind me of Mariah Carey. She is flanked by two dancers in glittering black pants. Her most popular hit single Chante’s Got a Man.
But Katlego Mashapa, one of the divas in attendance, tells me she enjoyed last year’s performance by Tamia more than she did Moore’s. “I think I enjoyed Tamia’s performance more because I knew almost all of the songs she sung,” says the not-so-enchanted Katlego, wishing she could be chanting “more” to Chante Moore.
Goodbye: the saddest song
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. We’re on our last performance for the night, which is from the world renowned Lira. She knows we just want to feel good, and she’s here for that.
Lira’s performance, which she dedicated to all women in attendance, is a session of nothing but sing-alongs, from the first song to the last. She performs one of my favourite songs, titled Hamba. Sometimes in life we need to let go, so that we can make a way for new blessings, she preambles the performance. Expectedly, emotions are high as the message of this song knocks on the thousand hearts hearing it—someone in the VIP zone wipes tears off her face.
To make us feel good, she introduces a light choreography, which she uses to tell every woman in the room of how sexy and beautiful she looks. As she makes her way off the 2017 Macufe Divas Concert stage, she blows kisses to thousands of us in the audience—and this is the saddest song of the concert.
Teboho Mpholo is the News Editor of ART STATE. Follow @MpholoTeboho on Twitter.
FEATURED IMAGE: Thandiswa Mazwai dazzles at Divas. Credit: Teboho Mpholo