Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seasons greetings from sunny South Africa

For those in the northern hemisphere, particularly those in cold, snowy climates, the thought of celebrating the holidays in hot sunshine seems bizarre.  But that's how we do it, often ending the day next to the pool or on the beach.

When I grew up, my family tried to replicate a British Christmas, with turkey, gammon, and appropriate accompaniments.  Even the children were allowed half a glass of bubbly.  The plum pudding and brandy butter were brought ceremonially to the table to the accompaniment of the bagpipes payed by my cousin.  There were small coins or charms in the plum pudding only found by the kids, crackers to pull for little presents, paper hats to be worn by everyone, and appropriate carols.  In the corner there would be a live pine tree, suitable decorated and sprayed with artificial snow.

Today I wish you happy holidays and a healthy, happy, and successful New Year, with  a variety of music sung by some of our talented singers and groups.  I just love great music.

To start is The Lion Sleeps Tonight, the melody for which was written by Solomon Linda, a singer and cleaner at Decca Records South Africa.  Theft of the song by several American companies and singersresulted in a court case which Linda's estate won.

Solomon Linda in 1941

African jazz has been around for a long time, but the first African jazz musical - King Kong - was written by Todd Matshikiza and produced in South Africa in 1959.  Here is a short piece from it.  By the way it has nothing to do with a large ape attacking New York.  It's a story about a legendary black South African boxer, Ezekiel Dlamini.

Todd Matshikiza

I was visiting Annamaria earlier in the year, when we discovered who is now my favourite South African opera singer - and she has some fierce competition.  With the same last name as King Kong's composer, here is Pumeza singing O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini.  This is an amazing voice!  

Pumeza Matshikiza

In a more traditional vein, another wonderful singer, Kimmy Skota sings Ave Maria at an André Rieu concert.  This song gives me, as the Dutch say, kip vel (chicken skin) - that is, goose bumps!

Kimmy Skota

Pretty Yende is yet another star in the making, recently performing at the Met in Die Zauberflöte.  Here she is in Roméo et Juliette by Gounod.

Pretty Yende

And finally, some happy kwela music performed by the University of Pretoria Encamarata, which was the World Champion at the Eighth World Choir Games in Riga in July of this year.  Kwela music originated in the black townships and was played on penny whistles - the cheapest musical instruments around.  This is a great adaptation for voices and movement.

University of Pretoria Encamarata

Let's hope that 2015 is better than 2014, that people are nicer to each other, that tolerance wins out over terror, and that nations realise that they are part of a larger community.

Here's a toast to family and friends.  Clink!

Stan - Thursday


  1. Thank you, Stan. What wonderful music. I listened to it before I got out of bed this morning and it energized me. Then, as I began the HUGE cleanup after last nights Christmas Eve party here, I put on a random playlist of 729 songs, including everything from Handel to Talking Heads singing Psycho Killer. The first to come up RANDOMLY! : Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) sung by the incomparable Miriam Makeba. Truth!
    Sending love and good, good wishes to you and Mette for a sunny New Year, in all the senses of the words.

  2. Thanks, Stan. Happy Holidays. Thanks for the musis links. Solomon Linda's Original Evening Birds was a special treat. Here's a link to the original 1939 recording:

  3. Thank you Stan. Boxing day in Glasgow is a foggy and festive - a real pea souper so I am going treat myself to some of your sunny music now!
    Can I just say that he only thing better than an appropriate Christmas carol is an inappropriate one!
    Love to all the bloggers and readers XXX

  4. Ahh, the perfect music for a perfect Holiday Time. Thank you my friend, and love to all, including our own inappropriate Christmas Caro.