I’ve always been addicted to music. For as long as I can remember, music has moved me, shaken me, stirred me. It has made my happiest moments brighter, it has crooned away my sorrows and my heartbreak. It has sustained me through my teenage angst, when the melancholy songs played by Barney Simon confirmed what every black-garbed, wanna-be vegan girl knew : I am so, so different to everyone else and only Morrissey understands me.
I’ve grown since then. I’ve walked different roads, had different friends, lovers, jobs. Each moment of my life seems to be defined by a song. When I listen to the tracks on my phone, each one can trigger a memory so rich in detail that every sense is heightened, not just hearing. Bright Blue’s Weeping conjures up the thump-thump-thump of the toyi toyi as I oh-so-bravely shouted ‘Amandla’ out loud for the first time at a political rally. Just the opening bars of Rio by Duran Duran and I can smell hair gel, cheap, sweet perfume, and hear the giggle of fourteen-year-olds, decked in hideous 80s paisley, about to go out and “get off” with whichever pimply boy most reminds us of John Taylor. i don’t care how cool a dad you are, if Butterfly Kisses doesn’t make you smell talcum powder and feel hot, warm arms around your neck, and hear the whisper of “I wuv you”, then you are dead inside. Dead, I say!
I’m also sure I’m not the only one who was dead happy that Glee made Journey popular again. “Open Arms” transports me to nights spent on a tear-soaked pillow, wondering how to escape a toxic relationship which was, ultimately, doomed to end in divorce. (Hey, I didn’t say my musical memories were always rational!)
Gangajang transports me to the beach. Early morning surfing sessions, lazing on the sand and side-eyeing lifesavers in “check me, check you” mirrored specs, followed by heady night of beach parties, Malibu and orange juice, and the heartbreak of finding your boy snogging your best friend behind a sand dune.
But there is one sound, more than all others, which evokes South Africa for me. It brings to life dusty township streets, and driving over rutted roads to teach Saturday School. Death-defying trips in taxis from the city center to Randburg to serve and file documents, because I was one of the few clerks who didn’t have a car. It’s sound crosses colour and culture, you can hear it in Mango Groove, Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, it’s even been on Broadway, when African Footsteps took it there.
I’ll never hear the sound of the pennywhistle without smiling. WC 2010 might think that the greatest gift we gave the world was the Vuvuzela, but it would be wrong.