Muse is an all-weekend music festival challenging our insular musical tastes
The introductory Muse Festival had Nomadiq Music, Black Major, We House Sundays and Wax On coming together in order to bring people together. Friday kicked off with Wax On, which had DJ Kenzhero, Pierre Estienne from Vinyl Digz, Lady Venom, Paul Waxon and live band The City. Saturday started with Black Major Select’s Alice Phoebe Lou, John Wizards, Card On Spokes, Fever Trails and Christian Tiger School, with DJ Lag helping transition into Nomadiq’s late evening lineup comprising Rob Toca, Floyd Lavine, Sir Vincent and Diggin4Dodge. Sunday was always going to be a We House Sundays affair, who are no strangers to ColorBox Studios, and had Leighton Moody, Cassiem Latief, Lawrence Dix, Shane Gordon, Reezo Hassan, Jullian Gomes and New York’s Monique Bingham ushering us into the new week.
As a step in the right direction for Cape Town’s segregated music scene, breaking down cliques and our insular musical experiences, it was an excuse to hang out with some great people. People like…
The husband-and-wife photographic team of Taariq September and Seema Allie started working together in college already. From always helping each other with one another’s projects it progressed from there to become what Seema describes as “quite a natural process where we always hand over the camera, share our ideas and figure things out together.” By dropping the idea of authority, of separateness and any concept of competition or ego, it’s now all about the work. “We just do it,” says Taariq. “We enrich one another’s vision.” The couple specializes in work that has a narrative capturing offbeat, weird and uncanny moments that tend to delve into the moments in-between. Commenting on the event the couple explained that they’ve been attending ColorBox parties for years now, and that Muse is a good opportunity to be introduced to some new music. “Last night was insane,” says Taariq. “We jammed to Kenzhero really hard and I like this day vibe where we can ease into the night. The way things are looking we’re well on our way to getting lit.” “And our house is not too far away,” adds Seema. “So we can go home have a shower and then can come back looking fresh.”
While his one band, Sakawa Boys, recently put out a record through Permanent Record, it’s Keenan Nathan Oakes' other band, black-metal outfit Wildernessking, that’s taking him overseas next year.
“Wildnernessking is going on a three week tour to Europe in July. That’s a big development for our band because we’re about to sign to a big label and the plan is to hopefully stay there as long as possible and see if things can work out.” Keenan says there are a handful of local artists doing cool stuff, but that getting people to hear it can be difficult. “I’m writing the music, making it, putting it out, and it’s quite disheartening to have to do everything yourself. Whereas if we were doing the same thing overseas that we’re doing here we’d be making a living, or paying at least half the rent.” So which local acts deserve our time and effort? “Well I’m here today because my friend told me he was going to watch Fever Trails, Christian Tiger School and John Wizards, and those are three of the five best bands in Cape Town. How can I not be here today?”
Dressed in his safari outfit because “We outchea observing the animals,” Jesse Lange missed out on Friday night but planned on making the most out of the remaining two days. A regular festival-goer – well, trying to attend all the good ones at least – Jesse says that he decided to come to Muse because, “These are friends of mine, Lisa and Dave from ColorBox, as well as the boys from Black Major, Aaron and Andy, so we all friends and must support each other. It’s good to have something like this at a venue like this.” Jesse says that while he can’t predict what an event like this will do for the local music scene, or any sort of bigger picture, “I told you, I’m an observer, I’m not into predictions,” he is really happy “to be around such a good group of people.”
Prodigal daughter Alice Phoebe Lou returned home after having lived in Berlin for five years now. “I’ve been here for two days so I’m pretty much ODing on friends and happiness.” With plans to stay here for a month, Alice will then head out on a European tour with her band in January, before bringing the band here for shows after which she’ll leave for the states. “I do a lot of different types of shows, so I can rely on myself and do solo shows if I want to, something small and intimate in someone’s backyard if the vibe is right, and then if the opportunity arises and there’s enough of a budget I’ll use my band.”
The current constellation is a five-piece made up of musicians from all over the world, which Alice stresses is more about her finding people who can bring the right feel to what she does instead of simply hiring session musicians. “So it’s my music with people who love playing and are great to be on the road with.” Good thing that, as she finds herself living out of a bag most of the time. “I love it. I’ve always been a bit of a gypsy. And now I’m a gypsy with big plans.” Alice says that art is a fantastic way to connect, spread ideas and shed light on things. “Coming home and diving straight into something like this is amazing. People are really starting to catch on to the fact that you can create your own reality. You can create your own scene and your own culture. Instead of something competitive, you have something like this where we’re all encouraging one another. It’s not something that’s defined by what we’re wearing or our musical tastes, but instead it’s about coming together and creating something explorative and celebrating our differences.”
As the media partner for the Muse Festival and editor of an online magazine covering music and subculture in South Africa, Platform, Ian McNair’s aim is to decentralise western narratives and the current dominant voices in arts journalism in South Africa. Ian says that the thing that’s important about an event like this is having multiple promoters working together. “It’s a really respectful way of breaking down those barriers between different subcultures and communities. In a way that doesn’t force it or make it look too rainbow-nationy. So for one we’re at a space outside of the City Bowl, an industrial area with no cultural baggage beyond the people who work here every day and that doesn’t have any residual power dynamics.” As Ian explains, Cape Town is socially segregated with racist door policies, people of colour made to feel unwelcome in certain spaces, and more than enough anecdotal evidence to prove that there’s a problem of exclusion. Which is why he’s moved to Joburg. “I went to SACS, I went to UCT, and now for the first time, because I’m living in Joburg, my immediate circle of friends isn’t predominantly white. Most of the club spaces I go to, even in whitish places, are predominantly people of colour. It feels liberated in ways that Cape Town feels tiny and constricting. I love Joburg and will forever sing its praises.”
Painting a live mural under his pen name - Mr Fuzzy Slipperz, Lisolomzi Pikoli recently published a book, Man Like Mountain: Of Memory and Scar. “I had a show at Keleketla! Library where I was doing a residency. The book started off as an exercise as a different way to externalise my work. This took place over the period of three years working on an analogy about man and his loss of his relation with the natural world.” Breaking away from the colourful graffiti style he’s known for, the book is essentially a book of mixed-media illustrations. So how does it feel to be working under the watchful eyes of all the people here? “I’m used to people watching, it’s cool, it keeps you on your toes. Also, with spray-paint you’re shaping the thing the whole time and don’t know where it’s going. There’s a lot of elements like this wind and people talking to you, but I’ve been doing it for a minute now and it’s good to open up and let people watch.” Then Fuzzy goes back to painting his portrait of people and ducks going around in a circle. “Just going around and around... I came through last night, Waxon was dope, and today I’ll watch the Tiger Boys, they’re always good and then I think Floyd’s on later…”