Africa is smiling at me. It's been raining hard on the tin roofs, and the dust has settled for a while. It's springtime, and the jacaronda trees are weeping purple tears. At night: twenty rounds in the distance. And someone else might be weeping. The steady crackle of the electric fencing. Morning brings the roosters, and then the rude cry of the ha-de-dah. Sunrise: impossibly early: the beggars already haunting the robots, a hungry world already on the move. But Africa is smiling at me. After a warm welcome at the Canadian High Commission of South Africa, I'm out to the bushvelt to play OppiKoppi- one of the world's great festivals.
OppiKoppi is set on a massive, and sprawling site. A tent city with street names and districts. I've got a wristband that seems to let me go anywhere. And I do. My friends, Black Cat Bone, turn in one of the most exciting rock performances I've witnessed in years. Next year's tour partner, guitar god Albert Frost, defends and proves his title as the King of OppiKoppi with a blistering performance. And my own turn: solo, in a sea of bands. What will happen here, I wondered? Well, Africa is smiling. And so am I. Later I learn that I've been voted one of the "Top Twenty" sets of OppiKoppi. I'll join this great festival again next year, perhaps with a band. Now: on to Cape Town and into the Great Karoo.
The Canadian High Commission of South Africa, at Pretoria. I'd like to say it's my home away from home. That's not quite true, but they do make me very welcome every year- and have played a much welcomed sponsorship role in this year's tour. Under purple trees: a fantastic staff, headed up by Madam High Commissioner Sandra McCardell, are doing valuable work here for Canada and the world. I believe that South Africa is destined to be one of the great nations of the next century- and that it may well lead the African continent into a much brighter, more productive future. Canada's social, political, cultural and economic ties to South Africa are important- and the benefits of this relationship serve both nations well. My South African friends and associates were in awe of Madam High Commissioner "call me Sandra" McCardell. I am blessed to be part of an arts and culture friendly nation... Especially one that runs a cool little joint- the Maple Bar- in the heart of diplomatic Pretoria!
Building bridges. This year I featured a very special, South African guest artist at my Reception/Tour Launch event. Albert Frost performed a solo set, as well as accompanying me in our CanAfrika Blues duo. Having been exposed to so many fine South African artists- and having had so many of them help me on my tours- I've become determined to help them export what they do. To this end I will be developing a little manual for South African artists to help explain the visa process, and to encourage them to tour Canada. Albert's appearance was intended to showcase and formally introduce South African performing artists to the Canadian High Commission- something he did superbly. The diplomatic community were captured by his professionalism, charm, and over the top performance.
Music critic Marinus Mans has become a good friend, and he constantly reminds me of the power of sheer determination. Like the majority of my media interviewers in South Africa, he has challenged me with deep, insightful questions about the blues, the first world, the third world, and my role as an artist and storyteller. Marinus was part of the media contingent that covered my Reception at the Canadian High Commission.
A nice, Canadian couple in Cape Town run Jack Black Brewing- one of the larger, and best, craft breweries in South Africa. By chance I hooked them up to the High Commission, and they now supply the Maple Bar inside the Canadian compound. Their support for me is also much appreciated! I only wish I could buy their beer in Canada... Now here's an export opportunity...
Jack Black does not make this beer. The iconic, punk-rock-pop band, Fokofpolisikar, has nurtured their own label across the land... Free cd with every 6 pack! Who was it that said "happy songs sell records, sad songs sell beer?"
Purple trees in Pretoria. A sure sign of spring. I'm not on the wrong side of the road- this is a one way street!
Nice to spend some time with Charles Bothner, of Paul Bothner Music. This is a nation wide, family run business which has sponsored my production gear for two years in a row. I very much like their stores and staff. Paul Bothner Music reminds me very much of the Canadian company, Long & McQuade- right down to their stock and their involvement in the local communities. Good people, and I'm very pleased to be associated with them. You'll see their banners behind me in many photos, I'm sure!
My publicist, Warren Gibson, of Plug Music, is doing an exceptional job of keeping me busy. I'm often up before the sun in order to do one of the big city drive shows, or I'm doing it on the way to sound check. Television, radio, print, web media- he's got me out there, somewhere, nearly every day. There's quite a bit of interest in this second, African tour.
Musician, writer, broadcaster, producer, promoter, blues woman, Charlie King (left) has been my guiding light in Johannesburg for a couple of years now. One of a handful of people who initially made it possible for me to make this leap into Africa. It's always about community, and I'm always thankful. Tours like mine involve a lot of people, and I could not do what I do on my own. Behind every successful touring artist there is a network of unsung heros. Charlie is one of those people. One of my first stops was her MIX-FM radio show!
KAYA-FM was probably the heavy hitter in the Johannesburg media appearances this year. Definitely the big one. The World Music show I appeared on had a fabulous playlist, too. I may see if I can stream this one... And now, really, I must get the rental car back to Tambo Airport, and board a cheap flight for Cape Town. Hopefully there will be enough juice on my credit card to pick up my main tour vehicle when I get there...