Hazyview…A Day to Remember

Nelson Mandela asks his fellow South Africans to do 67 minutes of service on his birthday. With this concert tour, KSB set out to do 67 minutes of musical service in every city. One of the ways we're accomplishing our goal is to bring our music to people who don't have the means to travel to a formal venue and enjoy a scheduled concert.

Our wonderful PR and recruitment chair Angela was to arrive in South Africa a few days before we were to arrive in the Kruger area. So I asked her to dig around the nearby city of Hazyview and see if she could make some connections with the locals. Did she ever! Special thanks to her for her terrific scouting, which resulted in two special singing opportunities on Sunday.

The day began at 5am. We dressed warmly and boarded our open-air vehicles for our third game drive. In addition to amazing game sightings, we were treated to an African sunrise – beautiful! This was on the heels of the an African sunset on the previous day’s game drive, and the day before that, the most magnificent full moon rise you can imagine. The weather has been gorgeous here, especially for winter. We’ve been spoiled with relatively moderate temperatures, no rain, and clear skies for breathtaking astrological viewing. Have I mentioned the stargazing? Millions of them have been twinkling above us at night. On my night drive jeep, we shut the lights of the vehicle down so that we were in total darkness except for the shimmering points above us. A sight to behold – unfathomable really, just how small we are in the universe.

LInk to pics in the set: Sunrise Safari - July 17

After breakfast we headed to a hotel in Hazyview where we sang for folks enjoying an outdoor Sunday brunch. It was one of these unique concert settings that, with some space and programming creativity, provides for an intimate, charming performance. We moved about the venue, and luckily no boys fell in the pool, although there was one close call. (Me! – the boys would have paid to see that)

The audience was an entirely privileged, white South African audience. It’s important that we sing for all kinds of audiences while we are in the Rainbow Nation. When I speak about our purpose here to a white audience, I make it clear we are not here to sit in judgment of their past. After all, we have our own sad history of race in our country. Our journey to equality for all Americans no matter their walk of life is one we’re still on. We are simply here to marvel at this great man who personifies tolerance, freedom for all, and peace. When we sang “I need you to survive,” a few boys went to each and every table. I pointed out that it’s a song that was written in response to September 11th and, as we approach the 10th anniversary of that sad day, we dedicate this song to all those who lost their lives, those who saved lives, and those around the world that stood with us in those dark days. There were not many dry eyes.

Links to pics in the set: Hazyview - First Half

After the concert the boys were treated to a sumptuous lunch. FYI: this was not the 67 minutes of service part of the day. This was the 67 minutes of a plate piled high of delicious food, followed by seconds, followed by thirds for some (Grads were in heaven), followed by dessert table you’d find at Le Bec Fin. On tours, it can be feast or famine. Seconds are not always a given, so you gotta fill up when you can.

To thank the owner of the hotel for his hospitality, the Chamber Choir made a small circle around his and his family’s table and sang “Prayer of the Children.” He wept, along with his family. He said that in the 50 years his family has owned the hotel, this was the most beautiful moment he had ever experienced. This is the power of music.

But the best part of the day was yet to come. We then headed out to a nearby township. It had a different feel than Galeshewe. More rural. More simple a lifestyle, if that’s even possible. The first image I saw was a not so small child sitting in a tiny bath tub having a wash in front of his house, waving at us with a big smile. It seemed like everyone in the township waved us in. It’s quite possible that this was the first time ever that two buses full of foreigners came thru their humble but spirited neighborhood.

We arrived at the local school, and a throng of folks appeared out of nowhere. Our venue – the courtyard of the school. We entered into the intimate, kraal-like, performance area singing one of our new South African pieces and the crowd positively beamed with biggest, brightest communal smile I’ve ever seen. South African women were ululating, and throughout the performance, they would spontaneously stand and dance in front of the boys in praise of our singing. At one point, one woman came at me with a chair over her head. I was ready to embrace whatever the tradition was that involved a chair, but was relieved to watch her simply sit down in it, do a kind of chair dance, and then promptly walk away. Another women who seemed like the matriarch of the community sat in front and sporadically got up and danced. Loved her. And I love watching the boys watching the audience as they sing. They beam as well, with smiles of total amazement at the joy with which these people not only receive our music, but make it with us. Smiles are not great for vowel unification, but it’s worth the trade off.

We opened the concert by all singing Nkosi Sikeleli and I’m quite sure every chaperone was crying by the end. After a few Americana pieces, which they absolutely loved, we were treated to some traditional dancers. We like to say that tour is a comprehensive education for the boys. Certainly it was an education for all of us when the boys “discovered” that it is “traditional” for traditional dancers to expose their breasts when they dance. (For disclosure: some boys also discovered during one of the game drives that baboons mate freely in the open :-)

We finished our “mini-performance” with a few more of our most spirited pieces, and then sang “Happy Birthday” to Nelson Mandela. As a finale, we launched into a medley of South African pieces, both old and new. I told the boys to brace themselves as we broke into Shosholoza. Sure enough it was ubuntu pandemonium. I keep thinking we can’t reach a new high singing this song, but every time we sing it with black South Africans, time stands still in musical sublimity.

As we walked off singing and waving, the crowd followed us. This was the ‘Beatles’ tour moment that I always, for the boys, hope for. That moment where they feel like rock stars. Because in that moment, in the hearts of these people, they are rock stars in the best possible sense. South Africans of all ages were high-fiving and hugging and kissing your sons as we pulled away. Our new friends cheered us on as we pulled out, and once again a bitter-sweetness pervaded the buses. I’m sure not every boy could articulate it, but I sense that on some level they all grasp the irony: boundless joy amid devastating poverty.

Links to pics in the set - Hazyview - Second Half

Thanks again to Angela for putting the day together. And profound thanks to each and every adult on this tour. They’re all working hard to keep your boys safe and give them this extraordinary experience. I knew the trip had the potential to be life-changing, but one never knows how things will turn out. It’s everything I had hoped for and more.

More later…