Pitori mahlanyeng, some call it. The place of the mad ones. There is just something a little bit extra about the Blacks of Pitori (not to be confused with Pretoria). To the outsider, there is a spotlight-hogging, devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky gait and manner to these street-smart philosophers that suggests a madness touched by trauma. You hear it also in the lingo, s’Pitori, a hotchpotch mish-mash chakalaka salad whose defining pitch is a humour darkly lit with tragic undertones. Whose tone is one of laughter in the face of danger. Whose defining lexicon is one of survival against all odds. Once, listening to the late Dr Phillip Tabane’s Keabereka, a group of us agreed, more high on the music than anything else, that the inimitable Malombo lead-man could only have come from Pitori. That no other cauldron could have cooked that kind of stew.
Tumi Mogorosi is once again flying in the face of the conventional wisdom. The man is taking coal to Newcastle, as they say... Of course, it is arguable that Pitori is the spiritual home of jazz, la eMzansi. After all, everything is arguable. But it is also probable. Listen to Bheki Mseleku’s homage to Mamelodi, and you hear it – the sass, the blues, the lip-biting pain and daredevil glee of the people of the place. Now listen, people of Pitori, Tumi Mogorosi, enfante terrible of the contemporary arts to some, searingly seeking sage of possible Black futures to others, is coming to you with his project, Group Theory: Black Music. It is a homecoming of sorts, considering the long formative years he spent studying here. And in typical, communal, deeply theorised, group-hug, mcimbi fashion, he is not coming alone. No, because when Tumi Mogorosi’s Group Theory: Black Music tour rolls into town, the reality is one of a gathering that comes to a gathering, inviting particularly the gathering of collective thoughts around the gathering of sounds.
The date is 03 December, 2022. The venue is (most fittingly) the Malombo Theatre housed in Pitori’s State Theatre precinct. Happening under the auspices of the Mzansi Fela Festival 2022, the time is 8pm. Tumi Mogorosi will bring his impressively vast ensemble to present something beyond the confines of Black survival. You will hear it in the music, this insistence that there is strength and redemption in the collective, in the group, in the inner eye and ear that sees beyond the individual. You will hear it in the music, this keen and sometimes chaotic awareness of the fact that the possibilities of Black futures lie in the striving together, just as our destruction lurks in the doubts and hesitations that keep us apart. Tumi Mogorosi is a jazz musician who thinks deeply about his craft, who takes it very seriously, and the evidence is undeniable.
These twin flames singing indelible scars through his soul, lighting his way in theory and in praxis (of a deeply cerebral commitment to thinking through Black life through the music, as well as a clearly unshakeable spiritual/emotional conviction in the possibilities of Black redemption), are not an experience you want to miss. Come through, and witness a masterful communion at work.