Love is a beautiful thing when done right; and I do not mean the kind practiced by the over sexed Generation Z. Here, I refer to the kind lived, experienced and prised by the Baby Boomers and by extension their heirs, Generation X; the Motown and Baroque Rock cohort. These are folk whose descriptions of love regularly employed adjectives that rhyme with ‘sweaty’, ‘wet’ and ‘rumbling’ but never ‘guap’, ‘monied’ or other ludicrous allied forms. In their fifties and sixties today, Baby Boomers and Gen X’s ideals of ‘love and loving’ have been lost to their descendants for an assortment of nonsensical reasons. Among them is the frequently heard, ‘ngeke sidle uthando’ [love alone cannot sustain us], a truly murderous approach to the once beautifully displayed and accordingly shared emotion. While day long park strolls, picnic set ups and love letter writing have long become a thing of the past, balladeer Joel Zuma did well to remind us of their power last Thursday at Sandton Square’s Hard Rock Café, as the world celebrated Valentine’s Day.
An astute and perceptive musician who has shared stages with a host of South Africa’s greats, Zuma captured the intimate crowd of lovers and singles gathered at the Café with his stylish delivery of a number of his own compositions, creamed by covers of local and international classics with a sprinkle of Motown’s de luxe.
Titled ‘Joel Zuma Brings Motown to Life at Hard Rock Café’, his performance was in fact, anything but. Zuma ran through a playlist of local afro pop and other classics as he appeared to have firmly read his very intimate crowd to which he meritoriously delivered what it clearly yearned for. Leaving its stacked up plates of food for what my Mpharanyana loving mother describes as “ukujayiva ngebonda”, lovers and singles alike lost their minds and morals as he delivered a nostalgic rendition of Sipho ‘Hot Stix’ Mabuse’s Burn Out to which a sing along was natural progression moments later. As hips and waists swayed and swirled in ways best described by Maya Angelou, all knew that it was downhill from that moment on as bar men and mixologists grew tortuously busier while Zuma expelled classics upon classics off his stage.
While there was an overflow of cadence from a range of his selections, there was equally a surge of fleeting cerebral hiatuses across the room as he opened up what appeared to be old wounds for some with his tear drop worthy execution of his own composition titled Ngeke Kulunge that was closely followed by John Legend’s Stay With You. This was affirmed by the single gent at the end of the bar who gulped his half full glass of lager in one go as he visibly reminisced about a once upon a time joyous Valentine’s Day.
A former contender on talent search programmes such as The Voice South Africa, Zuma has proven himself more than capable of exceptional musicianship but also as a displayer of expert song writing as witnessed in his spirited live performances elsewhere. Disappointing in his Valentine’s Day performance however, was perhaps his sound team leaving him to compete with the lofty volume of the band’s instruments thus challenging his intonation. The sound team could have certainly done better especially considering the said occasion. As it were, the significance of the venue’s perfect ambience was lost to disagreeing sound levels thus dampening what was otherwise a grand evening of love even for singles.