Raymond Soltysek's Blog

Hugh Masekela and The Mahotella Queens, Usher Hall, 14/11/10

Posted in Gig review, World music by raymondsoltysek on November 16, 2010

The Mahotella Queens

Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela

What a great night!

First of all, the Mahotella Queens, three 60-something ladies from Capetown, provide a riot of close harmonies, colour and humour.  Their singing alone, honed by being together since 1964, would have been enough to entrance the audience, but their warm and cheekily self-deprecating interaction with an audience makes them all the more adorable.   Rich township melodies and gumboot dancing all add up to the perfect opener.  Just lovely.

Hugh Masekela is a huge South African icon (he opened the World Cup concert this summer) and a world-famous jazz trumpeter and singer.  I first came across his name when he worked with one of my heroes Paul Simon on the Graceland project, a cultural shop window for South African culture that he passionately supports for its part in the dismantling of apartheid, realistically dismissing the criticism at the time “by white liberals abroad and the ANC at home.”  I have to confess I haven’t paid much attention to his music, but his collaboration with Simon (and the prospect of an evening with a beautiful friend!) was more than enough of a pull.

I’m very glad I went.  A downbeat opening number was a bit disappointing and had me worrying that I’d come to see yet another ageing musician trading on past glories, but, god, did it pick up after that.  Cheeky refrains inviting the audience to check his (71-year-old) body and exasperated appeals against the fickleness of African women mixed with trumpet solos that became ever more impressive.  His voice is a fine instrument too, husky and vibrant, prepared to hoot and whistle and screech and reach up into falsetto for just the right effect.  My favourite, though, was Stimela (The Coal Train), one of his most famous numbers.  A rage against the horror of forced labour and enforced deprivation, it has lost none of its power since it was written almost 40 years ago.

Dancing is impossible to avoid, and it’s a pity the concert took place in The Usher Hall instead of an unseated auditorium.  I had a damned good time, and the comfort of knowing I’ve ticked off one more of the greats to see before I die.  Magic.

“From Glasgow to Saturn”

Posted in fiction, Publications by raymondsoltysek on November 11, 2010
From Glasgow to Saturn

From Glasgow to Saturn

I’ve just had a small section from my novel published by the online magazine “From Glasgow to Saturn”.  Find it here:


Nice to be included in anything associated with the late and phenomenally great Edwin Morgan.

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Aqui d’el Rei, Faro, Portugal

Posted in Gig review, Travel, World music by raymondsoltysek on November 11, 2010

Guitars at Aqui d’el Rei

This great wee restaurant / bar in Faro’s old town is brilliant for music.  First night, purely by chance, I wandered by and discovered a jazz trio, comprising three members of Amar Guitarra.   João Cuña, one of the brains behind Guitarra Portuguesa, and  his long-time collaborator Luís Fialho are stunningly good guitarists, while Betty M. plays the violin with real passion and sings like a sexy linnet.   It’s a fantastic, toe-tapping performance, with classics like “Sweet Georgia Brown” interspersed with mesmerising modern compositions.  Just listen to “Inconstancias” on MySpace, and you’ll get a feel for just how brilliant they are.

Aqui d’el Rei have a fado night every Sunday, and it’s fado I’m here for. Core musicians for the evening are the eminent fado project director Valentim Filipe on Portuguese guitar and his young collaborator Ricardo Anastácio on guitar and vocals, who are two members of the excellent Al Mouraria.   They, too, are fantastic musicians, and we have an interesting chat about fado, the portuguese guitar and football (Benfica are being thrashed five-nil on the telly): the only thing we disagree on is whether or not Deolinda’s music can be called fado, since Ricardo is, he says, a “purist”.  Charming guys, and they are tremendously generous in their support of local fadistas like Luis Mira, a typically flashing-eyed singer with a voice like thunder.   Being a foreigner, I can’t begin to explain what fado is or means to the Portuguese people, and I haven’t a clue what they’re singing about: I just know I love its passion.

It’s long been an ambition of mine to drink myself vaguely silly in a Portuguese bar while wallowing in top class music.  Two nights of it is a very pleasant overdose.