30 August 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Something lost, something found

Wynton Marsalis had already charmed us with his opening tune on the Vuvuzela at his 27 August performance at the Joy of Jazz festival. He and his band went on to astound us with their energy and technical brilliance. And then, they invited Sibongile Khumalo to join them on stage, for an improvised performance of the iconic Lakutshon’ilanga, a beautiful ballad written by South African songwriter Mackay Davashe (1916 - 1980) during the Sophiatown era.

The atmosphere in the Dinaledi tent changed. We shifted forward in anticipation. There was a pause - just for a moment and then - the music came.

It found us - the audience, Marsalis, his band- unprepared. This didn’t matter though because once it found us, we followed where the music led. It was not what Sibongile sang so much as it was what her song made us see that was so enthralling.

Following Khumalo’s lead, Marsalis and his band dug deep into the music of Lakutshon’ilanga.  They brought out all the tenderness, the longing, the sadness of its lyrics. It came alive unrehearsed, improvised and full of feeling. Walter Blanding’s solo on the saxophone in particular picked up the meaning and melody of the song as though he’d been playing it for years.

*“Lakutshon’ilanga -when the sun goes down I will be looking for you, scouring the hospital wards, asking after you from the prison authorities. Lakutshon’ilanga - when the sun goes down. When the sun goes down, I’ll pound the pavements looking for you, until I find you. Lakutshon’ilanga…”

Along with the thrill of seeing new music being made on stage, this performance (which was the best song I saw performed at the festival) linked cultures and narratives in the way that only art can.

Marsalis and his band didn’t necessarily understand all the words, and nor did I, but, we understood the music. In amidst all that is lost in Lakutshon’ilanga, something precious was found.

*This is a rough translation of some of the lyrics - but if you know where to find the complete lyrics, with or without translation, please let me know.
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