Live is Life

Nandile Ndamase's Tramways performance with a live band

I try to move around as much as I can in Port Elizabeth. I enjoy that despite the fact that moving around here is very dangerous and expensive, especially in and around central – people still put in the effort by attending events. I mean, talk about a city taking care of its own. Z’yabuya la – and I’m talking low key shits. It also helps that it’s a small space, and almost wonke umuntu knows each other. As much as many artists leave EC, I think we do not appreciate enough that it’s because the people here have somewhat built the career, and have made the artist confident enough to branch out – because an artist must eat.

At all the places that I go – I appreciate the sound. That it is live – more than anything, I imagine the effort. Obviously an artist does what is more convenient to them. There are some artists who take it a step further – the ones who start a career performing with a band. Do you know how hard it is to assemble a band, connecting with the instrumentalists who will ultimately capture your sound? Well, it’s hard.

Artists all round are coming out, and hosting their own events, marketing them, and people are showing up. Port Elizabeth is very small, but that doesn’t stop people from coming out and supporting. I mean, remember Isaac Wilson’s Show More Love show at tramway? People loved the vibe, almost felt like he’s five to, #FillUpNMDStadium – that wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

Isaac Wilson’s Show More Love

This is what makes me say, Live is Life.  And I think that goes without saying. More specifically, I should be saying that live performances should be different from studio version songs – even if the difference is an unexpected extension. Essentially, that’s the whole point in performing live – to give the music a sort of new life. This is not to say that all performances should encompass a live band – but the fact is most artists make a mark and create loyalists only after they’ve shown who they are, stripped down to acoustics.

Studio recordings allow artists to be easily accessible, all the while exploring what many things they can deliver with their vocal abilities. I have heard some great artists ( sometimes without meeting, because you know, imali) , overtime. Ones who have carved most of my ideas and tastes in music –  I’m talking across board. This is a process that’s happened passively and actively.

I mean I remember hearing Kirk Franklin, when I was around 12ish, or 13 years old. His approach to gospel music changed the game for a lot of music producers/directors in many other countries – for instance, we can trace some of his influences in South Africa’s popular gospel group, Joyous Celebration. The group, formed in ’94 by Lindelani Mkhize, Jabu Hlongwane, and Mthunzi Namba was essentially meant to fulfill one project – but the solid approach of predominantly leaning toward live band performances has had it run as long as 21 successful albums and live shows which sell out senselessly.

I have used this particular example ngamabomu. People, and especially old skool hip hop, r’nb/soul and neosoul artists do not particularly listen to gospel – it’s an awkward conversation. I mean imagine my mother’s astonishment, hearing my brother jam Kirk? But I use him as an example because even through his tapes, he wasn’t too focused on conventional studio recording methods – that wasn’t enough. He always found a way to incorporate a live feel – always giving you a moment and a feeling so present, you were almost a part of the choir.

Check it out. Here’s an example of how to create a live feel in studio.

A-reece performing at JR Feel Good Sessions

Another great example, which may be closer to home in as far sound is concerned is JR Live Sessions’ A-reece performance (, versus his tape version of the songs he performs. I know I could never buy the tape because I’m not the sound’s target market – but with that band and the vibe they created, would at least implore me to pay for a ticket to watch him live. Here’s the reason, dropping bars is no longer what sells records, given it becomes a bonus if you sell – the ability to recreate a song from hard raps to a more musical feel, gains an artist fans far beyond what they’d imagine their reach.

EC’s wider scope of the music scene has artists that start off as live bands, and though the bands may not be as elaborate as the examples I have used – they contribute quite a lot to the overall experience.

EC’s Ikati Esengxoweni Live as a band

This is an element I would love to see manifest in the province’s hip hop scene. Too many shows have been hosted, and too many times do fans pay to see their favourite rappers perform with a back track when much more is left to be desired (knowingly and unknowingly). Rappers rap, musicians are borne off of understanding that there’s always more that can be done.

So EC rappers, what the deal is?