Reviewer: John Kennedy
From Cape Town to Cape Cornwall – courtesy of a personal invitation and introduction by Glastonbury beard-confused guru, Michael Eavis, together with Reverend Mbuso Kubone and St Just Methodist Miners’ Chapel’s David James, Cornwall hosts the most deliriously stealth-Christian evangelism ever set in song – possibly. Or at least since the hypnotic 1958 recording of Missa Luba sung by the Congolese Les Troubadours du Roi Baudoin’s Sanctus (as featured in Lindsay Anderson’s seminal 60s anarchic If.)
Langa hail 10k east of Cape Town. They open with an English rendition of the RSA National Anthem then segue seamlessly in to God Save The Queen sung in Xhosa, one of the eleven official languages in RSA – don’t even think about regional dialects. And every congregational man, woman and papoosed baby stood up ramrod straight and proud – even though many were old enough to remember sheepishly dashing from the cinema end-credits before the National Anthem kicked-in.
The principal programme featured celebratory selections from the Methodist Hymnal sung in Xhosa, engagingly introduced by the soberly suited Conductor and Musical Director, Masixole Makwetu. Later on, his beguiling cherubic, moon-faced innocent smile betrays some devilishly wicked groove maneuvers. The ensemble features 35 male/female singers, some fifteen sadly left at home in SA who couldn’t get on board the magic-music tour-bus for oh so annoying reasons beyond their compass.
St Just resident, organist maestro, Roger, lends a gentle brush-stroke economy of notation – more a nuanced guide-track – inevitably bowing a sweet surrender to the impending, a Capella swelling chorus.
A brief interval announces promise of a ‘secret surprise’. There’s a resurrection-like shuffle amidst the congregation as the Chapel Choir gather together (they’d had some 90-minutes previous notice) with an invitation to do a couple of numbers. By now John Wesley’s ghost- toe was telegraph-tapping out Morse Code rhythms of joy across West Penwith to Porthcurno’s famous cable-portal to the soul of the World.
From the upper-gallery, Langa descends to engage the congregational enthusiasm with gusto. From sacred to profane there’s an intoxicating tribal brew of effervescent call-and-response complemented by shrill-trill ’n whistle primal chant celebration. Knee-high to a grasshopper, stealth-percussionist, teenage-danger djembi player, Lilitha (daughter of Liziwe in the choir) rallies the cause. Such sounds of thunder echoing long ago memories of the tin mining subterranean roars of black-powder explosions and deep-shaft pick-axe metronomic insistence. This year marks the centenary remembrance of the Levant Mine disaster, but some short miles along the coast, where 31 men lost their lives. Some of those whose remains were recovered now lie in the Chapel graveyard. It is intended to establish a permanent memorial – their simple wooden crosses now long ago decayed – notwithstanding having to raise some £2 Million for radical restoration work.
Langa brings timeless songs sung-flung across beckoning seas and storm-tossed oceans. An ancient acoustic angelus plucking at the collective, timeless aeolian soul-strings. Simmering and shimmering in this special night’s gentle, balmy heat, the primal beat becomes irresistible. Soul-food for the spiritually starved – the Devil better check his back catalogue tunes – somebody’s about to shake n’ rattle his tail.
Reviewed on 3 July 2019 | Image: Contributed