Its been a bit more than a month, but this is the first time that I have been able to sit down and formally document my last trip to South Africa. I was blessed to be invited to witness the 10th Annual South African Traditional Music Achievement Awards (SATMA). And in all of my sojourns to the beautiful nation of South Africa, this remains one of the most powerful and cultural experiences that I have had.
I departed Los Angeles aboard the beautiful and elegant Emirates Airlines on a 15 hour marathon flight to Dubai. The Airbus A360 is a huge aircraft that is quite modern classy and even in economy has all of the tech gadgets. The entertainment alone features 200 channels of music, movies, games and the best maps of your flight experience. We flew northeast out of Southern California exiting the North American continent over Northern Canada. The flight took us over Nova Scotia, the tip of Iceland, Sweden, Russia, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and into Dubai. I was so surprised as I perused the in-flight map, because a lot of the cities we flew near were cities, in America were associated with the war on terror. wow...
Some would say, whew 15 hours is a long flight. It is. But with the state of the art entertainment system I was able to pass the time away by viewing selections form the movie menu, and the music menu. I started my entertainment delights with Ant-Man..... *sigh* So after struggling though some half of that film, I changed over to the radio channel which featured several choices of African Music. After all, I was travelling to the Continent. Let me just say that Fela Kuti is one of the most awesome artists in the entire world. Then I saw a section entitled Box Sets. This is where I found Marvin Gaye. And Stevie Wonder. You know I was in heaven. When I selected Stevie, I listened to Music of my Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life, Hotter than July, and A Time to love.... each in its entirety, back to back, chronologically. This made my flight complete Nirvana...
The airport at Dubai is a monstrous location as Dubai is a major hub for all international destination of the east. And as I look around there are all kinds of people from the Afro-Asiatic diaspora. This is the United Arab Emirates so most of the people coming through here are Arab/Muslim. I can't help but reflect how Malcolm X felt when he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. I've seen Muslims of all races.. Arab, black, black African, what looks to be white, Asian, southeast Asian.. all kinds of people. I'm also struck by the strong African presence in the airport. It is a powerful reminder that there are 52 countries on the continent of Africa and all of those nations are seemingly travelling through his airport.
I see the Muslim women dressed in the traditional head to toe garb. It's funny because a lot of these women's husbands are dressed in shorts, sandals and polo shirts. This is a hodge podge of eastern society. And yes, this is a Muslim nation so I've heard the prayer calls. And I've noticed that just as there are directions to the restrooms, first aid, lost and found, etc., there are signs directing one to the prayer room. Yes. This is Dubai, gateway to the middle east. And now as I sit waiting for the flight to Durban, I grow anxious to see and hear the sights that await me in South Africa.
|signs and sights of Dubai Airport|
We piled into the official vehicles and with sirens and lights blazing, we rolled onto the freeway headed to the center of Zululand. It was a two and a half hour drive to our destination which was in the town of Richards Bay, home of one of the world
|patio area and honesty bar of Umhambi Lodge|
We were taken to North Coast Radio - a community based station which broadcasts in Zulu and boasts a very active and responsive listener audience of about 150,000 in the immediate area. I say active because there were a few listeners standing outside when we emerged from the studio waiting to get a glimpse of these African Americans. We walked the adjoining shopping center to get a bite of lunch from Nando's, a restaurant chain that features chicken much like our own El Pollo Loco. From there we rushed to the University of Zululand which was the site for the SATMA Awards weekend.
I must admit that I was not ready for what we witnessed as we hit the red carpet for the opening night pre-show. We were greeted by thousands of screaming fans who chanted, screamed and even rushed our policed secured vehicles. It was impressive to see the love that the Zulus have for the Obamas - and us. It was overwhelming to hear and see that they were ecstatic that we were there.
|opening choir breaks out in Nay Nay|
After the pre-show, we returned to the lodge and spent the warn late night at the poolside patio area. The place was humming with quiet activity as there was a party in the small events area next to the honesty bar. There were 18 of us from Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Swaziland, South Africa and South LA/Inglewood... The United Nations of Africa. It was a truly awesome experience kicking it with the diaspora. Good times, Good conversation, Good people.
|it was incredible at SATMA|
The Awards show was quite a spectacle. The opening number was a representation of every culture in South Africa. All the different tribes, the white folks and the Indian folks.. It was amazing! Everyone was dressed in traditional attire. There were high ranking government officials, local officials and provincial officials. It was a tremendous gatehring. And I have got to share how the huge choir in the opening number broke out in the Nay Nay during thier very traditional presentation.
I've been able to journal the experience and post it on this blog. If you would like to see the complete photo album, It's here on facebook
|fascinating Zulu dancers at SATMA|
|Dance baby girl!!!|
|The village mothers marching in to salute Dr. Obama|
|Our caterer is a camera star!!|
|The village came out to salute Dr. Obama|
|Dr. Sarah Obama, Step-Grandmother of President Barack Obama|
|The village mothers came to salute Dr. Sarah Obama|
|The village mothers saluting Dr. Sarah Obama|
|Our host Dusami Goba sharing remarks|