Dancing With A Conscience

BailaAfrika’s recent party had a human rights twist. Quite fitting, as it happened on the eve of Human Rights Day. A woman spoke about human rights violations happening somewhere south, or was it west, of Morocco. There was also a Jewish guy who is rooting for Palestine and a Cuban gentleman who talked about the Cuban revolution.

EddTash

It was a bold step taken by Edd and Tash Wyatt, the creators of BailaAfrika. They’re leaders in the social dance community in Johannesburg, and the custodians of so much joy. I mean what does music and dance have to do with politics or Palestine or religion, right? What does BailaAfrika have to do with these causes?

Well, they felt the need to engage their friends and family on a level of humanitarian awareness and responsibility, a shared responsibility us humans have.

Cuban Salsa was shut down by the authorities a long time ago in Havana, Bachata was frowned upon by the elite in the Dominican Republic. Kizomba well, is about partying, and started – I am told – after the last Angolan revolution.

I did not care much for what these speakers had to say. Don’t get me wrong, the things we hear, read and see about Morocco and Palestine are dreadful. My fight though, my activism starts here, at home in South Africa, Joburg, Bosmont and more importantly my hometown – the Floors in Kimberley.

The township I grew up in is infested with youngsters dependent on drugs and alcohol. Unemployment is another major threat to their ability to lead normal lives. Poverty is real, and then there are the so-called gangsters.

So-called, because the guys I grew up with were gangsters. They pushed drugs, intimidated people, some were killed, and others were beaten. There are not so many murders now.

That was in the 1990’s. This activity is still rife today in most townships. Black on black crime, coloured on coloured violence.

I just cannot help Palestine. I cannot sympathise with Cuba, never mind Morocco. My brothers and sisters right here are living a life where their dreams are shattered, before they even leave the school ground.

And yes I’m going to blame apartheid for this, because I can, because it’s real. Today we still battle the evil aftermath of the apartheid regime. The demise of black, coloured and Indian people is happening, right before our eyes. And it’s affecting white folk too.

We are all in it. All of us. And this country is slowly reaching an epic explosion. And before I think of throwing a lifeline to Palestine, forgive me as I look in my own backyard first.

Back to the social dance scene that brings together people of all colours, from all continents. Discrimination is reserved for that guy or girl you don’t want to dance with based on their awkward moves or unsavoury hygiene — there’s no time to racially profile on the dance floor.

I just want to enjoy the music, and for those few hours, life is a pleasant melody until I return to the daily grind. But I don’t want to.

Let’s Be Real To Our Women

There are many good reasons why a man would abuse a woman, whether it’s emotional, physical or psychological, he always has a good reason to let her know who the boss is.

“I backhanded that bitch,” a former friend once said about how he disciplined his wife for smiling with another guy one time too often. Another guy I used to know berated his partner in front of friends, “Look at how you look, that’s a kak outfit”.

“I pay the rent here,” another said to his wife. Yes, he knew who was in control until he begged her to stay.

Men, we know that women give us shit, whether it’s your grandmother, mother, sister, daughter or girlfriend, this beautiful species comes with a built-in function of how to ‘make a man mad’ every day.

But we love them, don’t we? We have to, it’s our duty to love and protect those who are in our lives and those who we choose, or should I say those ladies who choose us to be part of theirs.

So why the abuse, the degradation, the brutal murder of this fairer sex?

I don’t know.

When it started, I don’t know. Will it stop, I hope so.

See there is no good reason, was and never will be to hurt a female.

Some men are just born with this understanding, my grandfathers, my father and some of my uncles and most of the friends, they know and do better, I’m thankful that they set such respectable precedents.

I had to learn this mentality cause I too am guilty of abuse. Her crime, rocking up to my rooftop with another person. The embarrassment, I said some harsh things, I should have… I’m glad I did not.

The thing is this, having this woman was not a problem despite the shit she gave me, not having her and seeing her with another, now that’s the real dilemma.

And as I see it, the problem that abusive men have or had with their women is that they don’t have “control” over this sentinel beings.

But, they are not ours to control, but to work with, live with, be happy with, as all humans should regardless of age, creed, colour or sex.

But no, the craving for that petty power is relentless. I see guys that don’t know how to Kizomba or Salsa or Bachata, they look hungrily at the ladies.

Some, after a few drinks, attempt to pull the women aside and if she shows him less than a smile, their lewd approach quickly turns to disdain, “fuck you bitch”.

They don’t realise that she is just there to dance, to have fun and to get that high from endorphins.

They also don’t understand that she allows me to get close to her, I am the lead, but I certainly need her permission to be that. And that’s what we as men should accept, to be that man, the man, somebody’s man, you need the approval of a woman.

But NO, when you don’t have what you think you ought to, then aggression and condescending remarks are the next natural steps.

And it’s natural yes, but not progressive, because as a man you never have, never will and don’t have the authority to tread on that lady.

In 1997 Tupac Shakur recorded these words:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women

Understanding The Music

Most Kizomba songs are sung in Portuguese and like most RNB tracks they are about love, relationships, partying, break-ups and getting down.

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Although I don’t understand the language, the rhythm and bass move me. I’ve found that understanding the lyrics at least has added value to my life.

I’ve had to use Google Translate to understand the songs that make us Kizomba, or Tarraxha.

Recently I was told, “If you knew what this guy was singing then you wouldn’t be here.” So this ‘2em1’  by Christian Lyd is that take-me-home kinda track. Think R.Kelly’s Your Body’s Calling, Feeling on Your Booty, 12 Play, Sex me, You Remind Me. Anyway…

The lyrics are channelling sexual healing and some are just awkward. Let’s take a look.

The first verse of 2em1 goes:

Sinto a tua respiração no meu peito

Mordo os teu lábios bem daquele jeito

Que te deixam doida sem resistir

E pronta para o que vem a seguir

Don’t try to sing it if you dunno the song – it will just sound stupid.

Roughly translated into my second language it goes:

I feel your breath on my chest

I bite your lips well like that.

That make you crazy without resisting

And ready for what comes next.

Now we’ve all been there and done that (Ohk not all of us, if there’s still virgins out here HOLLER) and as adults, I don’t need to explain more or do I? Wait it gets better.

The chorus:

No sofá quero amm, amm, amm

Quando me encostas amm, amm, amm

Sou amante e namorado como eu não há nenhum pra ti sou 2em1

Are you ready for this:

On the couch, I want amm, amm, amm

When you put me on amm, amm, amm

I’m a lover and boyfriend like I do not have any for you I’m 2em1.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with the amm amm translation, it’s more like ah ah ah, it will get you going ah ah ah if you know what I mean.  But surely a boyfriend should be your lover. I mean why is he stating the obvious. Or wait a minute…

You don’t have to imagine the melody, get it on YouTube, this song is lit.

My point is… Now that I understand the lyrics, I know not to move on the dance floor at 100 miles per hour. Although you can step quickly to the beat, this song demands that you move methodically and sensually.

But some guys are lifting their partner off the ground with little restraint and no respect for the music. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

Understanding the lyrics is advantageous, to say the least, but not a necessity to dance.

Coisas Da Terra by Paulo Flores can get anyone jiving. It’s smooth, happy melody just does that. But once I Googled the lyrics I was like “wow”.

This song is from the heart and it speaks of the goodness of Angola and its people, humanity in fact. Delightful to say the least.

Then there’s this robust Salsa track Vivir Mi Vida by Mark Anthony. If ever there’s a song that I did not understand that makes me happy then it’s this.

The eclectic beats will get you in a party mood in no time. This song is a celebration of life, and we need it every day, a celebration that is.

In conclusion, it comes down to connection, it always does, and how that melody makes you feel, how you translate it on the dance floor because the power of a good song transcends language.

Ladies, Ask A Man.

It’s the norm that ladies outnumber men at dance classes and parties. I’m not sure what the ratio is but as a lead for Kizomba, and sometimes Bachata and Cuban Salsa, I hardly get a chance to sit down.

 

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Don’t wait, ladies, make that move.

 

But the ladies, sitting on the couch against the wall, standing, watching waiting. I can’t get to all of them as my favourites come first.

Some ladies even look disinterested, or maybe they lose interest as the beat goes on. That look of neglect does not belong in a space where physical activity is converted into endorphins.

What’s the solution then? It’s simple, ladies, just ask a man. Don’t stand there, go up to him and I can promise you that he won’t say no.

Now I know it’s a daunting task asking a lady to dance, especially when I started. My bald head gets hot, my palms are clammy and my heartbeat races until I can utter the words “would you like to dance”

It’s not that melodramatic actually, but it does take confidence and courage to step up to a woman and ask, and I can imagine the same applies to you lady. But you have to do it.

Sarah said: “I’m not as good as you and that’s why I don’t ask,” and that’s exactly why she should. The only way to improve your dancing is to dance more. So, in a world where women outnumber men your first task is to make that request.

A tap on the shoulder, a firm hold on the arm all coupled with a smile and of course making the request is as simple as it sounds.

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Outnumbered again. 

And if he says no. Well then move on. I’ve been rejected and three seconds later given permission by another. That’s just how it goes. The worst rejection though is on the dance floor when she looks at you with incredulity after making a mistake (usually in salsa), but that’s another topic.

And look interested please, that sullen face with that bright red lipstick is just not appealing. Look as if you are enjoying the music, make eye contact with someone that moves smoothly and make your intention clear.

If he gets the wrong idea about you watching him, then well it’s his plight. You came to dance, so ask, get your groove on and before you know it you’ll be someone’s favourite and you won’t have to ask no more.

What you see is what you don’t get

Blonde hair, green eyes, slender body, shapely legs and a see-through skirt. From the front, she exuded class in that black outfit but the rear showed something not often seen on the streets of Joburg.

Yes, her derriere was exposed to all; given that her skirt was made of lace and that she wore a black, waist-high cheekster.

Men gaped, women too, an elderly lady’s face squirmed at the unmistakable crack shining through this black lace. Younger ladies took videos and the boys well, obviously, they snapped away too.

This lady– let’s call her Deborah – was oblivious to the commotion around us. As I led her forward, back and around, people’s faces grew from surprise to disgust to what the hell.

I came to Kizomba, so did she, but with an added benefit. I’m sure the lack of material helps cool her down quicker.

Most, or rather all of the comments and questions posed to me about Deborah were salacious. Yet this woman just did not give a shit about who said what. Wearing that outfit was bold and clearly, her confidence was or rather is sky high.

The guy that I assume she is with showed no signs of jealousy. Better than anyone else he knows he is going home with her and will get to see that Versace on the floor.

Well, I hope it’s Versace.

What’s this got to do with Kizomba?

When a new lady comes on the scene, like bees on a honeycomb, the boys buzz excitedly. Whether she is with her boyfriend or not they don’t care. They see her move, they see her enjoying herself and as if Kizomba is a spell, the boys are bound to approach.

This thinking is not only stimulated by Kizomba or Cuban Salsa or Bachata, a pretty face and PHAT booty are all a man needs to act on his primal instinct.

Thing is, they don’t see the end result of the night; they don’t see that Deborah is still going home with him despite what she revealed.

She gave you a little bit of her, to be nice, friendly, cause that’s what ladies do, they nice, it’s standard and compelling.

It does not mean she wants you. If she holds you close, laughs with you, looks into your eyes during a Kizomba session that is not compelling evidence to say she wants you. Don’t mistake her kindness for consent.

Most boys won’t get it though. Let him be that guy talking her ear hot, buying her drinks, thinking he is in with a chance, always taking chances.

Connection, my friends of Kizomba know, is different with each and every person. 99% of the time it’s a good feeling, few are awesome and there is the occasional bad dance, but it’s rare to get that take-me-now feeling.

Even if she’s wearing skinny jeans, a skin tight mini or a Versace lace skirt… what you see is what you don’t get.

Music and Dance = Nirvana

Although the darkness casts shadows around us, I can sense the luminous delight that the music and dancing radiate on the floor.

We came to party, to listen to good music, to dance with that lady we admire from afar, to dance with that guy your friend likes. Yes, ladies, I know. But this is not about the doings on and off the dance floor.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Well uhh it is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world… and at peace with myself.”

We all love music, most of us love to dance, but where’s the peace and joy that comes with these ancient arts?

To me, it seems music and dancing is the only way this country, this world can move forward peacefully.

And like John Lennon, I am dreaming.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
Imagine was released in 1971. And look how far we have come. It’s mournful.

Until. the philosophy. which hold one race superior. And another. Inferior. Is finally. And permanently. Discredited. And abandoned. Everywhere is war. Me say war.

These are lyrics from the Bob Marley and the Wailers track War, released in 1976. And still, we are at war.

Bachata, Cuban Salsa, and Kizomba have its roots entrenched in Dominican, Cuban and Angolan struggles. South Africa has a few unique dances but none that unites us. Our artists though, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela, Jonathan Butler, PJ Powers, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba, we’ve heard their voices raging against the old regime, their sounds unite us.

But while South Africans live through this turbulent time I hope music and dancing will help ease the pains of change.

I hope that you will realise that dancing is more than a get-together; it’s a means to improve the lives of the young, the old, the overworked, the lonely and the anxious. We can share ideas of politics, but more importantly, ideas to grow this culture.

My dream is to one day take this art to my hometown, Kimberley, where alcohol and drug abuse is the foremost reasons for the deterioration of people, good men young women, of all colours. A friend of mine wants to take it to smaller cities and towns across the country.

They need a distraction that is not fleeting, they need a lifestyle that is not destructive, and they need this culture of music and dancing.

South Africa needs it badly, really badly. A dance culture, happy living, fun with few rules, but instead we are obsessed with JZ and the ANC and apartheid and racism and sexism and violence and xenophobia, AND it all leads to disagreements and violence.

There are battles all around us, around the world, and music and dancing can be the radiance we need not to only escape this fiery reality, but to create a nirvana.