An average ‘hutspot’, despite good ingredients

En soe kap ôs an! : Opkomende woordkunstenaars en kletsrymers, 10 March 2012, US Woordfees, Stellenbosch


It’s Saturday lunchtime, and Radio RSG is buzzing their idea of the Woordfees out into the big wide world of radio waves, snugly nested in the far corner of the Plataankafee. There’s a lively chattering and a happy sun and happy people, happily sitting around drinking drinks and talking.

The Plataankafee seems a suitable venue for the afternoon’s scheduled entertainment, a gig called Soe kap ôs an!, advertised as a “hutspot” of Xhosa and Cape poems with the added presence of a “kletsrymkunstenaar”. My first thought is: what the fuck is a “kletsrymkunstenaar”? I’m informed that a “kletsrymkunstenaar” is the unused and excessive Afrikaans word for “rapper”.

The show’s advertised time comes and goes, and I assume that we will probably start soon. As it turns out, it’s not quite that simple. After walking around feeling more or less lost for the better part of 10 minutes, I finally manage to find someone in the know, who apologises, explains that the venue has changed and directs me to a hallway with 10 chairs and an old man plugging in a guitar. This hallway is a busy walkway of connections and I think it a strange place for a show. But I sit down and wait for the next few minutes to pass, chatting to those waiting with me about how much fun this is going to be. We are subsequently told that the venue has unfortunately changed again, and we’re to head for the Boektent. None of us knows where this is, and we potter about till we find it (close-by! luckily) and sit down to wait some more.

The tent could probably seat some 200-250 people and thus isn’t nearly full when the 20 people that have managed to make it this far have speckled themselves across the room. The space is empty, and very dark. Everything is draped in black cloth – the chairs, the walls, the roof, everything. We wait. The old man fiddles with his guitar again, proclaims that he has played to masses at farmers’ conventions in the past, while on stage some other people get onto a couch, then walk on and off several times. We eventually start half an hour late. There are five performers: Monty Isaacs, Albertus Davids, Willem Fransman Jnr, Joanne Bate and die Kaapse Woordenaar. Willem Fransman is die Kaapse Woordenaar’s father, Joanne is an English girl in the later stage of her medicine degree, studying at Tygerberg, and Monty Isaacs and Albertus Davids are two old performers.

That was a long introduction. The reason is that it basically mirrors the manner in which the show progressed. From here, things just got really messy. Allow me to explain:

You would skip from Mr. Davids singing about his love for the papsak to jump to Joanne writing about how we are all children of Mama Africa, then cut to die Kaapse Woordenaar condemning police corruption, back to Monty Isaacs and the rain falling on his beloved Karoo, and finish with Willem Fransman Jnr performing a poem by Adam Small.

Undoubtedly, each of the performers could have given a great show. Mr Albertus Davids really had some cool tunes going on his Cash Crusaders guitar, strings breaking and all. He took you back to his past where he had learned to appreciate all he had. Die Kaapse Woordenaar has got rhymes and owned his time on the stage, diving head first into the seas of lyrical criticism. Willem Fransman Jnr kept bringing on other people’s poems, big names, big presentation – he’s excellent. But alas: the sum total of the constituent parts didn’t add up so well. There was no consistency to be found, no thread for the audience to hang on to, nothing to follow while one mini-performance after the other was hurled at you. There were calls for crowd participation, but there was no crowd.

Logistical problems aside, the event should have been strong enough to carry itself. The entire performance was distinctly lacking in backbone. Everywhere there were tiny little pieces filled with tiny moments of real enjoyment, but you got taken from there, chaperoned all over the place without ever really knowing where you were and struggled to enjoy where you were going. A hutspot it was, with old talent and new, but once in the mouth, there wasn’t much to chew on.