Thank you to Simphiwe Mahlangu for these awesome photos of the Johannesburg launch of the book To the Peace on Earth images here
Preview Interview : Spha Mdlele chats to Struan Douglas on Jazzuary FM: listen here
There must be a sigh of relief?
Yes a sigh of release?
Was the book inspired by the death of Moses Molelekwa?
Yes it was a trigger and an unprecedented shock. I fell to my knees when I got the call from Shado Twala early in the morning. She was in tears. When you are faced with such a shake of your reality there does open up an opportunity to start looking at how that affects yourself.
And Moses himself stood for very human ideals which made the trigger to change even more stronger? The band was also fantastic and giving wonderful shows at the Galaxy in Rylands and in Johannesburg where they were based. It was such a high quality and joyful music that we followed almost like the wake of a great ship passing through the sea we followed this music and it started to teach us firstly with the album ‘finding oneself’ to look within and then ‘genes and spirits’ to look into other dimensions. Spirituality is so vast and diverse that everyone has their own perspective on life and afterlife.
Moses was very advanced when he talks about having many lives in order to master so many different things. We are all allowed to do so many different things. His example really did showcase that to my generation which was three years younger than him.
The book goes back to this idea of journeying. Most of the story is told about you going to live on the farm with Lianne, Ananda and Rob and your relationship with those characters and how they evolve and fall away as the book goes on. Why did you choose to release the book now?
There are so many things that happen coincidentally or synchronicitously that we begin to feel there is something greater at play that we don’t fully understand. There is some perfection or greatness about the world that brings everything into place. There has been a release in this story among all the characters. Lianne’s film on kwaito is going to broadcast on ETV. She was at the forefront of documenting kwaito in the late 90s. That is a long term project that is coming to fruition. For Robert he is retiring from the music industry having spent 25 years recording music . And on the farm there have been some changes as Lianne has left. And it all came together. This April would have been Moses 46th birthday and Ananda’s 68th and Robert and Madala are also born in April and Freedom Day is coming up on April 27th. It all came together right now and I was ready.
There is a beautiful review that Carol Martin wrote about the book : “To the Peace on Earth is an engaging account of one man’s journey of healing, with upfront honesty and attempted enlightenment through a rebirth into Ubuntu Africa from European roots. Struan Douglas, an arts journalist and musician, portrays a fascinating, yet mysterious, plunge into the spirituality surrounding the music industry in South Africa, and why all is not always rosy in the perceived healing abilities of this art form.”
Much of the media about Moses’ death calls it a lovers suicide and he is believed to have killed his wife and then himself. But in the book you say Rob hired a PI who said that that was not the case. I find in the documentation of our stories so much is left out and so much not told. What can we do better as people living in the now and want to pass on these stories to the next generation?
Yes attend more gigs and get to know the people more like Madala who is now 70. One of the great lessons in the Story of SA Jazz comes from Elias Ngidi to Feya when he was still studying at UKZN. He said to him just be with the elder musicians even if you walk with them or go with them somewhere just be in their presence. That is the thing, respect your elders and learn from those who have lived life because that is where you hear their stories and find your own. And there are these shooting stars like Moses who is already an elder by the age of 24 or even at 17. There are young people who have this mature spirit we can learn from so we just need to learn from one another and that will help inspire us to tell our own story and hear one another’s stories.
You go onto write about the suicide of Moses Khumalo too and if course in South Africa we were rocked by the suicide of HHP. Do you think we are failing our artists?
Every suicide particularly in that vulnerable age group of 18 to 35 in the music industry specifically is not necessary. I don’t think suicide is necessary. In Australia they have brought an awareness of the risks of suicide into their governance and guidelines. Everything from drug addiction to relationships, emotional problems, fatigue – all these things can impact and cause someone to lose their life way to young.
In this industry you as an artist give so much to the audience and then go home empty. It is like a void. As a healer you are always healing, but who heals the healer?
Society should heal the healer. The healer should be known to society as with the stories of the griot in Senegal. It is a living example of how a musician, a story-teller, a healer a griot is such a crucial part of society that society takes care of these people. They would know if they could be on the edge of an emotional situation as with Moses. What is he feeling? Has he given so much that he has nothing left? This is where society needs to be one another’s keeper in that regard and have ways that we are expected to look after each other:
Where did your love for music begin?
That is the journey. What is the source of this passion and inspiration. You are always chasing your tail like the ouroborus – it is a wonderful journey. A lot of the teachings bring the source into the present moment. Can you trace the source through the present moment? It is something that is always existing this love for music. Can I walk out into the street and see someone snap his fingers to the beat and that brings joy to me. Is it something that is within. I discovered this passion through the journey of life.
Do you think it was something triggered as a child. Moses said his dad was such an avid jazz fan that he imbibed this music in the household and it seeped into his subconscious and then manifested in him being a musician?
My dad loved Nat King Cole and I loved that too but I developed on a much slower and different path to Moses. But at the age of 15 he had taken in all these musical influences. But in childhood there was music there.
You talk about Madala Kunene as a mentor?
Madala is known in the industry as being a father figure to many younger musicians around. You just mention his name and some of the younger musicians say that is my father. He has got this way of wanting the best out of you. He is not plagued by any of the problems we were speaking about in the industry such as jealousy and competition. He is really himself and he uses that power to help others find themselves. The specific example with me is that he got something out of me I did not really know existed and he sent me to Eric Duma his trumpet player in his band. And it was Eric that mentored me on a day to day basis at Stable Theatre to learn a musical instrument which was a very healing thing. It gets back to who heals the healer and in fact music is very healing itself. And Madala has that capacity to heal and with his music that audiences also experience that when they listen to him. Reinvigorated and revived.
What can we look forward to at the launch?
Look forward to seeing Madala in action and playing solo in a small intimate environment and listen to Madala play solo. And the Roving Bantu is a cultural hotspot run by Sifiso Ntuli a pioneer of the documentary Amandla. He is a very unique character. He calls us the weirdo’s and that is in fact what we are, we are all very unusual people. And that is what I hope you will gain by being there, and realise what an unusual person you are to be among all these unusual people. And then we just let our hair down, I mean who are we : dot dot dot