THE CITY HALL SESSIONS: Concerts Where Music Celebrates Freedom

Music is a universal language that brings together an entire social spectrum around human fairness. The City Hall Sessions is an annual musical festival that first came about to celebrate South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections in 1994. From then on, each 27th of April the City Hall Sessions take place to celebrate what today is known as Freedom Day. These concerts are definitely a taste of diversity, inclusion and freedom.

As an example of this cultural diversity, take a look at this beautiful performance of Amaryoni-Azapella. This South African-a capella band is strongly influenced by the Is’cathamiya and gospel styles becoming very popular amongst the people of townships.


On December 5th 2013 the Nobel Peace Prize and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela passed away. He was a man that changed the world forever achieving what no other leader could make possible in human history. In 1990 he was released from jail after spending 27 years in Robben Island. He ran for the presidential election in 1994 becoming the first black president of South Africa.

Built in 1905, the City Hall is not only the home to the Cape Philharmonic Orquestra but also the host of the music festival. This beautiful cultural space and auditorium has been seen across the world. It was the place where Nelson Mandela addressed a crowd of over 100,000 supporters from its balcony after his release from prison in 1990. I’m pretty sure that the 2014 festival will be full of thrills and many events honoring Mandela’s memory.


These series of concerts started in 2011 bringing to the city a unique blend of the best musicians from Africa and the rest of the world. The objective of this program is to showcase Africa’s both social and musical diversity. The City Hall Sessions are trying to establish Cape Town as a center of cultural innovation and appreciation for people in Africa.  This local festival is becoming more global every year building stronger connections between musicians, music industry and the Capetonians.

The local-Capetonian composer, pianist and extraordinary jazz musician, Paul Hammer remembered in a comment the local social environment when he was music student during apartheid days.

“I was a music student at UCT (University of Cape town) and we used to get cheaper tickets to come on a Thursday night to the Philharmonic concerts in the City Hall. But my father didn’t want me to come. He said, ‘There’s a permit for this place to be open to people of colour,’ [people of colour needed to be permitted access to public buildings during apartheid]. And I retorted, ‘There is a permit at UCT for people of colour to be there.’ And he said, ‘Well, that is for your education.’ And I said, ‘This is also for my education”.

In 2013 he played his music for the city hall sessions. Enjoy this amazing performance:





The “City Hall Session” is a project developed for Creative Cape Town, which is a Cape Town Partnership program and supported by the National Lottery Development Trust Fund. The company Making Music is in charge of the technical and organizational production of the event. The prestigious local-producer and music documentarian Steve Gordon is the head coach of the festival.

The festival has had many performances of very well-known African and world musicians  such as Ray Lema (Democratic Rep. of Congo), Didier Awadi (Senegal), Steward Sukuma (Mozambique),  Chico César (Brazil), among others.

In 2012 one of the most representatives of the Pan African musicians, Ismaël Lo from Senegal played one of his most popular songs “Dibi Dibi Rek”.  He fills the stage with his Afropop and reggae rhythms in a sold out concert. This video shows his brilliant performance with the Cape Town group “Azania Ghetto Sound” in support.





I think this kind of festival provides not only the opportunity to enjoy the musical performances of a different bunch of musicians, but it also brings important benefits for the people of Cape Town promoting social cohesion. This remarkable effort of social and spatial reconstruction after apartheid is the main objective of Cape Town partnership.


We’re giving musicians a much-needed platform (medium-sized performance venues in the city are few and far between), creating jobs in the industry, and using the medium of music to help create new citizen memories in a historic city space” Cape Town Partnership CEO Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana.








Fading West in Review


Fading West,  a music documentary following Grammy-winning alternative-rock band Switchfoot, hit the internet in preparation for their full length album release in the new year. The film features the group in a travel-musiclogue-like fashion as they search for inspiration and waves during their 2012 World Tour.

Directed by Matt Katsolis, the film offers an intimate and authentic look at the journey of the San Diego based musicians, as they cope with maintaining the right balance between family and music life.

The two major takeaways from this piece are that John and Time Foreman can really surf and the cinematography is second to none.  The scenes captured in New Zeland, Australia, Bali and South Africa are visually captivating and make up for the lack of overall depth in the film.  Although it follows a rough storyline of the tour, the tensive breaks in the film seem to mimic the climax of a Much Music Disband episode.

That’s not to say the events were insignificant, they were just poorly portrayed. They didn’t go deep enough and for that, they missed out on the opportunity to create something really special.

In terms of music documentaries,  Fading West comes in around a 3/5. However, some of the images captured would make for a really good Hurley ad.

*Also note: Switchfoot’s guitarist Drew Shirley,  looks a lot like Joe Hursley’s character from Accepted:


You can purchase the film here:

I would also recommend reading more about their  “Bro-Am”. You can find that here:

Music as a Muse: “Searching for Sugar Man”

 Image American cinema poster

Art forms have always found their ways to collaborate, mix and melt into a different piece of work, a new, creative form of expression. Specifically, music has been the muse of other art forms, resulting in the birth of paintings, films and poems.

What is interesting about the story I’m about to share with you is the fact that it was the work inspired by the music, and not the music itself, what brought worldwide attention to the artist, to his surprise.

THE MUSIC: Sixto Rodriguez

Rodriguez, Mexican American folk musician, was born in Detroit in 1942. He was discovered by Motown producer Dennis Coffey while playing in local decadent and grey bars in his hometown. With his back turned to the audience so that they would pay attention to his message, he sang political and antiestablishment messages, expressing controversial social issues with his inner-city poetry style. Rodriguez signed to Sussex Records and released two albums: Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971).


Rodriguez’s first album “Cold Fact”

However, while he enjoyed some success in Australia, the records sold so few copies that he was dropped from the label while still completing his third record.  Loosing hopes of making it in the Music Industry, Rodriguez walked away and adopted a humble and quiet lifestyle in the construction sector.

“I really thought Cold Fact was going to make it. There was a lot of work done, and I thought there was a big chance for it, but it didn’t happen. I went into the second album, but again a lot of other things happened and the place went bankrupt. Nothing beats reality. But the revolution never stops. ” Rodriguez [Social Stereotype]

THE DOCUMENTARY: “Searching for Sugar Man”


 Steve “Sugar” Segerman in the documentary

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul
Produced by: Malik Bendjelloul , Simon Chinn
Release date: 19 January 2012
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
Length: 86 minutes
Country: Sweden, United Kingdom
Language: English
Music by: Sixto Rodriguez

While nobody was interested in listening to him in America, the citizens of a politically repressed South Africa found meaning in Rodriguez’s message, were he became extremely popular and the voice of the oppressed youth. In South African record store owner’ Steve Segerman’s words:

 In the 1970s, if you walked into a random white, liberal, middle class household that had a turntable and a pile of pop records…you would always see ‘Abbey Road’ by the Beatles, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel and ‘Cold Fact’ by Rodriguez. To us it was one of the most famous records of all time. The message it had was ‘be anti-establishment.’ One song is called ‘The Anti-Establishment Blues.’ We didn’t know what the word was until it cropped up on a Rodriguez song, and then we found it’s OK to protest against your society, to be angry with your society. [Voice of America]

After hearing rumors about Rodriguez committing suicide by burning himself during a performance, Segerman started an investigation with his friend and journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom to find out what had really happened to his hero.

Malik’s documentary narrates Segerman’s and Craig’s journey in search of the artist’s true story, navigating the little information available. They finally encounter Rodriguez, alive and completely unaware of his success and musical influence in South Africa, who finally finds an audience to direct his songs to.  In 1998, without having ever seen any royalties from his records, he travelled to South Africa to perform in arenas in front of thousands of people that had been waiting for him for years.

Searching for Sugar Man Official Trailer

IMPACT: “Award winning Documentary”

The film has received very positive critical reception and has been repeatedly recognized in the film industry, winning in the category of “ Best Documentary” in events such as the Academy Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, the DGA awards, the Sundance Film Festival, WGA awards and the PGA awards.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Rodriguez talks about his musical career, his thoughts about his new fame and his experience during the recording of the documentary.

Finding ‘Sugar Man’: Rodriguez Reflects on a Crazy Year with a Hollywood Ending

The tremendous success of the documentary worked as an unplanned massive marketing campaign for Rodriguez, giving him the opportunity to relaunch his music career, and be recognized as an artist and reach a worldwide audience. “Searching for Sugar Man” has captured fan and media attention, which has triggered an extensive tour around Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, US and Europe as well as performances in many festivals such as Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Glastonbury festival or Montreux Jazz festival.


Rodriguez performing at Montreux Jazz festival

Currently, the 70-year-old Rodriguez is discussing with producer Steve Rowland the idea of recording a new album.