Sugarman

Sixto Rodriguez (also known as Rodriguez or Jesus Rodriguez) is an American folk musician from Detroit, Michigan.  His career was initially short lived with two albums in the early ’70’s and two Australian concert tours.  His music never took off in the US, although he retained a loyal following in Australia.  Unknown to him, his work became very popular in South Africa, even though little was known about the musician at the time and it was mistakenly rumoured that he had committed suicide during a concert in the 1970’s.  Both of his albums were released on CD in 1991 and in 1998 his song “Sugar Man” was covered by Just Jinger, a South African rock band.

In 2012 we saw the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” which was aired on South African television.  The documentary is about two South Africans (from Cape Town), who set out in the late 1990’s to discover what happened to Rodriguez and whether or not the rumour about his death was true.

These determined fans did manage to find him, still living in the same derelict house that he bought in the 1970’s after quitting his music career, and the documentary has led to a revival of his music career.

This month we got to see this legend in person.  It was quite something to see the 72-year old man shuffle out onto the stage (assisted by a crew member) dressed in a suit and top hat but once he picked up his guitar and began playing and singing, his age seemed to disappear!

He is still an astounding musician and such a humble man.  I say humble because whenever the crowd applauded and cheered for him at the end of a song, he’d turn around (with his back to the crowd), take off his top hat and point it towards one of his band members, almost like he was directing the applause at them instead of it being for him!

Watching him perform was both amazing and inspiring.  His body may have aged but his mind still seems to be as sharp as ever.  His fingers flew swiftly and nimbly over the guitar strings and his voice was clear and strong.  There were even times during the concert where he had the crowd laughing at his witty comebacks to (drunken) comments shouted at him between songs!

When the concert ended and he shuffled off stage (assisted once more), we thought that there was no way that they would make him come out for an encore.  But lo and behold, out he came and happily played two more songs for us.

It’s really hard to imagine someone doing a world tour in their 70’s!  Surely all the traveling must be exhausting.  He did two concerts in New Zealand:  Auckland on 13th Oct and Wellington on 15th Oct, before heading across to Australia to do 14 concerts between 17th Oct and 15th Nov (one concert every alternate night)!  He’s then heading over to the UK in May 2015.

What an amazing man!

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary, try and make a plan to see it.  Click on this link to watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL5TffdOQ7g

When the Circus came to Town

When the Circus came to Town

In 2008 we got to go to Madame Zingara‘s Theatre of Dreams in Durban, South Africa.  A unique supper theater spectacular that is housed in one of the last remaining Mirror Tents in the world; a magnificent tent named “Victoria” that has a 25 metre velvet top, mirrored columns, velvet drapes and beveled booths; and has travelled around the globe for the last 80 years!  We went to see this show as we knew it would be an amazing experience (and it was, especially since the group of us that went all dressed up accordingly), so if you’re in South Africa and haven’t yet been to see Madame Zinagara, make a plan to get tickets when they’re in your city next!  (They’re currently in Johannesburg).

And then there’s Cirque du Soleil …

Cirque du Soleil - Totem

For years we’d been mesmerized by reruns of Cirque du Soleil shows broadcast on TV and always said that one day we would love to go and actually see a live show.  That day finally arrived and last night we got to watch Cirque du Soleil live in action.  Their production of Totem is still on in Auckland and runs from 22 August to 28 September, before they move across to Australia from October 2014 to July 2015 (showing in various cities).

According to Cirque du Soleil’s website TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly.  The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations.  

Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. 

Somewhere between science and legend TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.”

Words can’t really describe how amazing it was, but I’ll try as best as I can to give you an idea.

Upon arrival at Alexandra Park in Greenlane, Auckland, we parked our vehicle and made our way through the main entrance to see the enormous yellow and blue striped tents looming before us!

Apparently these tents are home to about 170 people who travel with the Totem production and once inside, you’re suddenly in a magical world; a world where people can somersault, leap, spin and fly, all while making it look so effortless and easy.  Tasks and tricks that seem impossible to us in our day-to-day world, suddenly have us completely captivated and our mind’s are transported and amazed by what the human body can actually achieve!

Humans were miraculously transformed into various animals, with a bright array of colorful costumes and skillfully applied make-up and I really do admire these performers who apply their own make-up during the shows, as they do a superb job!  Yes, each performer applies their own make-up by following step-by-step instructions given to them by the Make-up Designer who creates the looks for the show, but there is a make-up supervisor on staff who oversees them to make sure it’s all done right.

The show began with us all waiting in anticipation and watching this giant turtle-shaped mound in the centre of the stage.  Suddenly the cloth cover of the turtle’s “shell” was whisked away, revealing the carapace underneath – a jungle gym-like frame complete with parallel bars.  The shell represented the origins of life on earth and inside the frame colourfully dressed amphibians and fish came alive to playfully leap, jump and soar during a parallel bar sequence.

An Amerindian dancer was up next, with hoops that she tossed, rolled and jumped through while creating magical shapes using the hoops and her body, to evoke images of various animals, symbolising the endless circle of life.  She ended her act by creating a completely circular ball made entirely out the hoops she’d used during her performance!

There were so many great acts and amazing performances, that I could be here all day telling you about it:  monkeys, neanderthals and modern man all sauntering on stage to create an ‘accidental’ line representing our evolution; a Crystal Man that dangled and spiralled down from the ceiling; Crystal Ladies spinning and swapping squares of sparkling fabric on their hands and feet, in a high-speed co-ordination; an agile performer contorting his body on an hourglass-shaped frame; a Scientist in his ‘laboratory’, spinning sparkling balls in a giant glass beaker (representing atoms or planets?), while his colleagues beat out music on brightly coloured test tubes filled with mysterious plants and fluids; Men leaping, jumping and flying on Russian bars, weightlessly defying gravity!

But there were two acts that really stood out for us … 5 ladies on unicycles; and an Amerindian couple on roller-skates with their act symbolising a wedding ceremony.

The five ladies on unicycles represented the abundance of Fall (Autumn), as they juggled metal bowls while displaying amazing agility, balance, synchronisation and grace.  The bowls were tossed using one foot, while controlling the unicycle with the other!  The bowls were then caught on their own heads or tossed across (or backwards over their shoulders, depending on which way they were facing) onto the heads of the other unicyclists!

Once again, the stage lighting changed and the floor became a river; a beautiful Amerindian woman arrived in a canoe, followed shortly by a chief in a separate canoe.  Both were wearing white and on their feet were knee-length, laced up roller-skates.  What happened next was absolutely astounding … they both climbed up onto a 1.8 metre diameter, drum-shaped platform and holding onto each other, spun around in a tight circle, whirling and twirling at heart-stopping speeds!  One slight mistake and it all could have gone horribly wrong.  At one point, she was attached to him by a harness around his neck which went fitted across the base of her skull and head, nothing else was holding them together.  He spun them around in this small circle, while she “barrel-rolled” in a blur of tassels and wheels!

As I said before, words cannot come near to describing this magnificent show, so watch the official Totem trailer for a sneak peek of it really looked like … Cirque du Soleil – Totem.

If you ever get a chance to see Cirque du Soleil live, don’t even think about it, just buy those tickets and go!  It was an awesome night out and a truly amazing experience.  Definitely worth every dollar spent!

Note:  Some of the information above and all photos are from Cirque du Soleil’s website, as photographs are not allowed to be taken in the tent.