There has always been a cherished tenderness in the spirit of the way singer/song-writer, Neo Muyanga directs his performances. It touches each member of his audiences in a way that leaves them feeling that Muyanga sings personally for them. This is arguably part of why he is held in special regard by music and art lovers in general. One could see this charm at work as he closed his performance at the Thomas Pringle Hall last night. The gig was just about done when someone in the middle seat yelled out, “Encore!” Muyanga smiled, and reached out for an evergreen. A song that won him a lasting place in the hearts of many of the gathered followers: Born In A Taxi; Such a gift of a song. Suddenly, everyone who may have felt at sea with the less familiar songs was back on familiar shores. This is a song that Muyanga and his then guitarist accomplice, Masauku Chipembere entered the scene in the late 1990s as BLK Sonshine.
At the Thomas Pringle Hall, the song started as a voice and string tune we all knew, though delivered with a slightly slower tempo. The entrance of his two collaborators, drummer Andre Swartz and Peter Ndlala on the bass, gave it a fuller refreshing pop sensibility. It worked. Many humming along; Rewarded fans.
However, before reaching for his familiar guitar, Muyanga had been at the piano and keyboard. He played tunes from his debut solo album, Listening Room (Mudra No.8) and subsequent records, Toro Tse Sekete and Dipalo. His most elegantly political hymn, “Nalete” felt ever-more relevant given the current political climate in the country. The image of “a leadership that knows it is balancing an elephant on its fingernail” as a line in the lyric laments, could not have been more accurate. The trio felt a bit loose in parts. It was as if we were all invited to watch a rehearsal session. Their rhythm section was quietly responsive as they provided balance to Muyanga’s lilts and cadences. The show did not feel over produced. This is both its strength and arguably its only fault. As the songs sauntered to a conclusion, one hoped we would see the trio more and more on our national stages. They represent a rare and most needed voice with an authentic touch.