Every Friday night, and for as many nights as we can in the week, my friends and I make it a point to gather at somebody’s house and have a what we simply call a shindig. A shindig requires few things, a venue, beverages, food, and most importantly, music. It is the glue that holds this group of young, fast-moving and ambitious group of friends together. Because as much as we need the pace to forward our careers, we must always keep ourselves grounded and remember that one day, when we’re old and retired, there were moments where we sat back and absorbed all the blessings in our lives. Over time, our shindigs have become more organised. There are certain things that each of us need to do in order to prepare for them, a set of unspoken rules, so to speak. We each bring our own six-pack or bottle to contribute to the box of vice for the night, and we rely on Zanele, our resident chef, to take care of the food. The event usually takes place at my flat, and because Zanele and I have been friends since high school, she has no qualms about raiding my kitchen. They all say that we have to gather at my place because it’s more central, but I know that its because we all silently agree that I have the best taste in music.
When choosing a song, the trick is to find a song that can make you feel both extremely high and low at the same time. A song that jolts excitement in such copious amounts that you feel you need to settle down almost instantly. As a group of twenty-something year-olds, we feel mostly comfortable in the manacles with which we’ve shackled ourselves to this life. As music played a huge role in forging these manacles, we prefer to listen to the music that ignites flames deep in our memories, songs that haven’t been played in a long time. No offense to any artists of the present, we fully support them in their creativity. But if a song is good enough to make me feel like I’m hearing it for the first time every time I hear it, it deserves to be played into eternity.
And there we were on a blissful Friday evening having a much needed shindig. The air was warm and the smell of Zanele’s spices and Vuyo’s incense danced together to form warm feelings of soul food and zen meditation. That night, it was just the three of us, which was fine, more food and drinks for us. The night was still young though we submerged ourselves deep in nostalgia with a song that pre-dates our existence, “Do I Move You?” by Nina Simone. This song always brings forth the image of what I think the American South was like in the 60s. How black people would gather away from the rampant racism for a wild night. The blues guitar and harmonica sets the tone for Simone’s seductive voice to dig deep inside the id and conjure up the primal instinct to lose all inhibitions and just move. Vuyo recounted the first time he ever heard the song, “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was so young, eight years old, I should have been asleep but my dad kept me awake while he was sending me back and forth. When the song came on he decided that he would impart a lesson unto me. He said, “my son, the most important thing in life is the love a good woman. So when you think you might have met the one and you want to check to make sure, ask yourself “does she move me?” If the answer is yes, you need to work towards asking her if she’d like to, perhaps, move you for the rest of your life.” From then on I knew that Nina Simone was the compass that would point me in the right direction. I’m not there yet, but I’m still young, who knows?” I sat back and observed as this song caused an indelible smile on my friend’s face, a smile that can only be caused by the memories of childhood.
As one song faded into the next we all laughed as we have the same familiar feeling with the next song, Kgomo by Jonas Gwangwa, also known as the Wedding Song. Each of us remembered this song from our childhood. It would always play at large family gatherings, weddings, house-warmings, Christmas, whenever there is a reminiscent feeling in the air, it plays. The first time Zanele heard this song was at her aunt’s wedding reception. “That was the first time, in my memory, that I started meeting new family members. The ones that are only ever seen at weddings and funerals. I was seven and when the song came on, everybody formed a line behind the bride and groom and started stepping all around the dance-floor. Their hips swayed to the rhythm of the trumpet as they took two large strides forward and two short ones back. It was like it was instinctive, everyone knew what to do, it all fell into place. Nonku, you’d better make sure it plays at my wedding, I don’t care how old it is.” As she stood to demonstrate the dance we stood with her, because we knew exactly what she was talking about. Like she said, it was instinctive.
The next song that played was and is by far and away my favourite song of all time, Midnight by 340ml. My memory of this song wasn’t a childhood one, I had just begun high-school when it came out. The first time I heard it was when my cool uncle, Kgosi, came to pick me up from school. It was a Friday and he had promised me a trip to the movies. On our way home after the movie, we were deep in the discussion of the plot-line when the song came on, and we both fell silent. The sun was setting, splashing colours of pink, yellow, orange and gold to mix in with the cool blue sky. The road was open and it was as if it went on forever. The bass guitar tugged at my emotions like a dog on a leash wanting desperately to run wild. The drums had me enchanted, the guitar had me addicted and the vocals had me committed. I vowed to chase a moment just like that, with those feelings, those sounds, that atmosphere and when I did I would hold on to it forever. I would take it into my old age, I would show others how to do it, how to feel what I felt. If they didn’t immediately click, it would never happen and I would move on to the next one.
It has clicked with many people. Those who are like-minded and have experiences similar to mine. I called that moment, that very special moment, a shindig.
I’ve perfected it, making last as long as possible. Enchanted, addicted, committed.