Last Saturday, I was driving home after the morning session at the health centre when I came across a crowd in the main (only) street in Cropping Village. I pulled over, parked Phyllis and went to investigate.
A flatbed truck formed a stage, loaded with amps and speakers. Above it was a large banner advertising “Community Talent Foundation”, motto “A Failier in Education is not a Failier in Life”. Almost as a religious afterthought, “God Created No Useless Creatures” was stencilled along the bottom of the banner. “Really?” I thought to myself, “What about wasps, tsetse flies, feral pigs and mosquitoes? Surely they have no redeeming features.”
My thoughts were interrupted by a DJ dressed in black, with dark sunglasses and a dark baseball cap, who started working the crowd. He was speaking the local dialect, Kunda, but as my vocabulary consists of the words for headache, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and other choice terms, I could only guess that he was trying to work up some enthusiasm from the audience. About a hundred young men and boys were crowded around the front of the stage. Where I was standing, at the back, there was a group of young women with babies and dusty little lads, messing about in the dirt playing with stones.
The DJ screamed “Hallelujah!” and an air raid warning siren went off, indicating a new band was about to take the stage. He introduced the first act, a duo. The man lip synched to a repetitive but catchy song, while the woman danced. He was jumping all over the stage, but she looked expressionless behind large sunglasses, moving in an economical but cool way in rhythm to the pounding beat. Her metallic-looking copper-coloured wig caught the sunlight as she smooched on the spot. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the sound system and the music speeded up and became distorted. The duo gamely tried to carry on, but the DJ pulled the plug and they left the stage to less than rapturous applause.
The next act was two lads, one dressed in yellow, the other in red, but this time they both cavorted across the stage, each rapping away passionately. The audience enjoyed this and I could see arms being waved and fists punching the air closer to the stage. The women with babies just looked on impassively. And the dusty little boys kept playing in the dirt.
Without shade, it was becoming uncomfortably hot and I was about to leave when the next group mounted the truck stage. Again, it was a duo. A boy wearing a red “Levi’s” tee-shirt was serenade-rapping* a pretty girl wearing a purple tank top and tight red skirt. I asked a local for a translation of the lyrics, which went something like this: I didn’t have a girlfriend, then I met you and you are all I need.
Instead of appearing bored and cool, like the dancer in the first act, this girl was putting in much more effort, especially below the waist. Her upper body swayed to and fro with the beat, her arms moving in rhythm. But her pelvis was gyrating spectacularly. The boys in the front row were very impressed and roared their approval. She became more animated and turned her shapely buttocks to the lads and let rip. Now we are not talking Pippa Middleton here, more Beyonce plus. It reminded me of a Les Dawson phrase, “Two small boys fighting underneath a blanket”. Certainly each buttock appeared to have independent suspension. Forget Elvis the Pelvis, this lady could really stretch her sacro-iliac ligaments, bumping and grinding. She knew she had the male section of the audience in the palm of her hand. Perhaps I should rephrase that.
I was so impressed that I started to videotape the performance. Looking back at the footage, it is obvious from the zoomed close ups of her buttocks what I was impressed with. Unfortunately my internet connection will not allow me to upload YouTube films to the blog, otherwise you could all have an admiring peek.
When the song ended, the DJ congratulated them wildly and gestured to the audience saying something about a muzungu (white man). Half the crowd turned round to look at me and smiled. I wondered if the DJ could tell what I had been videotaping. Caught in the act.
The next act was a solo singer wearing a shirt and tie, black waistcoat and baseball cap. He was good, but he just didn’t have the moves. I was tired and dehydrated, so I left the show. When I got back home, news of my attending the talent show had already reached the lodge. “How was the show, Doc?” sniggered the senior receptionist.
Zambians don’t need talking drums to send messages anymore. It is all mobile phones and texting. When I checked my phone, there was a text from MTN (Mobile Telephone Network) saying, “Congratulations! Our love experts recommend that you get a free weekend of “Relationship Tips” by MTN! Reply with “YES” to 2010 at no cost!”
“In my dreams,” I thought.
* Serenade-rapping is a term I just made up. It describes what it says