On 7 September, Prof. Mageshen Naidoo showcased the diversity of jazz as he gave his rendition of what home feels like by performing his own compositions during the Lunch Hour Jazz Quintet at the Musaion theatre. As he performed, the influence of his music filled the room with subtleties of his gospel, RnB, and funk roots. Through his music, Naidoo invited the audience to share in significant moments of his musical journey.
Prof. Naidoo’s journey began with “Small Feat”, a piece he had written as a student in response to John Colbane’s Giant Steps. Through “Small Feat”, he transported the audience to a little jazzy restaurant somewhere fantastical. This piece places the audience into a transational moment when time seems comfortably endless. There is no past, nor future, simply the present emphasised by the swelling saxophone. An unmapped familiarity, a cinematographic moment of spacious laughter and comforting company.
As the company seems to wander and the laughter subsides, the audience is brought into a landmarked space – South Africa’s pop scene. Prof. Naidoo composed “Take Me Away” while studying in America, nostalgically drawing on his memories of watching jazz artists back home in Durban. From the first note, home is here. “Take Me Away” screams Sarafina’s glowing smile and explodes with culture and heritage. As this piece swells with richness, one cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of patriotism as one reflects on the vastness South Africa has to offer.
Prof. Naidoo continued his journey through Africa with “African Rain”, when an unexpected turn occurred. As the audience sat and paged through their programme, the title “African Rain” seemed intuitively linked to Toto’s Africa. But Prof. Naidoo’s African journey incorporated themes more ominous than Toto’s idealised Africa. As the piece progressed, the question in the audience’s mind lingered, “What’s next?” The tension was skillfully aided by the almost inaudible drum beat sprinkling down like the sound of a rising rain shower.
Filled with heavy uncertainty, I closed my eyes and feltmyself travelling away from Prof. Naidoo’s home towards my own. The beat of the drum took me back to my home, lying in my dad’s bed listening to early morning rain on the veranda’s tin roof. The drum became the perfect imitation of a rising storm, echoing the childhood memories of familiar hand claps and finger snaps during team building and camp. And then just as those memories came so smoothly, they simply floated away as the piece came to an end.
Back in Prof. Naidoo’s realm of travel, the audience took a trip, oscillating between India and South Africa with a Naidooexplored a cultural meshing of Indian and South African music. The piece began with a classic scene from traditional Indian film – a flute tracing one’s steps through a peaceful, orange landscape. And then without warning, a crossover into Prof. Naidoo’s South Africa. Just like that, the audience is back on the Durban beachfront, admiring distinctly African beaded creations. During this ongoing switch between India and Durban, the worlds begin to intertwine. Yet, even through all this travel, each individual’s ‘here’ still so obviously remains.
To ease the audience back from their thoughts, grounding listeners back to the physical, Prof. Naidoo concluded with “Baked Potato”. Inspired by Los Angeles clubs and rock and roll, this piece was unmistakably distinct. The audience returned to a Lunch Hour concert. The saxophone became an anchor latched to UP soil, even though the aim was to place you front row and centre in an LA club. The sudden change in tone, the randomness in the composition title, brought the audience back to reality. Just like that – you returned to the space you had entered 60 minutes ago, yet you returned completely changed.
Through Prof. Naidoo’s travels he explored a timeless and unanswered question – where is home? What does home mean, and what does it feel like? For Prof. Naidoo it means jazz trickling through South African streets and memories of LA clubs, cultural ties to India and nights out in fantastical restaurants.