Meanwhile my sister Thandeka complained about getting my shirt collars white enough for my ‘white’ school. Mocked me for my changing accent. But in fact, more than half the boarding school was black. Even if they were not kids from shacks on the outskirts of Soweto.
She was already a bitter woman, my sister, even though she was only twenty-one back then.
I quoted to her from a Michael Jackson song: I don’t wanna spend my life being a colour. She just snorted and went on rubbing my shirt collars in the Omo foam. I don’t think she understood what I was trying to say.
Miss Heywood, seductive Miss Heywood of the boarding school, was teaching me a little pop and folk music on the side. Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan and Vusi Mahlasela and Taylor Swift and Sam Smith.
“You need to be well-rounded, Josh. You need to experience what is magnificent in all types of music. A lover must know all aspects of his beloved.”
I suppose Thandeka was bitter that I was leaving her behind. There in the shack, while I moved on from the boarding school. While I got myself a full, all-inclusive scholarship to UCT, thanks to Miss Heywood and my boarding school Headmaster.
“One day,” I promised Thandeka, “one day when I am rich and famous and playing the piano all over the world, I will buy you a beautiful house in the suburbs.”
But she wasn’t keen on living in the suburbs. In the end, when I was rich and famous for those few short years, I bought her a beautiful house in Soweto. It didn’t stop her being bitter.
The University of Cape Town gathered me in her arms and exposed me to new worlds of music that I had never dreamed possible. Mostly courtesy of my Music professor, Prof van Jaarsveld.
Prof van Jaarsveld of the busy eyebrows and wrinkles deep as canyons, even back then. Professor van Jaarsveld and his burning passion for Brahms. And for the crescendo.
Crescendo. It is an Italian word, as most musical terms are. In Music dictionaries, it is defined as, ‘Getting gradually louder’. But that definition doesn’t do it justice, not the way my Prof did.
There in the sound-proofed music rooms of the university, the Prof and I ignored all the mayhem and aggression outside. While he guided me through the crescendo finale of a Brahms piece.
“Build it up, Josh. From nothing. From softest pianissimo. Slowly, stroke by stroke, beat by beat. Steady and relentless, hold that rhythm. Controlled force, power withheld until – faster faster accelerando oooooooooo – yes, now, Josh. Now! Full power, reach deep and grab everything within you! Explode into that crescendo, Josh. Reach that climax of sound and passion. Empty yourself totally. Leave nothing behind …”
Well, you get the idea! Not much difference between a musical crescendo and a sexual orgasm. If you will pardon me mentioning it.
Often, I would leave the sound-proofed music room to join Lisa. Or Marietta. Or Nomvula. Up on the dark slopes behind Rhodes Memorial. Sound-proofed by trees. Building these eager young women up, from softest pianissimo, slowly, stroke by stroke, holding the rhythm steady and relentless … well, you get the idea.
And then came the overseas gigs that Prof van Jaarsveld organized for me. I was a curtain-raiser at first. The European agents always billed me: ‘Josh Zondo, Son of Soweto’.
Somehow that slogan appealed to their northern, melanin-challenged sensibilities. There were several video shorts on their TV stations: my dark African-born fingers stroking white keys. And slowly I moved up the programme. Until, by the summer of 2032, I was often the star attraction. Yes, the star attraction of overseas concert halls.
The star attraction of overseas hotel rooms too! Let me be frank here. Many northern maidens wanted a taste of Soweto’s son. Helga. And Isolde. And Marjaleena. And Francoise. All whispering and climaxing in their various languages.
Oui, Josh! Tres bien!
Si por favor, Josh! Esto es maravilloso!
Five-star luxury hotels too! With cable TV and bar-fridges stocked with courtesy drinks.
But always I came back to Soweto between tours, always keeping in touch with my roots and my sister. Bringing her gifts from far-away places. While all she gave me in return were snide comments. More bitter mocking.
The party ended though. For me. For everyone. Sometime in the summer of 2036. By then the world had become too dangerous. Normal life had ceased.
Earth no longer ran on oil or money – it ran on blood. Spilled blood.
Which was the reason why the Luthanians arrived on our planet. In the Northern summer of 2038.
Tell us: Can you imagine your future? What do you think your life will be like in 25 years?