It is two, heavy, empty weeks later when this guy from Laos comes to UCT to moderate our final pieces. I’m facing a red brick wall, strumming at the air, practising my chords to try and soothe my fear, when I smell lemons in the passage. I spin around. Lisa has stopped in mid stride, staring at me. She smiles awkwardly.
Someone nudges her from behind. She keeps walking but her eyes betray a flash of sorrow. I stare at her fingertips, loose and helpless at her side as she walks away from me. It feels like she has an invisible wire wound around them, drawing me towards her. I stumble after her and grab her hand. I squeeze it too hard. Our pulses seem to crash violently, then synchronise.
“I want to jam with you,” I say. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer.” I shrug. “I’m just … it’s just a shock.”
I don’t need to say anything more.
“Me too! Weird, isn’t it?” Her grin is beautiful.
I point at the door. “My turn to be scared.”
“That man from Laos?”
I nod, swallow.
“You’ll kill it,” she says. She tries to kiss me on the cheek but she gets my chin.
We laugh like children.
Lisa nods, serious. “Just do your thing.”
And I do. I do my thing, powered by Lisa’s stubborn trust, her sweet confidence in me.
I play full force in the choruses, soft and soulful in the quieter parts. I let my guitar laugh in the syncopated bits, let it sob, heartbroken, mourning the lives of the people who died under apartheid. I play a solo, but it could be played by seven men.
The music teacher from Laos is blown away.
“This is one to watch,” he says to my lecturer. He turns to me, “Langa, you play like you are …” He shakes his head, wondering. “… channelling the feelings from the old townships.”
I shake his hand in a dignified manner. “That’s my mission.”
I have just earned my distinction, I know this without a shadow of a doubt. I will qualify for a bursary to do honours next year. I drift from the room, almost sick with happiness.
Lisa has disappeared from the passage. I switch on my phone. She has left a text.
See you later. Xxx (on the chin)
I laugh freely in the red brick corridor.
It won’t be easy, I know this. I will build my mastery of Marabi and always be true to its emotional beauty.
And Lisa and I will make such unusual, gorgeous music that our mothers will be silenced by it.
That’s what we do.
Together we jam, we rock, we drum, we pluck at the heart strings of our guitars.
We play soccer on Saturdays.
One day we will tour the country, one day the earth.
This is the story of Black Mozart.
It started with a rock.
Tell us: What do you think of the way this author describes Langa and Lisa’s guitar playing?
Would you be ‘shocked’, find it strange, to fall in love with someone a different skin colour or culture to you? Have you ever?