by Sebenzile Langa
Being a classically trained Tenor Saxophonist means I have been on stage more times than I can remember. This was different though.
Being invited to Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States of America to interpret the Faces and Phases series and Somnyama Ngonyama photo series both produced by Zanele Muholi was way different. I was called to merge song and voice to the series’ in ways that was different. You would have to walk around and wonder what type of music do we listen to, and as Muholi says when taking pictures, “there’s nothing funny about being a lesbian.” I know there’s nothing funny about being a woman. Being the only female Tenor Saxophonist in The Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company, being a music teacher not only for the cognitive development of the child but also to pass on this skill that has brought me here; hoping my learners go even further than I ever will.
Just before going on stage my final thoughts were, “I take you serious, Zanele Muholi, the Inkanyiso team, the audience, the FotoFocus Personae exhibition. Thobeka Bhengu, as you move and dance to my voice, the voice I give to the lesbians on these walls, so serious they look, you can tell they take their lives seriously as well and they take every day as hard and easy as it may be.” I take myself serious, everywhere we are even when we having the time of our life, it’s never a joke. I think maybe we will have to account for what we have done, for walking our truth and reflect who we really are inside when we see those women that make our hearts skip a beat; two women in love.
At times life feels like a staccato, short and detached, but here we are one. And this is my voice to celebrate the life, love and being thankful to have made it this far. I hope life treats you like royalty, because you have been shown to the world majestically.
Before The Performance
It is hard to believe that I have put my foot so far from home.
It’s quiet here, very quiet almost too quiet. Feels like all of my senses are working at the same time. I’ve done more creative thinking here than I do in a day back home. As a first time visitor in this country, so far America isn’t hype; however Cincinnati in Ohio is beyond gorgeous.
Being one of the musical capitals, it’s no wonder no one asked me if I was carrying a piano while I walked downtown listening to the buzz in the city. Everything is where it should be and the place is so clean. However it’s a bit awkward at times when I forget about the pigmentation of my skin. Funny enough it’s not something I’m constantly thinking of or aware of as a black music teacher leaving in the suburbs of South Africa.
I’ve noticed that with the Black Lives Matter and black killings going on, people are more sensitive to us as black people. The people are friendly and accommodating and I think they are more excited about us being from Africa than we are. I miss my husbian, my kids and especially South African food, but even more I miss tea.
I’d like to see the parks where they have replaced the old jungle gyms with outdoor musical instruments, the zoo, botanical garden and lots of parks. Mostly there are music concerts in summer here in Cincinnati. Although we are in autumn, it is still very hot here. I would absolutely love to see a live musical performance and visit a music shop.
I took a walk in the neighbourhood we are in, I don’t think people could tell we came far to be here, we probably seemed more like the new neighbours. I understood why my father was so excited about this trip. My ancestors have never set foot so far.
I’m alive from Ohio Cincinnati, hello world.
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