Special Features


(An Extract)

by Mick Raubenheimer.

Illustrations by Rynier Prins.


“It is said that writing about music is the equivalent of dancing about architecture. Mick Raubenheimer, however, grasps in Bukowskian prose the embodied, emotional and cerebral qualities of improvisation, as well as the torsions of South African music subcultures. Writing about improvised music requires the disruption of form. Using irruptive anecdotes and in capturing interruptive moments of listening, Raubenheimer comes as close as is possible to the qualities of the music itself.
Staid histories of South African jazz inevitably regulate the music. Mick Raubenheimer captures musical events in all their disruptive singularity.”

Michael Titlestad, Professor of English, WITS.



Chapter 1: Darkness pass.

i Worship at the deep aromatic situation of the wild forests of Femme which is why women love my yang. We were listening to Zappa’s Return Of The Son Of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar again because Donna loves Vinnie’s drumming.
Donna was doing strange and dangerous and delicious things to me while we were cruising through space on the N1 at 72 kmph.
Love that fucking solo.


Chapter 39: Da Funk.

We were shrooming so we had to walk a touch faster so that we got to the beach before our pumpkin turned chariot or we metamorphed into a base element of our immediate environment. Who wants to be part dead tar part manifold exhaust when you can be composed of coral and whale vagina and mermaid calcium and squid wart and Great White sperm?
We were listening to Carlo Mombelli’s Theory and he was singing a song of deep loss and transformation through the bass and Siya Makuzeni’s gifted vox. She always insisted we share earphones (she left, mono, me right mono) so that we were half in/ half out the outer environment and inner earspace.
‘Llandudno,’ she mouthed, the corners of her mouth perking up like the cutest shit you ever done seen. Her pussy was alive in covert traces and hues and spark and codes hid along the public contours of her physical soul by a naughty god. Her mouth, though neutral when neutral, became a PG-13 vagina when she was coy or smiling implatonically or plain chuckling. When she orgasms that mouth goes full punani – a pinkly pink cavern brimming with newly erogenous, stark white teeth and lolling, massively sexy tongue creature like sex manifest – crashing and tumbling from calciate riverbank to splashing salival waves all electricitous circuitry of taste and hormones and naked wet texture. Lolling crashing burning licking sucking. Her mouth is so snug that when she fellates me I visualize tactilely her entire oral chamber filling up – pink tonguebeast mute pushed flat and liquid and squirming, teeth violently ignored in my must – with my hot strain, its angered, pulsating arteries. My dangerous head full of humming ideas and creamed lightning.
We got there just in time, Mombelli’s prior album, ‘Me the mango picker’, gently plucked out of our ears behind ears. The beach was near abandoned. Perfect.
Clasping anticipant hands we giggled like tiny newborn gods and became the beach respectively – a new, vast, sonorously silent organism from two distinct angles.
Later at home we tried desperately to make love and dismally, cataclysmically failed and laughed till the world giggling hurt. Our bodies were not yet ours again. We ate Chili Cheese Nax, then later succeeded in building the complexity that was 2-minute noodles – an epiphany of palatic sophistication. Then went for a fond, slow stroll.
I love that woman loads.


Chapter 555: Hard Hat Jive.

Keenan Ahrends and Reza Khota were communing with their respective gods via 2x 6 strings (1x electric 1x semi-acoustic fretted with ellipse and potent semi-colon) with just the tonight particularly snaky Jonno Sweetman on drums. Swathes of sound somnambulent like Klimt conducting some sex-starved Moroccan princess’ dreams via metallic tones. Sexy and abstract. Scary and inviting as Monica Bellucci uncrossing and recrossing humming legs in a simple, tight cut, off-white matt skirt.
I squeeze her hand quickly and she leans over, a hot mess of murmur in my right ear, “your place.” Which was code for manly man sex – fond manhandlement and such – bare, bruised furniture. Sofa crunched into a corner; mangled sweaty rug or carpet or whatever. My place was scantily furnished. Music and food and obstacles over and through and across which to tumble the howling. My upper thighs and triceps would be talking for days. For daze.
Lovers leave temporal auras on oneother, when they care (to) – lingering scent; ebbing throbbing remnants of pain or ache; snarls on skin; heart’s lament or missing; random bursts of vivid mnemony. So we ornament the Other with our traces, weakening or diluting or negatively dilating the trespass of others.
Reza Khota is my favourite South African guitarist, hands up, and I do not ken exactly why. It has I hazard to do with two things – a capacity for self-immolation or immediate transcendence (flipsides of the phoenix’ essential verb) and a more mysterious and hid agency. Something which dodgy but arcane and anciently talented Hollywood agents refer to, simply, as It.


Chapter 33: While you were out.

Four at night.

On occasion she
goes to bed around
her bed is
a sacred space
gentle ting
soft humming aromas
the quiet sweat of her forehead
in fore thought and quizzical hind
the eternal yum
{twee sterre het ek meneer}
{wil meneer lees?}
the soft pink scent
when she’s
dreamt of yellow
oliphants cradling the moon as some kind of man with a stark erection
singing her menacing songs sinistral
to moist danger blossom that wild sacred cycle which brings focused blood and matter when no child yawns wildly in
The slight,
behind Both
her knees
(she has two legs {ke a leboga Modimo!} and
somewhere they meet like making love is a geo
graphed an
{inkosi Nkulunkulu!}
She goes to bed at eleven sometimes just
so she may
wake at
and sit
on the merry lawn
(midnight’s ants rambling some code en route to that particular plant no man will ever ken the name of)
And smile
at the friendly young moon


Chapter 40: Digital inability.

The crowd was talking over the music like it was some eight-year old kid they were pointedly ignoring. Indignation stifled my breathing and I tried to look straight ahead so as not to let Ngwedi see the flush of disgust on my face. When someone at some vague, now throbbing coordinate to my back and left laughed out loud in the middle of Alex Boza’s lead I flinched or spasmed visibly.
“You okay bud?”
I could not look at her and mumbled something about a cigarette and stood up and left pursuing some invisible vent with my irreal ciggie.
The fact that Tagores and Straight No Chaser had closed shop within the same fortnight had been a morose, ominous omen. The weird cream of SA’s musical avant-garde were forced to play to coincidental audiences. To me this was a sacrilege of holy, unspoken laws.
When I returned she kissed my still hot cheek sweetly and squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry, they’re oblivious.”
Ngwedi was not stating the obvious fact of the ignorantly insensitive gathered. She was coaxing me to note that – and it snapped suddenly and beautifully into focus – the band was in self-salient space and untouched by the casual snickering and WhatsApping and arguing and snogging and chomping and gossiping pockets and belches of people.
I joined her in basking in Benguela’s beautifully drunken boat churning through hallucinant seas and blind, dreaming currents.
“Thanks babely,” I kissed atop her forehead.
That evening I made her a wonky and ambitious four-course meal abstracted by marijuana and we watched Arrested Development Season 2 till we died. “…dollar suit. COME ON!!!”


Chapter 14: In the woods tonight.

Me and Jo were attending Tony Cox’s latest Guitar in the Woods workshop, which was to be followed by a tiny, kinda-secret-though-he-did-inform-students-via-newsletter mini performance of his first, newliest instrumental work since the delightful steep into singer-songwriter territory ‘Enormous flowers’. We had secretly signed up not so much to have our morose, several left-footed fingers be sympathetically taught by his elegantly fretted mind, but to experience the new material unfurling in the woods, at night, and stuff.
Tony’s album ‘Looking for Zim’ kinda threw a spanner into my young, pompous belief at 16 that ‘True Jazz, Good Jazz, cannot come from Africa, much less South Africa.’ Dustiest funk I ever did hear up until that moment and a long while after in spliced time/space. And the title track’s Hanmer break is still one of my favouritest Jazz piano moments ever. Hands down. Feets in the air.
Maita Basa Mr. Cox!
[ Postscript, pre-concert:
Jo: “So.. isn’t the mini-gig supposed to start soon?”
Mick: “Look for the tree with the most generous girth.”
Jo: “Speak English boy.”
Mick: “Look for the tree with the widest trunk.”
Jo: “{rolls lovely green eyes} okay then what?”
Mick: “Then wait for the plumes of thick blue smoke.”
Jo: “Oh shit. I see it!”
Mick: “That’s Tony. Gig starts in three minutes.”]


Chapter 17: A forest became.

The day remains vividly impressed into the nape of what some might call my romantic soul. Weather Report’s deliciously funky but bordering on kitsch album Heavy Weather was playing in the background (in the selective dimensions of my memory, the record was looped throughout the ecstatic ordeal) – it was my first exposure to Pastorius’ slinky, phat, over-the-top yet supremely justified playing – and this was my focus while she was, invisibly behind me somewhere, coaxing a tiny happy joint into definition. She supped fleetingly on my bobbing earlobe and said that word in that way that only erotically self-conscious women can: “Come..” I turned around and grinned at her face – oddly expressionless, save for a far-off twinkle in the eyes. She stood up, dressed in my Soundgarden SuperUnknown t-shirt and nothing but. She walked off, a touch slower than necessary, towards the patio, and for a swaying moment I studied the movement of her hips, before following like some mute beast of worship.
The high started off in a silly zone, us giggling about the cartwheeling absurdity of the universe and its oddly phenomena, me doing wonky, mildly strenuous dances to the measured cacophony coming from the record player inside. I only subconsciously noted a stillness within or behind her chuckling form with its self-conscious bounty self-consciously obscured – half a swell of left breast here, the negative space of her lovely tummy there, the happy riding of my shirt’s bottom seam along her upper thighs. As my eyes began focusing more on her concealed curves and swerves my merry mania began slowing down and the banter itself quietened. Only Zawinul remained, very faintly, audible somewhere in some galaxy far far behind us.
She smiled brightly, kissed me on my forehead (a first), stood up and wandered into the lounge, me following on some hidden leash.
It was the first time I had sex stoned. I stood staring at her bending over (knowingly naked under my cozy tee) to put on some unknown (though it was mine), similarly funky record, I didn’t hear much at this point because she – through some occult radiation available to all sensual women and only certain men – was suffusing the air.
We became a creature of many and moving scented limbs and mouths, and she became a forest. A forest of skin and me lost and finding dizzy more intensities of flavour and pheromone and textural moistures and somewhere strange, familiarly haunting sounds which I chased with my cock, drawing nearer and nearer through volume. We fucked for hours, drenched in each’s other but time had slipped out back and what remained was purely spatial, like matter minus time plus suspense. I don’t follow math.
We broke up two years later, my only amicable fall-out.


Chapter 20: I sank into the night.

There was a foreboding aspect to the evening air standing outside Tagores sharing a spliff with some guy with a menacing scar I was itching to ask about. In telepathic response, just before we headed in, having shared very few words and little eye contact, he scratched it. Once inside we bumped fists (he had the overgrown knuckles of a man who has stood over many a felled foe) and parted ways, but as he turned away to disappear into the slight but motley crowd he mumbled something about someone going to burn. These parting words didn’t concern me until they started bothering me, fed by bubbles of paranoia gathering at the base of my back. Who was going to burn? Were they going to burn literally, and why? Or did he mean the band? It was the Benjamin Jephtha quartet with a UK-based guy called Shabaka Hutchings as soprano sax guest.
The opening tracks, lazily undulating, with an inspired bass solo from Jephtha on the third, calmed my nerves. And then a seemingly eight-foot tall Hutchings stepped into the spotlight and proceeded to slaughter. The onslaught was not crude, this guy knew what he was doing, but it felt contrapuntal to the composition framing him – at odds with the then laid-back vibe of the quartet. I suddenly understood what Mr. Sinister had said and mild paranoia turned into a kinda anxious giddiness. During his third solo, on the second track he featured on, he had smelted the band into his zone – all out melodic audacity and tightly leashed rhythmic tourettes. Visual hallucinations started filtering the tiny crowd out – occasional flashes of stark light blue interrupting ffwd narratives of jungle chases alternating between the perspectives of prey/hunter.
After the gig (between the two five-track sets I just sat on the floor and inhaled mottled oxygen) I stepped out for a sweating cigarette. “Mick!!” a familiar feminine voice called out. We embraced fondly – I hadn’t seen Ngwedi in three months. “Christ,” I muttered. “Jeazus,” she confirmed. After a brief exchange during which she told me about Hutchings’ Sons of Kemet we were in my car, Me’Shell Ndegecello’s ‘Peace Beyond Passion’ pretending not to watch as I delicately placed a fingertip of precum into her mouth and she literally squirmed in her seat, “My boyfriend is picking me up in ten.”
I slipped two fingers into her mouth as she hungrily unzipped me.
I sank into the friendly night.


Chapter 177: Theory.

Carlo Mombelli was regaling the assembled with a meandering anecdote of a dream he’d had about Henri Matisse as an Nguni herdsman eating weird roots with the Moon in the mysteries of morning in Kwaz Lowlands.
I was distracted because her hips kept bumping against mine gently and almost peripherally – a startling, unpredictable metronome triggering disturbingly visual flashbacks from the eve/morn before into the tiny, vibrantly focused mind of my phallus.
“Ass for days.”
She said that around 02:13 going on 05:47 – my mouth was no longer lingual – stuffed as it was with trembling, poison-gilted bouquets feeding off my salival voluptuity.
“Pharmakon – the root of the term pharmaceutical – is an ancient eskimo legend wherein it is written on whatever it is that they write it on down there that Poison is Medicine and Medicine Poison, just depends on the When. Come smoke my Herb.”
“Maybe less with the talk for a bit, m’kay?” I pleaded,
then said: “Bring me your forests.” (in baritone.)


Chapter 10: Jo.

A sunlit spot appeared in the humid lineaments of nocturnal time. We looked at each other in complete, platonic peace, only our sweat-radiant faces belying our primal wrestling from a moment (season) before. She gave a quick, small smile, like a nod, and we dove back into ecstatic war until morning alarms rang the bell to force us into our respective corners of the amorous ring. Her left leg spilt over my breathing, supine shoulder, our chests slowly settling into heated peace. Sacra glowing.
Once the sun slid us back into conscious awareness she yawned herself upright and declared a picnic was on the menu. In between mouthfuls of fruit and gorgeously layered toasted sandwiches and the obligatory cheeses and calamatas we argued guitar solos. She loved the electric crescendos of what I called pedestrian Rock guitar solos, precisely, she said, because of their predictability, “like the last leg towards orgasm.. Sure it’s essentially Pop formula but I love the crackling distortion and whoops of electric guitar solos.” She considered Jazz, specifically avant-garde Jazz, in terms of general improv-allowing composition and especially soloing to be mere meandering wankery. “There’s just no cumshot.”
I kept my retort to myself and we just looked at each other, bodies humming as we realized the nearby mumblings of fellow picnickers had slipped away and that we had subconsciously chosen a spot obscured by deep trees. She pulled off her pink Gummi Bears t-shirt.