|Posted by Egonne Roth on April 15, 2017 at 1:45 PM|
Shortly after I joined the Facebook page “South Africans in Berlin”, there was a message of a gig announced to be played by a Gauteng group called Thabang Tabane | Sibusile Xaba at a café called Prachtwerk.
I listened to them on YouTube and decided it would be fun. I googled Prachtwerk – directly translated ‘wonderful creation’ and discovered they were in Neukölln, Berlin and that they have created an art/music/cultural space where concerts in different musical genres happen several times a week, where artist can exhibit and where people from all the different cultural communities who live in the area can find a living room to relax in. As owners John and Steff worded it, “we want to create a space where people find a place to connect with each other, a place of peace and beauty.” I was curious to see it for myself and given that bus 101 runs from directly where I am staying to just about outside their front door, I decided to go.
In the late afternoon light, the outside tables promised that spring and summer were coming but for today I would hurry in – the wind was still cold. Inside, I was struck first of all by the feeling of light and space and welcome.
People smiled as though they were happy I had come and as I watched I noticed this was a pattern – it had nothing to do with me but reflected their positive attitude; it reflected the philosophy of the owners. Imagine my surprise when, as I walked over to the counter to order a coffee a light system that I had pinned in Pinterest, was on the wall in front of me and it was even more beautiful in reality that on the screen. How could I use that in my living room?
At various places people with sitting talking, reading, working on their computers. The decorations were quiet but effective with large holders of fresh flowers that added to this warm atmosphere
As I sat down at one of the little coffee tables, one of the band members walked past and I engaged him in conversation. He was delighted to hear that there would also be some South Africans in the audience and when he heard that I actually live in Israel, he immediately asked if I thought a gig or two could be arranged for the group – I promised to enquire. He told me his father was the well-known guitarist, Dr Phillip Tabane, who has mentored the group and so I realised I was chatting to the leader of the group, Thabang Tabane. He was excited and happy to be playing in Berlin and we laughed about how cold it was and different from home, but how warm the welcome.
He went off to prepare for the evening’s performance and I noticed a book lying in front of a couple at the adjoining table. “Would you mind if I look at this?” I asked and the woman turned to me with a friendly smile. “O, you must. It is very good. I suggest you read the piece by Jeanette Winterson,” she said and handed me the book. “It belongs to the café, so take it!” I sat down to read what she had recommended. The whole book was writers’ thoughts on books, reading, libraries and their value. Winterson writes, “There is no substitute for reading… A book is a door; on the other side is somewhere else.” She’s right. It is reading that has brought me to where I am now.
Slowly the place filled up: the faces and accents told me the audience would be very representative of the area – Spanish, Korean, German, American, British, maybe Caribbean, I was not sure, though few Turkish people – Neukölln has a large Turkish population. It was a good-sized audience by the time the rhythms of Africa began to surge through the room. Another South African joined me and I commented to her that it reminded me of sitting in front of the Cape Town museum where groups of musicians spontaneously seemed to appear and give impromptu concerts out in the midday sun.
What struck us both was the incredible joy of music and of their engagement with each other that flowed between the four musicians: Thabang Tabane – percussion & vocals, Sibusile Xaba – guitar & vocals, Dennis Magagula also on percussion and Sakhile Twala on bass. They were simply having a ball and as a result so were the audience.They invited the audience to dance if they felt like it and at the side a few people moved to the music but mostly they had the audience’s rapt attention and got enthusiastic applause.
By the time we were ready leave, I felt that I had found a place where I would enjoy spending the odd afternoon or evening with friends or alone with a book, reading and writing.