12 July 2009

Hugh Masekela live in Mataró

Whilst out Nordic walking along the waterfront near our apartment, we go past several advertising pillars adorned with posters advertising upcoming events in and around Barcelona.

One of them happened to catch my eye as I recognised a familiar name to our household. Under the 6 headline acts ran a couple of small lines with the name of other musicians who were playing at the Cruïlla de Cultures 2009 Festival of Music. Hugh Masekela's name was the second on the first line.

Excitedly, I pointed his name out to J who, as a longtime fan of Masekela's, immediately looked up the concert details when we got home.

The concert was July 10th in Mataró. We had to look up Google Maps to see where that was! It turns out to be a town further up the coast from Barcelona, and only 4 stops away from our nearest railway station. The most difficult part was returning home, as the trains would have stopped by the time the concert was over, and only hourly night buses would be running.

We took the chance. After coming home and drying off after watching a wet Tour de France go through the city, we hopped on the train and headed for Mataró, passing through seaside towns with great beaches and large marinas.

Arriving and with map in hand, we walked about 1.5kms from the station to the venue, through shopping and residential areas before crossing a major road into a light industrial zone. Just as we were beginning to think that we had made a wrong turn, we came across the venue.

Sala Clap has been in operation for 16 years and is an institution for nightlife in the region. We approached the ticket seller at the door and asked if we had the right venue for Hugh Masekela. Upon confirmation, we paid for our tickets and headed back out to the bar next door for a quick beer and something to eat before the concert started at 9pm. The hamburgers - long bread roll with some sort of processed meat pattie - were not what hamburgers usually look like, but they were ok and cheap, as was the Estrella Damm beer.

9pm, and we wandered back into Sala Clap, buying a couple of beers which cost us more than the beers and burgers at the bar next door. Ouch! Why do venues do this? If the prices were lower, they would surely sell more. During the whole concert, we saw more people not drinking than those who bought anything - it was too expensive at €4 per beer.

The opening act was Raynald Colom. An acclaimed trumpet player, Raynald was born in France but has lived most of his life in Cataluña.

He and his group performed an accomplished and polished set that, to our ears, was perhaps lacking a bit of soul and grit. Still, it was great to hear some local musicians - our first taste of this since coming to live here.

Hugh Masekela was next, and we welcomed him onto the stage with rapturous applause. I could see his bass player staring out into the venue and shaking his head in disbelief. I felt for them, because a quick scan of the venue revealed less than 100 people in the audience. For a man like Hugh, packing out Carnegie Hall in NYC and sold-out concerts to 75,000 people back in South Africa are not uncommon.

Yet, he got on with it - playing his flügelhorn with practised ease; eking the best out of the shining instrument and playing his signature notes which sent thrills running through us. J was spellbound. She couldn't believe that we were listening to and seeing her idol, and that we were standing less than 5 meters from the stage.

The septuagenarian blew the horn, bopped his body, drummed a cowbell, shook his cabaça and poured his heart into every song. Old familiars such as "Bring him back Home" (anthem for Nelson Mandela) and "Stimela" (Coal Train) sang out as true as any of his recordings - even better as we could see him as well as listen.

Nearly 2 hours later, Hugh and his band left the stage. Despite lengthy clapping, calls for more, and whistles from the small, yet fully engaged crowd, an encore wasn't given. However, we left the venue on a high, J still unable to believe that we had seen Hugh Masekela - and for only €19 per ticket.

Hurrying back to the train station, we caught the bus (the N82) back to Barcelona and were safely home by 2am.

After me seeing a longtime favourite Cesária Évora (the barefoot diva) in Melbourne last year, J has now also seen one of hers. As a plus, through our research we have discovered that J and Hugh share the same birthday and Cesária's is one day after mine. We're happy peoples!


meg said...

wow! great story and great photos!http

nzm said...


The images were taken with my little Canon G5 as I didn't risk taking the 5D2. Halfway through Hugh's set, I got asked (by the club security) to not take photos, so as I knew that I had some good ones already, I complied!

Rob said...

Great pictures! Missed that one, wasn't free this evening. And yeah, transport by night can be quite a nightmare if you venture a bit out of town.

nzm said...

Rob - especially when the Festival website tells you the wrong bus number! Luckily we worked it out that it was the N82 and not the N80 that we had to catch!

Omar said...

To have listened to Hugh Masekela 'Live'! That is an experience that I would very much love to have.

nzm said...

Omar: it was an honour and a privilege to hear him. We were so blessed!

Pandabonium said...

Wonderful. A great musician. When it was hip to be hep, he was hep. Haven't listened to him in a very long time as never replaced all my LPs with CDs. To hear him live must have been magical.

Word Verification: "saust" - what one gets after a few too many drinks.