The last time I saw Mango Groove Live was at Namibia’s independence celebrations in 1990. The town was blown away to have such a big band playing for us, the party rocked all night. I remember my Dad putting me on his shoulders so I could see and rock the night away to Special Star. My first live concert and I was 7.
This year I heard Mango Groove had totally rocked Oppikoppi and had been noted as one of the best bands of the festival. With this in mind I was really looking forward to seeing Mango Groove live again at Kirstenbosch.
My girlfriends and I packed a scrumptious picnic to enjoy between the strelitzias and the cycads in one of South Africa’s most famed gardens, Kirstenbosch Gardens for their Sunset concert series. It really is one of the most spectacular venues in South Africa, if not the world. As the clouds swirled around the mountain peaks, I saw the eastern face of Table Mountain in a totally different light. It really is spectacular to peer over the Cape Flats to the left and see the true contours of the mountain on the left.
As we nestled amongst the blankets of excited families we popped our champagne and had a little toast to summer. Josie Eveleigh of 2 Oceans radio played MC’d and ensured everyone knew the rules (no littering, no smoking) and the show began.
The band emerged and begun to fill the garden with their quintessential South African sound of sax, trumpet, deep bass lines and sweet vocals. When Claire Johnston entered the stage and received an especially loud round of applause. Mango Groove started the show with Hell Fire which I felt had been played down a little. I was sitting just behind the half way mark so I only received sound from the stage and thought the show could have been MUCH louder. Maybe I’m too used to rock shows but Hell Fire would have rocked WAY more if the sound had been louder. They did turn it up as the show went on but not by much.
Mango Groove continued to play their hits including Moments Away, Home Talk as well as dedicating a song to Madiba. I really appreciated this as they were one of few South African bands to have had a mixed race line up in a time where mixing with other races was prohibited. So their opinion and views were of interest to me, years later, in a free South Africa.
Claire Johnston is still as gracious as ever on stage, participating but not trying too hard. On our way out we even saw her signing CDs and books, I didn’t even know artists did signings at Kirstenbosch! But I always have respect for those who give back to their fans. As to be expected, the entire band has aged but that just makes me appreciate their work more. They put their money where their mouth is deliver the goods without a wild marketing scheme. Kirstenbosch hosts 5000 people at the sunset concerts and the show was sold out.
Mango Groove wrapped up with Special Star where by Johnston really showed off her vocal talents by extending phrases resulting in raised hype. Of course white people dancing is always as entertaining as the main show as wined up Mommys jumped to their feet to enjoy their Sunday afternoon. My favourite part was seeing a little girl on her father’s shoulders on the big screen and realising I had been that little girl once upon a time all those years ago.
For those of you who haven’t seen Mango Groove in years, they’re well worth the time. For those of you who haven’t been to Kirstensbosch Gardens, pick your favourite artist and GO! It’s a truly magnificent South African experience and summer in Cape Town wouldn’t be summer without the Sunset Series. Please do support them.