Mozambique, with Neco Novellas

by stevenkamperman on 25/06/2013

NecoTelevisionI must admit I turn a little bit nervous suddenly: one day before Neco Novellas and me are supposed to leave for Mozambique, we finally get the approval of the Dutch Fund of Performing Arts that we can go because they will pay the tickets. But we did not yet complete anything in terms of tickets and in my case: vaccinations….


When we buy the tickets, it turns out that the best flight for us is going through Kenia. But in Kenia there is yellow fever. And for that reason Mozambique officially demands that you have a yellow fever vaccination, even if you only pass through transit in such a country. So I go through quite some hassle to get my injection just before leaving. But offcourse absolutely no one at the Mozambique border even asks for it.

And then when we really arrive in Maputo, what Neco says all the time turns out true: it is winter, so there are hardly no mosqituos. And somebody else tells me that anyway malaria in the city itself is extremely rare. So maybe I could have done without the expensive malaria pills as well…

We have a nice two room apartment in the beautiful old center where we are supposed to play our concert at the festival: the Centro Cultural Franco-Mozambicano. A nice complex, designed by the French company of Eiffel, recognizeable by some beautiful metal constructions. The only place for artistic music and dance in Maputo, surviving on a budget provided by the French government. Donc merci La France, dankjewel Nederlands Fonds Podiumkunsten!!!

On the afternoon of arriving, we are supposed to appear on a press conference. Though I am sitting at the table, I understand nothing of the conversation, since everything is in Portugese. But little by little I start to see that Neco still is very well known in Mozambique, even though he left the country some eighteen years ago and did not play here afterwards. People stop him in the street to tell him how much they love his songs. Next day we start with a live appearance on the television, as a duo. Everybody wants a photo with him, funny. Neco explains me later that when he was still living here, 20 years ago, he won a singer competiton on television. And consequently he had four huge hits, of which we play one on the television show (I knew of nothing!).

The rest of the day we rehearse with the local musicians that are going to form the band. Really nice musicians; there is a lot of talent in Maputo with a lot of energy in their playing and in maintaining the exhausting quantity of about 5 gigs a week (!!!!).

Next day, on the day of the festival, I see some really surprising acts, such as some jugglers, who play percussion with their juggling balls. Quite impressive! The hall is packed for our concert, some 500 people, of which quite many of them can still sing the lyrics of one of Neco’s hits. Which offcourse we play.



Though it is nice during the day and there is a beautiful sun, many Mocambiqeans consider it quite cold and stay inside. Whereas in summer the streets are packed and the traffic is quite unpenetratable, now there are little trafiic jams and you can see where you walk. Which is no excessive luxury, because every 20 meters there is either a very bad pavement, a pile of dirt or some big hole in the street where you can easily step into and more or less disappear. A typical case of TIA – a new expression I learn – ‘This Is Africa; don’t wonder’. While walking in the streets the next thing that strikes is that there is a serious garbage problem here. Everywhere there are piles, and it amazes me that I did not yet see any rats on them. Basic problems that should be resolved immediately, but just keeps being unsolved.

But thanks to a small political history lesson, I start to get a glimpse of the complexity of all the problems. After the civil war that ended some 20 years ago,  the situation is still quite unstable: even now the different parties still compete, and though the black socialist Mozambiquan government has been in charge ever since the end of the war, their power is still being challenged by the formers ‘white’ powers, who lost many posessions. Just recently there have been committed new political murders. Compare Dutch political problems to this, and you can only laugh stupidly.

Our second and third concert take place on the same night. First we play in a place called Mbuve. When I first see the stage and no lighting, I get a rather sad impression. But then they turn just one spotlight one, and the whole place starts to live. The concert is really nice, the band is interacting good, and we are really playing with the material. After the concert, some Portuguese girls just cannot stop saying ‘muito bonito, muito bonito’ to me, but because of my very bad Portuguese the conversation does not really come off… After the concert, Neco and I move quickly to the next stage, being the Africa Lounge club, a posh place on the beach with only four wheel drives on the parking place. There we perform a set within the concert of Mozambiquan celebrity Steward Sukuma. He has a cooking band, with kick ass musicians, and a great show going on. I enjoy our own performance a lot: both Neco and me are really loose, and it is like we are two puppets manipulated by the same player. This is a really promising start for our duo!

After these two shows, I am  really tired and luckily the next they we are off. After seeing some beautiful architecture in Maputo, our friends Bea and Roberto take us to eat delicious dishes at a beach club, seeing a perfect moon rise. They say the devil is in the details, I would say the heaven is in it.













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