Time in New York 4:50am; time in Cape Town 10:56pm; time in Sao-Paulo, 4:49am... but Jazz Time? Anytime.
How did I wind up here? At Matola Jazz Bar, Matola, Mozambique? Well… it’s two stories.
I’d been to Africa Bar, Maputo, in 2004, with my ex husband, and – after spending all day trying not to drink the water in a new town – downed about 18 of their awesome Caparinhas on top of a drunken seafood dinner, left at 4am and caught a 5am, 27-hour local bus to Inhambane the next day. Good memories! Dirty, but still alive.
The prostitutes may not have been there then, or I may have been too in love, naiive or drunk, or all three, to notice them then.
This time, six years later, they were there in force. Gyrating, impossibly beautiful, tragically young – and hostile.
In the toilets, four gorgeous model lookalikes in so-cheap-they’re-flammable weaves stared me down while one of them did and redid her make-up, refusing to give me a shot at the mirror. I got into Jerry Springer mode right back, cocked my head, slanted my eyes, and scored a laugh and a chance to clean up my eyeliner. Ah… African unity. The rest of the night was spent watching the girls leading nervous young European tourists out to their taxis, then returning for another willing john, to the tune of an “african” “jazz” band so kitsch that the only thing missing from the lead singer was a white jacket with an Emmental rosebud in his breast pocket.
Outside, I made fun of a polite foreigner who’d not only dared to refuse to leave the club with one of the ladies of the night, but also wanted to choose his own taxi. His polite Danish attempt to choose his own car ended in capitulation of course.
It was the kind of evening when you didn’t bother trying to get laid. Anyone you came on to would assume all the worst things, and plus you probably wouldn’t survive the first kiss.
But things started looking up when my friend Jinty – to whom I’d enthusiastically (and innocently) recommended Africa Bar – pointed out the guitarist. “Oh… he’s so beautiful…” she said in the wistful way of passionately in love married women. I’d been looking at his fingers with half my mind on sexual politics. Now I looked at his face. It was the face of the kind of guy I haven’t gone for much, but probably always should have. The kind of guy who’d really care for you, maybe even love you properly.
So when he came offstage, I came up with my best pickup line ever. “Great guitar. But can I buy your girlfriend a drink? Because she must get really sick of sitting around at gigs.”
Then, the magic words: “I don’t have a girlfriend!”
So I bought him a beer… he tried to teach me to something. I can’t dance, but he led well so I didn’t fall. Then Jinty said “I’m gonna take a taxi now…” And I panicked, as Klesyu announced he was going to the toilet. “I’m coming with you. Now!” I screamed to Jinty over the DJ’s house music, and practically dragged her out of the club.”
In the taxi, when we were almost back at our hotel Jinty asked me for the 5th time, “Are you sure you don’t want to go back?” And I replied again “Yes. I want one perfect romance… just one, Jinty, just one.” And then I thought: “But I haven’t even kissed him!”
“Turn back. Let’s turn back!” I shouted.
The taxi driver thought we were insane. But we threw money at that problem and when I walked into Africa Bar, Klesyu looked surprised and pleased to see me. We gave him our number, and promised to come see him play where he claimed he was playing Friday night. Then he left while we both downed a final Caparinha for my nerves.
And then things went pear-shaped for the first time. The taxi mafia started forcing us in the car. And I just react really badly when someone touches me without permission.
I think I might have punched a taxi-mafia guy in the face to take a renegade car – refusing to be told what to do is always my downfall. Crazy moment – I swear he actually looked scared of me, as we screeched off into the streets at 100kmph, laughing with the driver. We chatted in the car. Until, near our hotel, he suddenly slowed down.
Jinty: “Why are you slowing down?”
Him: “I don’t want to be funny but… I like you.”
Him: “No, but I like you.”
Jinty: “Nooo. (laughs) You got the wrong idea. We just want a taxi to our hotel.”
Him: “Is it cause I’m black?”
Jinty and I: “Nooooh. No we just.”
Him: “It’s cause I’m black.”
Jinty: “Stop the car!”
He slowed down, but didn’t stop. We tried to jump out. He’d locked the doors. We took one look at each other and broke out of the central locking by force. He shouted “You pay me!” and began to follow us, so Jinty threw money through the window. And then we ran, while he idles arrogantly, shouting “Byeeeee!” as if he just shagged us or something. It was a kilometre in heels (not mine, Jinty’s) to our hotel.
Motala Jazz Bar is all about the music. Most of the people there were men, and the few women there were there for the music too. After the blaxploitation of Club Afrika, it was fantastic just to be able to talk to people who were all passionate about music.
Anyhow, the next day was another story, soon to be blogged, involving an attempt at a romantic lunch with Klesyu that his arrogant cousin Xavier ruined. But Motala Jazz Bar was great the next night. Not sure whether Klesyu was ever playing, or if he was just trying to impress us. But it’s 30km out of Maputo in some industrial area. An adventure that ended in two near-arrests (not for any reason, we didn’t drink that night – the Maputo cops stop any foreign car for bribes, randomly).
But the music was worth it, and I still love that town.
The band was called Zemaria (with an acute accent on the e.)
On bass guitar, Toni Chabuca.
Drums (kit): Paito Cheko and percussion: Nelson Pateta.
Sax and flute and frontman duties by Jose Maria Daniel Mabota. A very kind man who smells good even covered in sweat.