It was such an honour for me to be asked to participate in last month’s Shift Online art festival hosted by the Unmute Dance Co from Artscape Theatre. I’ve been impressed by the online performances shown on the YouTube channel throughout November. They have featured some talented artists from across Africa and the world and, of course, from here in South Africa. So it was really special for me to be asked to contribute to the festival.
There were two segments focusing on my work. The first was a mini-documentary that was premiered on Sunday, 29 November, which featured videos of me talking about my work as a singer/songwriter, author and motivational speaker.
Themba Mbuli, Creative Director of Unmute Dance Co, was responsible for putting the content together into a mini-documentary, and he did a really great job.
Here’s the link to the mini-documentary: https://youtu.be/l50KD6d8f5o
A second segment was released on the penultimate day of the festival, Wednesday, 2 December and featured me talking about how I wrote one of my songs – Here Be Dragons – and a little about how I play keyboard. Also featured in that segment was a solo performance from Lone Loh.
Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/f0CUpXmC0J0
I can’t even begin to think of how challenging it must have been to produce a month-long art festival online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full respect to Themba Mbuli and his team at Unmute Dance Co for such an amazing show! And congratulations to all the artists for their creativity in adapting their art to an online space.
PS: Don’t think that the festival is aimed solely at persons with disabilities – we are artists first, sharing our art with you. Our disabilities are just a minor part of who we are.
PPS You can also hear the first paragraph of my audio book on the mini-documentary.
This month’s song is another early one. And, this time, I can play you a version of the song – though I had to dive quite deep into the musical archives to find it! It’s a song called Cabin Fever State of Mind and, as far as I remember, has been played twice live on stage, once on my own and once with a full band, with Craig’s sister, Sally on backing vocals.
Here are the lyrics, and the link to the song is at the end of the post – it’s a very early recording and isn’t great but hey, you asked me to share a recording this time round and I listened…
Cabin Fever State of Mind – by Lois Strachan
I’ve been staring at these four walls all day.
But the hardest wish won’t wish them away.
And I feel I’m trapped here all alone,
In this cabin beneath these drifts of snow.
Pacing in circles round the room.
But there’s no way out and no way in
And I feel like I’ve been here all my life,
In this cabin fever state of mind.
There must be a corner or a place to hide
From the thoughts that are starting to drive me wild.
But there’s nowhere to run, and there’s nowhere to hide
From this cabin fever state of mind.
And here in a corner of my snowbound mind
Insanity smiles and marks her time
Waiting for a signal, searching for a sign
Through this cabin fever state of mind
There must be a corner or a place to hide
From the thoughts that are starting to drive me wild
But there’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide
From this cabin fever state of mind.
And here I sit and wait to fall
A victim to my own four walls.
A prisoner in space and time
In this cabin fever state of mind.
Is it just me, or does it feel like the year 2019 went by very fast?
It feels like it was yesterday that I sat down to write my annual post setting my intentions for the year 2019. Yet, here we are, already more than a week into 2020 and it’s time for me to do the same for the coming year.
As I sit here, pondering what I’d like to achieve in 2020, I find myself reflecting on all that happened last year.
I managed to take my speaking beyond the disability sector and spoke at a number of events on the topic of overcoming challenges. Since much of my focus last year was on building strategic relationships to support the work I’m doing, it’s hard to say whether I achieved that – it’s an ongoing task, as any entrepreneur will know. I consolidated my social media profiles to better show the work I’m doing. And, though I haven’t completely finished the writing project I was busy with, I have only a few steps to go – but more on that in my intentions for 2020.
- Talking about that, here they are:
- Writing: I plan to publish my first audio book this year. Most of the work on this was done in 2019. I just need to complete the final tasks.
- Podcasts: I plan to continue publishing 2 podcasts on accessible travel each month, and have a few exciting other possibilities in the pipeline for the coming year – watch this space for news!
- Speaking: I’d like to build on the speaking I did last year, and grow this aspect of my business. If you’d like to motivate your teams while giving them practical techniques to help them overcome their challenges, I’m the speaker for you!
- Website: Last year I updated my Facebook page, and my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. My website is next on the list, and I hope to get that done in the next few months.
- Music: I know, I know. This is on my list every year. Hopefully, sharing some of my lyrics and writing on my blog each month will help me make my music more of a priority in 2020.
- Travel: I’m not sure where my travels will take me this year, but I’d like to include a trip to Durban amongst my travels – I have family and friends I’d really like to visit.
What would you like to achieve in 2020? Have you thought about your own intentions for the year ahead?
You know, the strange thing is that I don’t really check back to what I’ve written in this annual blog post during the year. And yet, I seem to achieve them. I think creating this post each year is enough for me to understand the strategic areas I want to work on. So I don’t need to be constantly checking up on my progress.
I’d like to challenge you to think about your intentions for 2020. And write them down. Whether you check them on a regular basis to see how you’re doing, or simply use them as a guide for the coming year as I do, is not the point. I truly believe that the simple act of determining my strategic areas helps shape my actions and my plans for the coming year. And perhaps it’ll be the same for you.
May I wish you all a productive and impactful 2020 – I look forward to connecting with you in the year to come.
I wish I had time to describe the entire Blind Date Concert I took part in at the National Arts festival in Makhanda in June this year – the rich diversity of personalities, music, poetry and performances; the energy and wit of our dynamic MC, Fiks Mahola; the professionalism of our stage crew who managed our sound, lighting and props so efficiently; and, of course, our wonderfully responsive audiences.
I’d love to be able to share the entire experience with you so you could understand what a special show this was. But sadly, all I can do at this stage is to share a video of my own performance.
This was recorded on the second night of the show and includes an introduction by award-winning blind poet Lelethu “Poetic Soul” Mahambehlala, who graced each of us with a poem based on our own stories. Lelethu was dynamite, as I’m sure you’ll see when you watch the clip.
On that note, it’s showtime, folks! So, get ready for your cue…
I know many people feel out of their depth when they’re put into a crowd of people they don’t know. And I suppose I can understand why – unless you’re comfortable chatting to people you don’t know, it can be quite a daunting experience.
So, how would you facilitate introducing a group of blind performers who haven’t met before? One would think it would be even harder, right?
As the group of the blind performers, sighted assistants, technical crew and one guide dog met for lunch and a rehearsal ahead of the Blind Date Concert performances, it really didn’t seem hard at all. After the welcome by the SA Library for the Blind, we sat down over lunch to get to know one another, and very soon were laughing over stories of our experiences as blind and visually impaired people living in a sighted world. You’d be amazed at how much common ground we found about the tools and techniques we use to do the things we want to do.
Of course, as a group we represented pretty much the entire spectrum from quiet and retiring right the way through to outgoing and exuberant, but that didn’t seem to matter as we sat and chatted. And no, I’m not going to tell you where I think I fall on that continuum.
By the time our fun and energetic show director, Niqui Cloete-Barrass, from boost Creative Solutions, called us back to order to begin our first and only rehearsal, we were already a united team. Which listening to one another’s sets as we ran through the show only enhanced since it gave us a shared vision of what we could achieve with the show.
And so, amped with the energy of a great rehearsal, we left the SA Library for the Blind primed and ready for our early morning make-up calls and the following day’s show. Which is where I’m going to leave us – until next time, when I’ll tell you about the show itself…
Guess where I’ll be this coming weekend – the National Arts Festival in Makhana, formerly Grahamstown. And I’ll be playing a gig while I’m there!
I’m one of the artists performing at the Blind Date Variety Show that’s part of the Fringe Festival – details are in the advert. You can book on the National Arts Festival website: www.nationalartsfestival.co.za
And Fiji will be there with me so no doubt both she and I will blog about our experiences in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, if you happen to be attending the National Arts Festival, it would be great to see you at our show…
At the beginning of 2018 I set myself a very private, very unpublished goal to play a live gig before the end of March… or the end of June at the very latest. But you know how life is and when it got to the end of September I realized I probably wasn’t going to make my goal of the end of March… or the end of June… or possibly even the end of 2018. So I just shrugged my shoulders and got on with the things I needed to do, allowing that particular goal to gently slide into obscurity.
Then the most amazing thing happened.
Out of the blue I got a phone call. A lady by the name of Nadine Mckenzie, of the Unmute Dance Theatre based at Artscape, asked if I’d be willing to play a few songs at Artscape’s Inclusive Arts festival in December. and suddenly my goal of playing live during 2018 became a possibility once more.
Unmute Dance Theatre is a mixed ability group that showcases both disabled and able performers in the arts. The Inclusive Arts Festival is an annual event that takes place at Artscape in the week leading up to 3 December, which is International Day of the Disabled. The festival has a number of performances and shows giving profile to some of our great disabled performers and artists from South Africa and abroad.
The shows investigate how the arts can be enjoyed by persons with disabilities and how disabled performers can showcase their skill.
I was thrilled to be invited to collaborate with the Afro Jazz Trio and vocalist Ms Babalwa Makwetu as the closing act of the concert on Sunday, 2 December. It was an amazing experience standing behind a microphone with my guitar in my hands once more – I loved every single second of it!
As an aside, Not only is Babalwa an accomplished singer and performer in her own right, but she seems to have poetry and melody running through her veins. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to create new songs as quickly and easily as she does – I keep hoping that some of her creativity will rub off on me as I start to consider what my next musical plans are.
Which is, of course, the question I need to answer. Here today, I’m publicly setting a goal for myself to play a live gig in 2019 – and this time I’m going to try not to let the goalposts shift into obscurity like they did in 2018!
Huge thanks to photographer Chris Adlam for the amazing shots of Babalwa and myself on stage – I have so few photos of me playing guitar that these are a real gift!
Many of you know that one of the first things I did after losing my sight was to join a rock band. Playing music became one of the constants in my life as I came to terms with my blindness and struggled to overcome the challenges of learning to live as a blind woman in a sighted world.
Somehow, over the past few years my music has faded into the background – when I think about it I can’t tell you when I last sat down and played either my guitar or my keyboard.
In the past few months I’ve started playing again – initially just reminding myself of some of my older songs but more recently beginning to create songs again… and I can’t believe I sidelined such a crucial part of my way of being for so long. It feels like I’ve found part of myself again.
Here is a link to some of the songs I wrote – none of the newly created songs I’m afraid – but songs I played with my last band, Tuesday’s child:
I hope you enjoy them!