16 November 2012

Namibia: Erna Rocks NICE

Windhoek — Another chapter of the Bank Windhoek Festival Music Circle programme was on offer at NICE Restaurant on Saturday night with songstress, Erna Chimu, on stage.

As has been the format of the programme since inception, the evening started off with a guest artist. This time it was Tania Ott, who accompanied herself on guitar. She chose to perform from familiar song books. Tracy Chapman's well known hits e.g. Fast Car and a few more were amongst the four items she was tasked to perform. She has a mellow, harmonious voice, well-suited to small intimate audiences. And on the night the audience was intimate, but much too small.

Erna took to the stage with her very accomplished quintet, and together they rocked the small audience who came to support the event. For the very first time a performer did not get the public support that she is entitled to. Erna Chimu is a very under-rated singer, whom the public should see more of. What was even more disappointing was the fact that her fellow performers in the industry did not come out to support her. Nothing betrays the lack of camaraderie in a struggling sector more than lack of support from one's fellows. But, Erna is a real trooper, and despite the obvious disappointment, she soldiered on, and the few people who did support her, were treated to some gutsy performances.

It has to be a brave performer who puts herself out there regardless of the numbers, and besides the attendance figures being low, she ought to be applauded for carrying on. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to note that the songs that she chooses to perform have the kind of content that speaks to hypocrisy, and false friendships, and talk without substance. Saturday night was a typical example of what she addresses in her work. Her lyrics were perfectly matched to the occasion and the audience that should have been there.

However, in defence, it must also be mentioned that Erna's concert at NICE was preceded by two events in the week and week-end before, that might have had an impact not anticipated by the organisers. The Jazz Concert over the previous week-end, and Shishani's November 7, concert, must have put some strain on the disposable income of concert-goers. Also, if Erna's regular support structure is based on audiences from Katutura, then the entrance to concerts at NICE, together with transport costs too and from such events, might be a bit too much.

But, she performed to a lively and appreciative audience that did not shy away from dancing during the show. The concert was split down the middle with the highlight of the first session being Miriam M'keba's now legendary Click Song. Despite the fact that she has a much more powerful voice, she does, somehow, remind one of the late Cesarea Evora, who's mornas were sung with, and evoked so much emotion. The fact that Erna sings from the heart, and from her own lived experiences, lends her renditions the authenticity that makes for a very good night's entertainment.

She sings in the Damara-Nama language, which is her mother-tongue, and despite the slight linguistic disconnect, she does manage to draw her audience into the emotion of her deliveries.

The second session was livened up considerably with her version of another South African evergreen viz. Pata-Pata, which had the audience up on their feet. Erna's concert had all the hallmarks of a well presented and professional show. It was the public that let her down, and more importantly, her fellow performers, who need to take a good, long look at themselves. She delivered, they did not!

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