Get Stuffed

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is sometimes hard to swallow

Masekela begins awkwardly, distracted by problems with his microphone. Throughout the first two songs he engages in a frenetic pantomime with the soundman, neglecting his fluegelhorn play. Eventually Masekela settles down. At one point, he lets loose a several- minutes-long a capella scat/scream in some language other than English that literally yanks people out of their beach chairs. He's a world-class, James Brown-caliber screamer.

Vusi Mahlasela, wielding an acoustic guitar, joins Masekela on stage. He's a stout man with a square jaw, and seems to shrink from the stage next to the charismatic Masekela. Mahlasela's voice is stunning, though, sweeter than the key lime tart being peddled nearby. He sings an inspirational tune about the power of African music that would be utterly cheesy if it wasn't so damn moving.

These two legends are then joined by fellow South African Busi Mhlongo--who somehow upstages both of them. She enters wielding a three-foot-high wooden staff, wearing an expression of stern admonishment. Mhlongo circles the stage, then leans down on the staff and shakes her hips at the crowd. They scream as if those hips are a magic talisman. The impact is even more impressive when she opens her mouth. Mhlongo's voice somehow oscillates between a throaty growl and an ethereal, unnerving falsetto. I have no clue what she's singing about. It could be bowel movements and pork products. Regardless, it's beautiful.

On the horn of Africa: Hugh Masekela
Courtesy of Hugh Masekela
On the horn of Africa: Hugh Masekela

As soon as the music ends, I become obsessed with getting a colonic. The festival is over, and I need someone to suck the toxins from my system. Can anyone recommend a decent colon hygienist?

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