Updated: Jun 5, 2021
As a child growing up in Swaziland living in sugar mill housing, we had the most awesome cupboards. Two generously sized built-in double cupboards with this massive storage section at the top that was joined across, making it into a little tunnel that I could sit up in. It became my little refuge. I could hide from the world in it surrounded by YOU centrefolds of Brad Pitt, Jon Bon Jovi and Slash from Guns' n Roses. I would spend hours up there, writing in my journals, dreaming about boys and writing valentines cards I never delivered. And singing.
My little pink Sharp cassette player would belt out from below; Roxette (by far the most often), Bon Jovi, Jennifer Rush (I wanted to BE HER), Paula Abdul, U2, Gun's 'n Roses, Foreigner, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And the list goes on. I would play some songs over and over and over. Singing along until I knew every word to "It Must Have Been Love", "Bed of Roses", and "Straight up" (@Andrea Ketteringham – sing with me here). How my parents coped, I don't know. You know you're loved when…
And this was one of my big joy's growing up: music and singing. There was, of course, also swimming – I'd spend as many hours in the pool as I did up in that cupboard. And wandering around the garden watching creatures, lying in the grass listening to the bamboo creek, riding horses and playing in our treehouses (lucky fish that I was).
But I was the music girl. I'd make the best mixes. Always finding new songs and playing them for my friends. Music was a constant companion, and I didn't care then what I sounded like when I sang. I just sang because I loved doing it.
Enter boarding school and teenage insecurities and rules about no loud music in the boarding establishment. But there was chapel. And I was in the choir. And on weekends, we'd be sitting around in one of the common rooms, or on the grass, or walking on our way to the dining hall, and someone would start a song, and then we'd all chime in. I remember how easily and freely it came to us then because we were voices together.
And then I left school, and it became drunken singing on weekends in "Crowded House", a nightclub in central Pietermaritzburg. And some wonderful acoustic renditions of Bob Marley, and Live with a cigarette or a joint in hand and friends with guitars draped over couches in a sparsely furnished digs.
And then, there was nothing. East Coast Radio got Talk DJ-heavy, and I'd get bored of my CD's in the car, or they'd get stuck in there or flash an error code because they'd been illegally burned. And music slowly fizzled out of my life in any noteworthy proportions until a wedding or a party or a long run when iPods and MP3 players arrived.
But over the last year or so, I've started bringing music back into my life more consistently with Spotify and Apple Music and You Tube and whatever I can find, really. And more recently, singing. I print out lyrics and learn the words and sing when I'm feeling low, or lonely or fearful or happy. I whip out my karaoke mic and pretend I'm Jennifer Rush to a crowd of ants outside my window. And I sing hymns that give me the feeling that chapel and church did when I was singing from the balcony behind the entire school of girls, before Christianity and I had some disagreements. I look beyond the naming and singular narrative of those songs, and I feel the grace and surrender and the love that they generate in me.
And I sing that.
And it feels good.
This piece of writing forms part of a series inspired by a nine-month-long course I am doing, led by Judy Bekker and Kerry Sandison; Dancing with the 9 Muses, inspired by the book by Angeles Arrrien, "The Nine Muses, A Mythological Path to Creativity." This piece inspired by Mnemosyne, Muse of Memory, and Euterpe, Muse of Music.
Photo: Vintage 1980's Sharp QT-50 Pink Boombox AM/FM Cassette Tape Player (like my one) Image courtesy of a Google image search: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fokEdAyHfZQ
This little baby even had a strap so you could hang it over your shoulder and walk around with it. How rad is that?