A WHISTLE, its haunting notes echoing through the speakers, a bow strike across the strings of a cello, the pseudo-orchestral sounds of synthesised keyboard and a mysterious and wistful melody line introduced the amazing performance of the Ha!Man at Richmond House last Thursday evening.
Part of the Classics at the Castle series of concerts, The HA!Man show – With love, on Valentine’s Day sent many in the packed audience into raptures, most even singing along to Francois le Roux’s Lekker, Lekker Cape Town, the final song of his performance.
The strange and wonderful Ha!Man (Le Roux) is an exceptional cellist who has taken the instrument to an entirely new level of performance. Together with his partner, Belgian-born Joke Debaere who performed spontaneous poetry accompanied by Le Roux’s experimental improvised music, the concert was a not to be missed opportunity to experience something completely different on the musical front.
Aside from Le Roux’s obvious talent, the evening was enhanced by Debaere’s improvised poem about her Belgian childhood (which might be named Spoken silence or, alternatively, Pancake on my head) and her reading of a poem by Nizar Qabbani in Flemish highlighting the senseless suicide of the poet’s sister, which the Afrikaans speakers in the audience could understand and appreciate.
Playing live cello over the pre-recorded keyboard tracks, the Ha!Man shared emotions, thoughts and ideas, enhanced by the small but intimate venue. Le Roux builds a rapport with his audience, and is unafraid to show vulnerability, even down to performing contemporary dance as those watching hold their collective breath in anticipation of what was next to come.
Le Roux redefines the modern South African musical genre, rocking the roots of traditional African rhythm and challenging any preconceived ideas about what one is allowed to do with two keyboards, a speaker system, a descant recorder, a live cello and a voice. Together with Debaere the performance was exceptional in terms of quality and originality.
It is seldom that artists give so much of themselves in a performance. The Ha!Man is a musical revolution, and Le Roux and Debaere’s performances are as memorable as they are emotive.