Music and memories



A single chord of a song can bring back a moment in time as if it never ended.


I hear Cher opening ‘Strong Enough’ with ‘I don’t need your sympathy’ and within 37 seconds I’m back in Cape Town, it’s 26 December 1999 and I’m cruising with Joanne in her dinged up white beetle after a day of tanning at Clifton 3rd singing and dancing as if we were in the privacy of our own living room. I’d been going on about a belly ring for months, and we stop at the Iron Warrior Tattoo parlour, only to catch the owner busy locking up. In all his wisdom, this man could see he would condemn us to despondent misery. In we went and out we came with matching belly rings – I still have mine. That moment and that holiday, what it meant to me and what it changed in me, it’s too important to simply discard a piece of tangible evidence that it did really happen.


I hear Shania Twain murmuring ‘You’re still the one’ and instantly I’m 13 and in love for the first time. I had been dating Mark for 4 months, and Christmas 1998 is upon us. For the very first time, I shared my Christmas tree with a boy, and my mom and I went shopping for presents. The total of which was a box of chocolates, some Ego African Amber and Shania’s song on a single CD. I remember the awkward exchange of gifts, the hope that he’d like my presents. In hindsight, not exactly the best choice for a boy who was hooked on The Offspring Americana album, but it’s 12 years later and the song survived it all, even if the relationship didn’t.


Laurika Rauch sings ‘Ooral om, om my heen, is dit Blou’ and I’m 21 and at University in Bloemfontein, part of the student house affectionately known as Huis Saartjie. We band of friends stand up in anticipation of this most strange of choices for a house anthem of sorts. I feel Jonathan’s arms tighten around my waist and a kiss being loosely planted on my head as I look around the room and smile at this greatest group of friends as we all scream sing in drunken stupor before going out to paint the town all shades of red.


Al Green (ft Joss Stone) asks me ‘How can you mend a broken heart’ while I look out over the snow falling from my hotel room balcony in the Black Forest. It’s 2008 and I’m in Germany for a tour of the Christmas markets. Everyone thought I was crazy to go alone, but it was my white Christmas, and only mine. It was a feat, a celebration, it was meant to be done alone, although for the first time in a long time very far from lonely. Somehow, even though it is a sad song, it does nothing but lift my mood, leaving me with smiles in remembrance of the best of times after the worst of times.


Tom Jones tells me ‘It’s not unusual’ and Suskia and I are decorating the banquet hall for our end of year formal in 2002, as the hotel manager walks in while we, unbeknownst to his presence, do the spirit finger dance (yeah, you all know it) in a moment signalling the beginning of a life long friendship. I remember three friends struggling to tie one bow around an invitation after too many shots at Carousel and I smile instantaneously.


Jack Johnson’s got a double feature in my musical reminiscing. I listen to ‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’ and ‘Better together’ and remember Adrian taking up his guitar at our house or in the field or in the back garden and playing the tunes that made my heart swell with a love that one can only find amongst friends. He was, of course, only the instrument in a family that took me in out of the cold of night and nurtured me with their bonds of true friendship. In the same breath, I remember Chloe and me yelling ‘play monkey play’ and signing loudly and falsely with her younger brother. I remember his older brother Damian making up words for a song from the seat of his pants, making Lucy and I burst out with laughter. My England family, my home away from home.


Its 2003 and I’m on school holiday and out at the Hawthornedene Hotel for karaoke with Jozef and his friend Jaco from Bloemfontein. I remember gazing in awe at this medical student getting up on stage and changing the definition of being romantic as he serenaded me to Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Bed of Roses’. I was dreamy eyed and hooked on this man within the first minute. Even today, the song brings the slightest of blush to my fair cheeks.


It’s July 2007, and I’m still in shock as my best friend and (ex) boyfriend, Jonathan, banishes me to the title of liar. The ripple effect of our rift runs through our friend group and I bear the brunt of it all with a grace I never knew I could muster but with anger at being convicted for a crime I did not commit. I’m at home alone, cursing the fates, and on comes Mika ‘My interpretation’ and within 3 and a half minutes, my feelings are contextualised and I let go of the indignant feeling of being wrongfully blamed. The first step towards moving forward is found and even today the song lends perspective to a time that remains ever so slightly out of focus.


Back to England, February 2009, and Sheryl Crow’s ‘If it makes you happy’ is playing on the jukebox in Cassidy’s as I look into the coulda, woulda, shoulda eyes of Dave (Jim) and understand the meaning of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object at an impossible time. Instantly knowing that the only possible outcome is a memory of what could have been.


2007 also brought the beginning of a treasured friendship based on a mutual love of music. I don’t even know if it’s possible to pin point one single song when the sharing of music has become our vocabulary, but thinking back to the best of nights with Joe, sitting playing song after song by the light of a solitary candle as a storm raged outside, I will pick two tunes albeit this is wholly insufficient, Tracy Chapman ‘At this point in my life’ and Pink Floyd ‘Wish you were here’.


Granted, these may not be ‘cool’ songs, but this is not about whether I have great taste in music or not. After all, the moment picks the song, not me. One does not control it or plan for it, it just happens, as if by some cosmic force. A little like falling in love, I guess. I have many more memories build right into the beats of the music of my life, and I’m sure there will still be many a rambling based thereupon, but for now I think you get the point. 

Music is our language, and it speaks louder and louder once intertwined with a moment of our history, never again just a song, forever a part of our very being.