Soap Box #6: Holding A Proverbial Mirror To The Soul – The Power of Music (A Trilogy)

Updated: Jun 1

Part I: Holding A Proverbial Mirror To The Soul – The Power Of Music

A few personal anecdotal references to my roots: my family, plus the impact music has had in me life to date. Love, laughter, tears, redemption... and Snot Dragons...

Part II: In Loving Memory Of Andy Ceronio: 1958 - 2018

A few excerpts from the eulogy I wrote in memory of a great man, who would have celebrated his 63rd birthday on 29th May.

Part III: For AMC Playlist

An eclectic mix of music and tracks Andy would have loved, put in one compilation.

One thing before we launch in is, to offer, perhaps a disclaimer/exit strategy, of sorts:

Should you wish to skip past the meaningful stuff-and-guts, plus a few *squirrels* scattered around here and there... of your human author's writing: best you scroll down to Part III below. No hard feelings... Well, truth be told, perhaps a few chips on the shoulder, but that's my cross the bare – I get it: one of the greatest commodities, curses, yet assets, of our current times seem to be our individual and collective attention-spans...

So, here goes for Soap Box #6 launch (4...3...2...1...)

Part I: Holding A Proverbial Mirror To The Soul – The Power of Music

For as long as memory serves, music has played an integral part in my life. Stemming from memories of my nanny (yes, for the times, this was the norm in the 1980's SA) softly singing lullabies in her native tongue to lull me a rather energetic toddler to sleep, to my oldest big sister playing Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence in an attempt to achieve the same result.

*Quick shout out to my second 'Moms' Annetjie and sister Sandy. To the latter person mentioned, who will probably want lynch me for publicly 'mentioning' her name, should she ever read this (as I know and respect how intensely private she wishes to remain) – relax, only those nearest and dearest to us, will actually know to whom I am referring to, particularly since I haven't called you 'Sandy' in over three decades...! But I felt I had to make mention of you, due to this musical gem you gifted me with, namely:

Driving through dusty Karoo roads, leaving my only familiar stomping ground from the ages 0-9, my cat, Humphrey (aka Humphrey Bogart, the second, 'presenting' in cat-form), and my family behind, as the mountain of Coleskop faded into the distance of my childish 10 year old brain, but firmly etched in memory... But that's (the writing, not Coleskop, necessarily, lol) writing, for a not-too-distant future, from your said-writer, plus her 'elephant memory' – to boot :)

Nay, it's not written, necessarily, out of vanity, or soppiness; but from sincere lessons learnt from the stark and often-times, seemingly, harsh and nasty, dry-flatlands, which I love with all my heart, in all its inexplicable beauty and wander – invisible to the untrained eye, perhaps.

Sometimes, you just have to know when to look...

And here: Jack Mantis, bless, pays a wee bit of homage to Coleskop, in his ethereal and gorgeous track, and music video, Beth. Coleskop can be viewed in the first quarter of the video, basically all the dry bits...

*Quick aside: Gaynor, my amazing second oldest sister... I don't know if you recall me 'dragging' you to this live gig in Cape Town circa 2014/2015(ish), and you ended up singing to the lyrics? You, perhaps, said/sang the word 'fuck' out loud, for the very first time, to my ears, at! As a highly-respected doctor, healer, parent etc.: I had never heard it from you before, so it just tickled me pink, particularly after you only realised this, after one or two drinks... at worst... God, Larry, Allah, Buddha, whichever, would probably have laughed, too. But, it seems, humans have added a lack of a sense of humour into the religious dogma that frequently prevails...

But I *highly* digress, and squirrel, just blame it on the damn squirrel... Or the fact: that you've chosen to continue reading... it's a free world, right? Hmmmmm...

Right back to windy, dusty roads on the way to boarding school... to the sounds of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and the entire ABBA Gold album, on the two and a half hour long drive to boarding school: Mom merrily singing along with reckless abandon, seemingly blissfully unaware of how discordant and extremely out-of-key she may have sounded to those of us within earshot. Bless... how much I love my mother, and how she has taught me many valuable life-lessons; one of them being:

"As long as you don't deliberately hurt or negatively impact anyone else dramatically and detrimentally be true to yourself. How other people respond or react, is on them."

Barring 'shattered' eardrums, luminous-pink rain anoraks, or the glorious Snot Dragon – perhaps?! You mean, Mom, you didn't get the hint when sister Gaynor elected to sit at the far end of the church pew whilst hymns were sung in church on Sundays, or when you insisted that the Snot Dragon be' rechristened' as Snow Puff? ? An, albeit, slightly passive-aggressive statement and reaction to the parentals 'singing' – both horrendously off-key – one an octave too high, the other – an octave too low. And said Snot Dragon was re-branded and repainted white, to reemerge and resurrect as Snow Puff ... lol... I still learnt how to parallel park in that damn station wagon. Which, now, in retrospect, and with bitter-sweet affection, still carries the nom de plume of Snot Dragon, as coined by youngest sister, Rose :)

With the exception of, the undeniable, horrendous renditions of church hymns, and other-mentioned mis-endevours, laid to rest – in the realms of memory, where they ought to be – there was always a pragmatic reasoning to these, what one (many) may think as ill-thought out decisions:

"I'll be seen in dull weather, and have less chance of being run over by traffic"– in defense of the "I-can-visibly-spot-you-with-the-naked-eye-from-space-and-it's-burning-my-retinas" choice of... er... bespoke... (read: the antonym) attire – that infamous lumo-pink anorak, and:

"It was a cool, calming colour, given the heat of the Karoo" – a popular line of defense to the choice of the, well, snot-green colour, of our trusty Ford Cortina station wagon, ever-so aptly-named the Snot Dragon... But remembered with great fondness, as she ferried us to many wonderful family holidays in Cintsa Bay, the Wild Coast and Port Alfred. Please note: video featured below has no audio.

The video above was filmed c. 1982 in the Transkei, South Africa. Big sister was kind enough to convert the original 8mm reels into mp4 format, and wrote the following notes regarding it:

0.00': Rose, Sandra, Diana & Gaynor on trampoline.

1.11': Rose, Wendy, Gaynor

1.22': Gaynor on beach. Diana. Friend

1.42': Rose (standing on her own for the first time), Wendy, helper

2.28': Diana & Gaynor jumping. Sandra in blue shorts. Gaynor & Sandra doing handstands, and on the rocks

3:08': Diana , Wendy & Gaynor

Several of these home movies were put on a flash drive and given to me on my 40th birthday, in 2019. It is one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received!

Closing commentary on Mom's fuzzy logic in explaining her colour choices... WTLF...??!, did aesthetics jump out the window and die...? But OK, I still love you madly, my Mom! This logic, is, however, sometimes, hopelessly flawed, IMO! Hey, who knew, perhaps you were the original hipster, well-ahead of her time, who knew that retro would soon be in vogue, pink jackets, I have my doubts… lol! Joking aside, another few valuable life lessons were learnt:

"Sometimes purpose and service, not servitude, trump superficial needs to satisfy the insatiable hunger to attain perfection, and attention – albeit sometimes, at the risk of looking like a dumph. Show the humility to accept possible public scorn and shame, hold your head up high – this should over-ride superficial needs of approval."

Barring, our 'ol faithful National top loader VCR-VHS machine, (top of its class, back in 1978, it was, I say) which finally 'took' it's last breathe after 20+ years of service and many, many 'services' at the video repair shop... Only to be swiftly replaced with a shiny new Diamondhead VCR, that subsequently failed to live up to hype, and proceeded to plonk after about five years or so... tssssk... planned obsolescence...

Aaaaah, *light-bulb moments*: this just made me realise where my penchant for fixing old things, before just simply resorting to replacing them with a shiny new more modern version (hence my continual 're-cranking' – thanks Unc Alan for this term – of Lady Fuckit, aka my laptop of 8+ years), AND perhaps this is where my terrible singing voice come from, if these, are, in fact, inherited trait.... lol! Let's rather leave the singing to the pros, shall we?

Subsequently, after our monthly Neil Diamond and ABBA-saturated trips back and forth from boarding school in 1989, I struggled to get Dancing Queen out of my head in the hours that followed just to be greeted (read: tortured) by my fellow boarders, who played Locomotion by Kylie Minogue to death – over and over and freakin' over again (blugh!). As well as another perfectly decent song, Take on Me by A-Ha, which I've only recently been able to appreciate again. Like, seriously:

How many times does one have to play a song over and over and over again for it not to depreciate in value?

Now, in addition to the torture of mundanity, militancy, and routine, that generally hallmark boarding school I now had three songs which were playing a continuous loop in my 10 year old brain, eeeek!

Thankfully, my music tastes have matured and diversified since my initial youthful exposure. This diversification started happening once I received the best gift ever: a double-deck radio for my 13th birthday.

This gave rise to the creation of a host of mix tape creations and exchanges; sometimes in lieu of a, somewhat cheap, but thoughtful, birthday present. Or simply just to show a friend we were thinking of them, and made a mix tape with them in mind. (BTW: be sure to check out the various 'mix tape' playlists I've created over the years, if you do so wish, now in e-format, says your 'Post Gen-X, 'Pre-Millennial' author, "Pre-Gen-Z – WFT happened to 'Gen Y'?? Or is that just another term for millennial?)

I hate, despise and detest labels (I throw the thesaurus at ya but I'll just hang there, for now 'P-G-X/P-M-P-G-Z? Why no G-Y'??! :) This alphabet soup of acronyms confuses me!

As if 'you' folks haven't 'stolen' all of the letters of the alphabet, and colours of the freakin' rainbow yet ;) For those non-direct friends of mine, I am joking, teasing...

As individuals, whom I know personally: You should know how much I love you, individually and for who you are, regardless, as you are, and accept and respect you: for who you are, and because of the spirit that is you. Not for the sake of being politically correct, polite, or 'decent'. Treat others as you want to be treated. It's really as simple as that.

In an attempt to scurry this *squirrel* aside, I soldier on:

Having this double-deck radio also, thankfully, exposed me to the world beyond the afore-mentioned artists.

When Radiohead’s The Bends was released in 1995, I was enthralled – I had finally encountered a genre of music that went beyond the usual Top 40 radio hits. Naturally, exposure to all sorts of different music has helped shaped my personal tastes in music. There are many fond memories of candlelit evenings, hanging out with my best friend, Mel, and her wonderful 'hippie' parents, Andy and Stella, and ol' unc John (don't worry, mate, I won't call you out, just yet, lol), who introduced me to the likes of Neil Young, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield, to name but a few, all played on a dusty old record player, or on cassette tapes, that frequently warped naturally a ballpoint pen was at hand to quickly resolve this situation.

The signature mild static sound emitted by records, brings back waves of nostalgia and has encouraged me to build a record collection of my own. Sadly, these are busy gathering dust in storage back in SA, as is the rest of my music collection, which I hope I'll be able to ship over, if, and when I get the opportunity...

In the meantime: I am, however, willing to lend them (my music collection), plus sound system, which includes an LP player, and stuff that could also play music in less 'archaic' formats, i.e. mp3 etc., to any honest borrowers.

It would be a shame to see them simply gathering dust, and being unappreciated in a dark storage space. However, you'd have to PM me to explain why you'd be a good and worthy foster 'parent' of, what I consider, to be a treasure trove of aural pleasure.

That aside, and for sake of continuance:

Mel’s parents would regale us with stories from their rather 'colourful' childhoods, and offered us teenagers sage advice on life – amusing allegories that have helped form me into adult I am today. Full playlist can be found here. Track listing right at the end, of tracks that spring to mind, plus some extra 'Easter Eggs' ;)

While I certainly have a great love for the classic artists of yonder year; I’ve always had an affinity and love for indie, less commercial styles of music. Through the years, I have always appreciated the transcendental qualities of music, and its ability to shape our emotional landscapes through sound. From the gentle and ethereal sounds, to higher octane-paced music for cathartic release – echoing a whole range of emotions and moods – from the calm, introspective moods, to feelings of anger and frustration, to restoring feelings of upliftment and hope, love, and peace.

Music frequently holds a visceral proverbial mirror to our inner-most thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes when we don’t necessarily have the words to express them. It speaks to us, through us, and for us, when are sometimes not able. Perhaps sometimes with words, masterfully rendered through thoughtful lyrics, sometimes through no words at all, but through carefully considered in combinations of musical notes and instruments.

I vividly remember riding home from work by train after going through a very emotional break up – a divorce – almost the equivalent to a death. I hadn’t had the chance, due to work commitments, to really process all the thoughts and feelings that inevitably arise when parting ways with a partner. Purely drawing from my mom's strength of spirit and stoicism, and the sheer will-power, she exuded, after my dad had died, I refused to play victim, nor sad, helpless sod.

Over my headphones, the song Into the Fire by Thirteen Senses started playing. All of a sudden, out of the blue, my emotions came gushing up to my conscious mind, and came out in visible form, through a cascade of tears.

It wasn’t a loud, showy ‘ugly cry’, but I couldn’t control myself; the tears just wouldn’t quit rolling down my cheeks, in a visible and tangible downpour of, previously pent-up, sheer, raw, unabated and uninhibited emotion.

Trying my damnedest not to draw attention to myself, in public and amongst strangers, no less I closed my eyes and hoped that nobody had noticed this intensely private moment on public display. In this moment, I just allowed myself to feel and to just be, whilst, simultaneously internally, practically begging for my train stop to come... my hop-off point to home... to arrive in 3..2..1...

But, alas, time is relative, at times, to us all. In, what felt like an eternity, had passed, I resigned myself to the fact that I was 'doomed' to sit the next 'whole' five minutes it took to get home. To my dismay, I had no tissues stashed in my bag, and, so had to humbly resort to sitting there sniffling, pathetically, but as inconspicuously, as possible.

A few moments later, what felt like hours later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes, and a kindly old lady, without saying a word, handed me a lavender-scented hanky, with a empathetic, kind and knowing smile. I accepted her sweet gesture, and ever-so-needed, offer, graciously there aren’t many strangers who’d be willing to deal with someone else’s snotty noses, particularly in rush hour train traffic! Never mind classic 'road rage', dis maar niks; hell hath no fury than over-worked, over-promised, under-paid, under-valued, worker bees, i.e. the majority of the Metro Fail commuters, on their way back home from said, often times, thankless jobs.