My love affair with Eugene

I can’t believe I haven’t banged on about this before – perhaps because it has nothing to do with Cape Town, yet. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through the news of drama coming out of the US, Spotify decided to cheer me up by enticing me to listen to all the works of my most favourite ever, bestest ever, musical group. Pink Martini. ALL their works at once? ALL of it on shuffle? !!!!

This is the story of one of my oldest loves and certainly one of the most faithful, albeit one-sided, relationships I’ve ever conducted. It started years ago, in the 90s, on the last night of a holiday in France, at my cousin Xavier’s Paris flat. He played a wonderful CD and when he saw how much I liked it he slipped it into my luggage for me to find when I returned home. It was called Sympathique and was the best surprise ever!

That CD led me to haunt music shops for more, and my love for Pink Martini grew and grew; it has never faded, unlike some lovers who almost always eventually disappoint.

I tried to see them perform live – not an easy feat as they don’t perform just anywhere. I missed a chance to see them in Nice on another trip to France. I could’ve made a stopover there but I didn’t – big mistake. Then again in Fort Worth in the early 2000s. I was terribly excited to see they were performing there a few days prior to a planned business visit to Dallas, but my boss turned down my request to go early on my own time and buck. It seemed it was never to be. They are unlikely to come to South Africa anytime soon, despite my Twitter entreaties. Yes, I beg them on Twitter, I have no shame. They’re so kind and polite, they even respond.

Imagine them performing at Kirstenbosch for a New Year’s Eve without the virus fear? I can swoon just thinking of that!

There are not enough words, and I am not sufficiently eloquent, to express how much I love this ensemble of musicians and their work. Their music lifts and transports me, it makes me dance, it makes me sing, it makes me look a complete fool in the traffic, it helped me through many a dark moment, especially lockdown. That’s what music is supposed to do, right? They even make German sound romantic and melodic for goodness sakes! And how about Puff the Magic Dragon sung in Japanese?

One of my favourite numbers is Hey Eugene. It’s probably quite pedestrian to select this one because many of their other songs are far more complex, but there it is, that’s my fave. It’s my favourite post-party song. Once, years ago, I returned from a party late one night, quite the worst for wear, and played Eugene on my old stereo, over and over and over, very loudly. The next morning there was an anonymous note in my letter box from a neighbour asking me to please not play Eugene repeatedly. No, they didn’t tell me to not play loud music, just not Eugene on repeat. I never did find out who wrote the note. It was a funky suburb called Observatory, in Cape Town, you get away with a lot of stuff there.

What makes them so special, aside from their massive talent, is they cross over various genres – classical, pop, jazz, and so on, from all corners of the world in all languages. The three ‘lead’ performers, as it were, are Thomas Lauderdale on piano – if you haven’t seen him in action, you’re in for a treat! And the two lead vocalists are China Forbes and Storm Large. China has the voice of an angel, she could sing me to death and I would die happy. Melodies from every corner of the world … rare and raw talent. I don’t know how they are not known by every single person on earth. Forsooth, no one I’ve ever introduced them to has given me anything but positive feedback. I am most definitely unreservedly their number one fan on the entire African continent.

One of the best gifts I ever received was when I asked a friend coming from France to bring me their latest CD and he did better than that and brought a CD of one of their performances .. (You Tube wasn’t as big as it is now). It’s a very precious possession that I still play regularly.

I even think of them when I tend to my lockdown tomato plantation – because there’s even a song for that.

I’m sorry I didn’t realise they were doing a 31 Dec concert, I would have changed my mind about going to bed hours before midnight!

Give them a listen, add them to your Spotify, you won’t regret it and in fact you’ll thank me, and you, too, can Sway the lockdown blues away in your living room.

How I wish I could see them perform live! How do I put this? Don’t bother to fly me to the moon, just fly me to a Pink Martini concert!

Photos of Kirstenbosch concert lawn, pre-Covid, courtesy of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, SANBI, and Come-to-Cape-Town. Sadly, the annual Summer Concerts were cancelled this summer because of Covid-19 but it is one of Cape Town’s most spectacular annual events. A different genre of music every Sunday, on the lawns of South Africa’s most beautiful botanical garden. There are special Christmas and New Year’s Eve performances – I will continue to fantisise about Pink Martini on New Year’s Eve as long as I draw breath. (Pic of album cover from Wikipedia).

Covid is destroying so many businesses. Tourism is probably the worst hit and small businesses like mine are struggling to win the fight with banks and their greedy ways. So here is the link to my crowdfunding campaign in the hope that public assistance and a few dollars here and there will help me to hang on to my touring minibus until such time as tourism is revived. Much love and thank in anticipation of contributions.

About Francoise Armour

I run a small touring company (Tours du Cap) at the bottom of Africa, to show visitors the beauty and vibrant culture of the country I have lived in since my parents brought me here from France as a child. I enjoy taking photos and wish I had learnt to do it properly. I enjoy writing but don't do enough of it. I enjoy walking in the mountains that surround me and I marvel over the views and the flowers and the amazing rock formations. I have a small, cute, clever, black dog of indeterminable breed, named Vida, who reminds me regularly that walking and getting out is not only for when tourists want it.

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A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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