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January 29, 2013

Rodriguez in South Africa: excitement is building

Photo courtesy Josselin Lioust

The curious tale of Sixto Rodriguez has long been known to many South Africans, but has only recently caught the rest of the world's attention – and excitement is already building as Capetonians prepare to welcome the original Sugar Man back to our shores for his latest tour.

It was with a mixture of disbelief and relief that South Africans first witnessed Rodriguez performing in the flesh in 1998, and several more times subsequently – after years of believing that the almost-mythical figure had committed suicide decades earlier. Very little was known about the man, yet one thing was certain: Rodriguez was an incredibly talented musician, often mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan and John Lennon, and his album, Cold Fact, was a massive hit in South Africa, finding a new context in a country weary from years of apartheid rule.

Cape Town's very own Stephen "Sugar" Segerman was the man who eventually tracked down Rodriguez, who was alive and relatively unknown in his home country of America. It was with his own sense of disbelief that he learned that he was, at least in the eyes of a whole generation of South Africans, a megastar. Since then, he has toured the country several times, playing to sold-out audiences up and down South Africa. 

Speaking to TIME magazine, Rodriguez described that first visit to South Africa: "I didn't believe it was something until I saw it in '98. The first day day the tickets went on sale, 11 000 sold. These 5 000 seaters were all sold out. And audiences knew the lyrics and sang with me throughout the concert. That was pretty amazing. There is an element of magic in this whole thing."

Rodriguez will be back again next month for several dates in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Catch him at GrandWest on 9, 10, 20, and 21 February 2013. Tickets are already sold out. One excited fan on Twitter wrote: "Rodriguez IS PERFORMING IN South Africa in Feb. I need those tickets!!!!!!!! I can Miss Swedish House Mafia and Kanye. NOT Rodriguez!!!!!"

This time round, Rodriguez's star is shining brighter than ever … since the release of the documentary about his life, Searching for Sugarman, he is finally receiving the worldwide recognition he has always deserved. The documentary performed very well at the local box office, won awards at several international film festivals, and has even been nominated for an Oscar! Later this year, Rodriguez will be performing at two of the biggest music festivals in the world: Glastonbury in the UK, and Coachella in the US.

In 1971, Rodriguez penned the lines: "Well, just climb up on my music/And my songs will set you free/Well, just climb up on my music/And from there jump off with me." Finally, the world is being set free by the music of Rodriguez.

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