Ta Lesego Rampolokeng’s latest novel is a tongue-in-cheek experiment in the number of ways the reader’s psyche can be assaulted by writing made great not only by the writer’s ability to thread sentences together, but their investment in the subjects broached, too.
With Bird-Monk Seding, the Fada takes it all the way there: To villages where the banished, deliberately-silenced are driven and forced to learn sub-species survival tactics or risk vanishing altogether; to his childhood, and childhood friends — the movies and music, creative outputs which lubricated their otherwise violent existence; to shebeens, places of comfort for those whose stories are too devastating to mouth when sober.
The title’s an ode to Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, and a heads up to Leseding, the village in which the novel’s set. There’s hip hop in here. Reggae in here; a Burning Spear nod wrapped in Third World references, rooted in a critical understanding of di drum an’ di bass, & a tight grip on di word.
Jazz. Blue Notes’ Louis Moholo. Poetry, poets, movements: Dashiki’s Ingoapele Madingoane; Mafika Gwala the Great, credited by Ta Ramps for his words which brought him to consciousness; and Peter Makurube, a reminder of how the banished are brought to life when silent by those who co-opt their life’s work for a few moments in the limelight.
There’s also an opportunity to reflect on the things we are taught to hold dear as young boys: Streamlines, Tiger Balm-as-rape-aid, inter-hood warfare…violence.
I am shook!
- Opening image: Lesego Rampolokeng @ Melville Poetry Festival, ’13