This past week was a whirlwind. I hardly remember what happened before Bushfire, eSwatini’s incredible music festival.
Before Bushfire, I spent three lessons at school preparing for a debate. My students chose an incredibly difficult topic that I believe they are underestimating. However it turns out, it is a learning experience for these kids. For a handful of them, Thursday was the first time they had ever touched a computer, let alone use the internet. Sending them off into the internet to do research on assisted suicide couldn’t even begin until we had a crash course in computer basics.
eSwatini is humbling on days like that. I receive daily reflections from a company called Holstee, and I have recently received a few about gratitude. In one of these reflections, the author paused to think about how grateful he is for running water. I don’t think he was ever a Peace Corps Volunteer, but if he really wants a lesson in gratitude, Peace Corps is the place. It is a headfirst dive into minimalist living and a place to learn what you really need in life.
Running water makes life easy. What I have appreciated more is the electricity and internet I have. I used a lot of both this past week as I spent the mornings memorizing the siSwati and isiZulu words to a handful of songs I expected would be played at Bushfire.
The ones I already knew paid off the most, though. I was nearly moved to tears of joy during Velemseni’s performance of her new song “Shisa” that was a perfectly-timed release in the weeks approaching Bushfire and her performance of “Hey Mamma” with a surprise addition of Bholoja, who sang only in siSwati that I 100 percent understood.
On Saturday I experienced another chunk of my 15 minutes of eSwatini fame. When your skin color makes you stick out, people watch. I was in the front row, ready to scream and dance and sing along with all of the other women of eSwatini who love Sands. I was regularly shown on the big screen during his performance as I knew all the words to his already-released songs, and I can understand his siSwati even when I don’t understand the words, so singing along to the choruses of his new songs was easy.
My actions were noticed enough that I was approached after the show by the keys player from the group about how much I obviously loved the performance. And then when I got home on Monday, make told me I was shown singing along to Sands during Bushfire clips on both news channels on Sunday night.
Then on Sunday I went to an incredibly intimate performance by Bholoja who honored my request for him to sing my favorite song of his.
During the weekend I appreciated the music of so many varied performers. I miss the music scene of Salt Lake City, and Bushfire has overfilled that gap. I wouldn’t buy a ticket to see a band I had never heard of in SLC, but at Bushfire the weekend is largely filled with performers whose music I do not know. Their Bushfire performances turn me into fans. I am grateful for a weekend filled with friends and music both new and old. I am also grateful to have a year to recover before the next one.