The Diary of a South African Dreamer

Graceful Sister Michelle on the left and Naughty Natalie on the right

THE CALLING 1977 - 1981

I believe that to some degree we all subconsciously select which memories we keep at hand and which ones we try to lock away hopefully never to be seen again. I guess its pure self-defence. We remember what makes us happy. And so it’s no surprise that many of my childhood memories include music and performing. These are two things that have always made me happy.

I know many of my peers spent most of their childhoods having no clear idea of what they would like to be when they grow up. They got on with the job of being children, some having wonderful upbringings, and of course some who weren’t so lucky. These people are always saying to me how blessed I was to have known so early on. I’ll agree it is good to have a clear vision of where you want to go but at the same time in hindsight, it would have been a lot easier if I’d dreamt of being an accountant. What was I thinking?

But the passion I had to perform was not under my control. It was just something that I had to do. I remember hearing and feeling music of all genres and am so grateful that the soundtrack to my early life was so diverse and had a huge impact on my music taste. At that age you listen to the music your parents listen to and luckily for me my mom and dad’s tastes were only half cheesy. Sorry mom.

The Radio airwaves of the day blared out Eagles, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Blondie, Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton John and John Lennon. What a list! It was also a trend back then to name your children after famous artists. My cousin Tennille being a product of that trend, getting her name from the then very popular Captain and Tennille.

Inevitably some of the memories that come to mind when hearing this era’s songs are tinged with sadness. They would have to be. Life is of course no picnic. I learnt early on that there will be its ups and downs and that music would speak to me through it all. Music would be my therapy and my life-long friend.

I spent the first 5 years on earth in the beautiful Mother City, Cape Town and it was a truly magnificent natural backdrop to a childhood. But I was completely unaware of the political turmoil our country was in. Bombings by the resistance were numerous and the international world was readying themselves to isolate South Africa for their apartheid system starting with an arms embargo by the United Nations in 1977. Steve Biko died during police detention in the same year and in 1980 the government of the day banned Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall out of fears that it may be used as a liberation song by black school pupils. I was completely oblivious to all of this and isolated from the incredible tension that must have been in the air. So life went on.

I remember how my mom did everything she could to get us to Children’s Theatre, Ballets, Movies and Musicals as often as she could afford. These were the moments that planted a deep seeded need in me to be on stage. I watched in awe at the stars of each show and fell in love with them all.

I was singing as soon as I was able to and by the age of 3 I started ballet classes and showing off to anyone and I mean anyone that would stand still long enough in one place to constitute an audience. I definitely had something to say, or to be more specific; to sing.

I remember and speak about it often, when my gran (Granzel) would encourage me to go up on the stage in the cinema before the movies started and ‘do a little number’ which I’ll admit did not take much convincing. I also recall demanding the limelight at family get togethers where I would rope all the other children into do massive productions for a half interested crowd of adults who kindly applauded while the dads were watching rugby out of the corner of their eye.

For me I had found my comfort zone. Dancing, Singing and Acting. One of my favourite things to do was imitate the adverts from TV at the time including the famous OMO washing powder and Cremora ads; accents and all. My Dad of course thought I was genius. The other children, not so much.

Right from the start I became a tireless workaholic and ridiculously driven for someone so young. The double edged sword of being a performer is that you are one part insecure and one part incredibly confident. It’s a contradiction that touches on tragedy. But then I’ve also always loved a bit of Drama. I do sometimes wonder though what life would have been like if I hadn’t been so determined.

I was not the most popular girl with the boys of my age who found me very annoying. But in my defence I had no choice. Because you see when I was on show all my natural insecurities vanished and I became addicted to the thrill, the beauty, the emotional journey that I was taken on when I sang and performed.

I got the calling and I was a confirmed Dreamer.

So the training began, and continues. The journey of life as a struggling artist was set out for me and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands never considering the consequences of my commitment….

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