Update, 12 May 2010: "One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival" is now available from any South African bookstore. The North American edition is on its way.
My new book, One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival, will be in bookstores in South Africa and the United States within just a few days. It's published, in South Africa, by Random House Struik and, in the US, by the University of Virginia Press.
Here's a preview -- the sights and sounds of the Carnival. The photos are mine; the music is provided by the band of Cape Town's Pennsylvanians Crooning Minstrels, the Carnival troupe with which I spent the most time. Under the leadership of Richard Stemmet, the Pennsylvanians have won championship after championship for well over a decade.
To see a larger version of this audio slideshow, click on this link -- One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival -- or on the Vimeo logo above. Make sure that you have your speakers turned up to 11!
The slideshow is divided into three parts. It opens with the Carnival troupes' massive parade through central Cape Town, an event that happens every January 2nd and which marks the official beginning of Carnival. Over 60 troupes, with roughly 30,000 members over all, take part. Tens of thousands of spectators line the streets. I then take you backstage to choir and band rehearsals, tailors' shops, and drum makers' workshops -- rarely seen aspects of Carnival. The slideshow ends with the fierce inter-troupe competitions that extend into February. I made the photos -- many more are in the book -- during the four years that I marched with the troupes.
You may be wondering about the word ghoema that appears in the book's title. It's a drum (you'll see it in the slideshow); it's a rhythm (you'll hear it in the slideshow); and it's a sensibility -- the spirit of Carnival in Cape Town.
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I'll close with a couple of early comments about One Love, Ghoema Beat. After having worked so hard on this project, they were gratifying to read:
"The photographs are stunning. The prose is lean and suggestive, almost conversational, its economy wonderfully contrasts with the sumptuousness of photographs flooded with flamingo pink, shimmering satin, rainbow-hued glitter, and spangles."
--Diana Wylie, Boston University, author of Art and Revolution: The Life and Death of Thami Mnyele, South African Artist
"John Edwin Mason treats the work and play of Cape Town's carnival as a prism into the everyday struggles that are the legacy of apartheid. He was touched by the people he came to know, intrigued by the history of their carnival, surprised by the deep commitments he encountered, and thrilled by ghoema aesthetics. These qualities animate the work. One Love, Ghoema Beat presents sound history and stimulating explanation with an eye for a very good party. It is a pleasure to read and view."
--Louise Meintjes, Duke University, author of Sound of Africa: Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio