The recital poster for the lantern meet Bitter Sweet recital depicts a man with eyes closed in an expression of pleasure, on the back of his head, an image of the same young man with mouth wide open in a shout of some feeling resembling anger. Right at the intersection of these faces is the same young man with an expression of agony. From the get go, the audience was expectant; this was a recital on L.O.V.E, what was in store for us?
The excited Friday crowd listened to a clearly unenthusiastic MC welcome us to the show and promise great things to come… we were off to a bitter start. The mood of the first two poems was not any better, placing them firmly in the bitter category, mad at love even. The performances simply did not stir bitterness in the audience, rather had them with heads down and thumbs scrolling on their smart phones.
The audience finally got a reason to look up when one of the performers, Norah, stomped in armed with a hammer and an attitude to match and presented an angry poem that clearly spoke of the bitterness of a betrayed love. Would we get any sweetness? We wondered. Perhaps it was the undecided performance which turned the potentially sweet “Butterflies” poem into one with bittersweet leanings-perhaps that was the intention.
Still confused, we were given a break 30minutes into the recital and introduced to Bosco, the Young Normad whose mellow guitar and songs bemoaning the torment of life left us completely at sea. Was there no hope for the evening?!
In walked Solomon Manzi to perform ‘Dating’ by Peter Kagayi. Dressed as a reverend, he immediately had our attention with his sermon outlining the advantages of finding a woman who does not read. He had the audience agreeing with him and laughing through his long sermon, I mean poem.
From here on, the crowd was hooked; somehow mellowed out by the laughter induced by ‘Dating’. The next poems were received with undivided attention, especially ‘Happy Anniversary’ written by Mark G. Musinguzi and performed by Jason Ntaro. The audience was the barman to whom the customer was sharing the tale of betrayal and we played our part enthusiastically: we felt part of the performance.
Milege Afro-Jazz Band was the second musical interlude of our evening; beautiful music that incorporated a poem in such a way that had the crowd in stitches. Another favorite was ‘My pretty, pretty Kikazi’, performed by Eron, with a thick kinyankole accent that had us rooting for him and cheering when the maiden agreed to become his very own kikazi.
The next few poems had a number of surprises with some cleverly arranged to be responses to each other, some performances had guitar and recorder playing in the background and Sezi, one of the performers, danced his way through his presentation as he recited ‘Shall we dance’ by Edith Namuganga which was a response poem to ‘Desire’ performed by Maritza.
The evening’s performances were more bitter than sweet, one has to wonder if the Lantern Meet is a group of the walking wounded and we, the poor audience, victims caught in the crossfire.
Many performers insist that the first show is always filled with blunders and we, the audience, have learned never to attend these first shows, small wonder then that the theatre was only half full. The show could have been better by yards and the lanterns will be the first to admit that. Perhaps, Saturday’s performance was much better.
I will share a pair of response poems that reflected the duo nature of the evening’s theme. The First:
A beaten heart
Fear is what I feel
Fear of not being the one you could love
I rethink my words over and over
I compose my says time and over
I recite it to me like wedding vows
I tap dance around it all like a cheating spouse
Fear is what I feel
For you, I am accustomed to loving
For you have been my place of refuge for so many rains
I fear to face you without the benefit of a good face
I fear to face you without a good story that I can tale
I hope to entertain every time we meet
I hope to have you caress my face
I hope to ascertain that for you, it has always been me
All these and many more hopes while biting my fingernails
I sometimes think to myself “I can’t do this anymore”
I sometimes hit on my head “dude you have to try some more”
I start, but I hesitate, yet for love I must stay awake
Awake, and be brave, and yet sigh these words beneath my breath
“You’re too good to be my first, I am not good enough to be your last”
And the response:
Where have you been?
Often, when I look at you,
at your expressively
I wonder where have you been…
Your eyes say you have seen quite a bit
Your voice calm, resonant and demure says,
‘maybe it is true’
Your beautiful hands send me chasing geese;
Have you spied the gates of hell,
And been doused by her fiery flames?
Did they brand you, those red yellow ghastly tongues,
Like thoughts of you have branded my mind?
Your lips once must have sang sensual songs:
Had those been my ears on whom those tunes fell,
Or my throat in which that breath caught,
I would have held you,
Believe me…so close
That that lost look in the depth of your eyes,
Would still be homeless,
and wandering far off
When was it, tell me,
That the lonesomeness
Found home in the pits of your eyes?
Was it when you traversed the ravaged roads of your travels,
Or when your weary self met forlorn?
Where have you been, you beautiful soul?