Backyard Karaoke

Who is your go-to person when life gets a little demanding? A brother? Or a sister maybe? And what do you when the going gets tough? Drink tea? Eat cake? Enjoy some bubbly?

The table is covered with red plastic and filled with every type of empty vessel or container associated with the art of weekend-over-indulgence one can imagine. Bottles and plates. Spoons and glasses. Knifes and cutting boards. A bowl of limp, never-touched salad and an anxious dog begging for scraps of leftover meat.

In any other establishment, at any other time, there would be cause for concern; that things might be slipping a little. That life was a little rough around the edges and that broad shoulders are sagging under life’s stress and strain.

The music that streams from the jukebox in the corner is anything but new; it is undoubtedly nostalgic and sentimental. But there is a connection, a common thread that ties the contents of the table and the room together: the people, the music, the meat, the limp salad, and the anxious dog.

That tie is blood; the glue is family. And for that there is no apology.

Who is your go-to person when life gets a little demanding? A brother? Or a sister maybe? And what do you when the going gets tough? Drink tea? Eat cake? Enjoy some bubbly?

Our family? We braai. And we do what people do when they braai. We listen to music. More specifically: we listen to the music of our now long gone youth.

Brother got stuck in the glam-pop of the 1980s; I maintain a close connection to the 1960’s and 1970’s. Together we form a formidable team of music connoisseurs who know everything about everyone, as long as the information is at least 20 years old.

When we get together to let off a little steam, we not only play the music, but we also sing along to these old songs. We know every word to every popular song, and every once in a while, I am reminded of just how powerful our memories can be.

For, once you commit a song to memory, you never forget it. Seriously. In contrast, just think back of your matric history paper, and poof! All the information is gone. I know it should be in there, somewhere stored with the lyrics of all Nazareth’s songs, but for the life of me, I cannot retrieve it.

On the other hand: two glasses of wine and an old wooden spoon as a microphone, and I’ll entertain you with the lyrics to all the songs Nazareth or whatever popular band of that time ever committed to vinyl. You do remember what vinyl has to do with music don’t you?

I am convinced that should an alien being accidentally end up in our backyard after getting lost enroute to a different planet, they would have a hard time understanding the significance of what they observe: two full-grown, pot-bellied men singing along with blaring pop music while scratching their upper-legs in imitation of the scathing guitar solos that drives these old songs. I mean who older than six years, sings with eyes shut tight, into the neck of an empty bottle?

‘Take a look at me I am yesterday’s hero/

Yesterday’s hero/yesterday’s hero”.

There is just a tad more truth in the song choice than what was envisioned.

I am sure somewhere someone did research on the apparent need that some of us have to humiliate ourselves in public by means of bad singing. Just what inspires us to get on stage or take a microphone (real or fake) and start singing along with music that once was or still is popular? I have seen a large mass-muscled boxer ridicule himself with a silly song called “Leeuloop” or croon with over-exaggerated suggestion: “Kaptein Span die Seile”.

For the love of all things meaty, why?

I believe the answer is quite simple: it makes us happy. The music of our youth is part of our special happy places. Those emotional places we visit when we seek a little comfort, when the pressures of life get a little out of hand.

Maybe we want to get noticed, just like rock stars. After all, their lives appear so easy: filled with money and with fame and all sorts of other enchanting things we mere mortals can only dream of.

Do you have such a happy place? A place where you sometimes dance with your broom? Or play the air guitar on your tennis racket? Where you can be whoever famous you want to be? Where no one cares about the true quality of your singing?

For this is not something that you do every day. That would be silly and a little worrisome.  This is also not something you do with everyone; seeing that most backyard singers are out of tune, that would eventually cause animosity and loathing among even the closest of families or best-bonded circles of friends.

I watched him closely as he drove himself deeper into his singing. He eyes were closed and he had a slight frown on his forehead. “It must be concentration”, I thought. He held his lips close to his imaginary microphone, which consists of two empty wine bottles and a wooden spoon.

“Living it up in the Hotel California/Such a lovely place/such a lovely face/”.

Only a few seconds later, lips still pressed against the wine bottles, he pointed at me and crooned: “So I called up the Captain”/”Please bring me my wine”/He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”.

And at that very moment the fingers of his left hand start stroking the air around his fist in celebration of what is perhaps the most distinctive guitar solo of that time. His fingers kept dancing along the fret board of his imaginary guitar with blistering speed and there was not a single bum-note. The performance was simply mesmerizing.

And the evening you may ask?

The evening was virtuous and we were happy.

Chicken Breasts with Preserved Lemon. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER
Chicken Breasts with Preserved Lemon. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER

Chicken Breasts with Preserved Lemon

Ingredients:

4 Chicken breasts, Skin removed
2 Preserved Lemons, Pulp removed; skin sliced thinly
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Bay leaves
2 tablespoons Thyme stripped
4 sprigs Rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon 1 tspn salt
100 mililiters Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons Verjuice (or Lemon Juice)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 220°C.

2. Place chicken breasts in to a bowl with preserved lemons, one tablespoon  olive oil, bay leaves, lemon thyme and rosemary, toss to combine.

3. Place onto baking tray, drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then put into oven. After 15 minutes remove from oven, turn temperature down to 180°C.

4. Drizzle thighs with remaining stock and verjuice and return to oven. After 15 minutes remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve with juices.

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