In primary school Mom forces me to take piano lessons, but after two practices the teacher cruelly screams my fingers aren’t connected to my brain.
In high school the music period means choir practice. I’m shunted from soprano to alto to bass, then back to soprano. Teacher says there’s not a note left to fit my voice. I’m relegated to turning the pianist’s pages of sheet music. Her stale baccy and garlic breath sets me off on a coughing spell, sending the sheets flying. I remain in the choir, but with the strict instruction not to open my mouth, only to fill the space.
Similar occurrences keep recurring throughout my life, leaving me with a hefty chip on my shoulder. Half a century later, younger brat leaves me his guitar for safekeeping. Wouldn’t fit in the trunk to freight abroad, so it’s now taking up space in the lounge.
“Why don’t you learn to play the thing, Dad?”
At first I laugh it off, but then I get thinking: why not, indeed?
I test the waters with my Heidi.
“You, playing the guitar? You’re joking, right? Next you’ll want to be a rock star. Please!”
The idea is put on ice. That is, until a visit from our complex’s secretary bird. She spots the guitar.
“I didn’t know you played! Now you can join our band.” On hearing the truth, she responds: “Why don’t you learn to play? I’ll lend you a learner’s manual.”
So next day Simply Guitar pitches. Now when it says “simple”, it’s not. I page through the booklet with determination. I’ll prove to the world I’m musical – and become a rock star like “Zulu” Dozi. Then do gigs at the Nkandla amphitheatre.
A third of the way through the book reality kicks in. I’m faced with names like metronomes, pitch pipe, plectrums, string winder and capo. Diagrams show a musical alphabet of notes and where your fingers should find them. Easy to remember, it says. Easter Bunny Gets Drunk At Easter, EBGDAE. Easy? Sure. Now it’s clear why famous guitarists end up drunken string beans.
Then a warning: if you’re using metal strings, your fingers will hurt, even bleed. Unsurprisingly, diagrams show how fingers are contorted to reach the dreaded drunken bunny.
The rock star wanes. The chip remains.