Veranda Panda: Pluck your boogie strings

By Rochelle Thomas

The lights are low, there’s the pitter-patter rain soundscape in the background, Jane Baillie sits down to play the keyboard and the suspense begins to build. There’s something eerie in this moment, it feels like a horror film – wait, what? The beat just dropped.

The lack of a conventional build up I’m used to hearing in genres such as House and Amapiano is confusing. I’m desperately trying to grasp for some familiarity, to find a link between the genres I know and what I’m listening to. I can’t.

Here I am, watching two multi-talented musicians lose themselves in the moment. Is this what true freedom looks like? Do I want to join in? I don’t have to ask myself twice. I’m feeling this strange, new dance-meets-classical vibe. I dive in head first.

Giving a 35-minute offering for the virtual National Arts Festival, they play with vibrant, infectious energy. I feel I’m watching an experiment happening live as they merge classical instruments with dance beats. Of course they’ve been practising; they’re celebrating 10 years of creating music together. It’s a virtual party.

Their sound remains strange, unique, maintaining that ‘off’ feeling, a new discovery nonetheless surprisingly comforting. Halfway through the show I’m bopping along to the intersecting rhythms of the beat as I watched their interactions with each other and the music they’re creating.

“Well I don’t care, I like large parties,” this famous line from The Great Gatsby repeats throughout the set. I’m dancing around the room, calling my mom, my cat, the neighbour’s dog. Thanks, Covid.

Honestly, I tend to stay in my lane when it comes to music, if it’s not familiar, I won’t listen to it, but this adventure into the dark pulled me way off my beaten track to a new world of boogie.

Check out Veranda Panda on the National Arts Festival Fringe programme here.

Production credits: Liam Magner & Jane Baillie

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