The Msikaba River Bridge will cross a deep, forested gorge with high sandstone cliffs flanking its sides. It will be 580m of single-span cable-stayed bridge. And because the national roads agency takes care to protect the environment wherever it builds, no work will be done in the gorge itself. Construction will start off from the two sides of the gorge and the bridge will be joined in the middle – nearly 200m above the river. Now that’s going to be a sight to behold!
Just to the north is the Msikaba River, where the other of the two planned bridges will sit more than 200m above the river and the structure will be 1 132m long. It’s going to be one of a very few large concrete balanced cantilever bridges with spans of more than 260m in the world. These bridges will join a long and distinguished line of world-class engineering structures throughout history. Most of the work in ancient and medieval times was carried out by artisans such as stonemasons and carpenters, who could rise to the role of Master Builders. The knowledge was retained in guilds and there were seldom advances in these fields. Structures and infrastructure tended to be built repetitively and scale was increased incrementally.
But there are early examples of a scientific approach to physical and mathematical problems in the field of civil engineering. These include the work of Archimedes in 3BC. He created what is known as the Archimedes Screw, which rotates to deliver water from a lower level to a higher one. And in 7AD, an Indian mathematician named Brahmagupta used arithmetic for excavation calculations.
However, Prof Felix Okonta, who heads up Civil Engineering at the University of Johannesburg, points out that while these early engineering projects were certainly novel, they were not very cost-effective and “much more than disproportionate energy and an enormous amount of human and other resources were expended to achieve the result”. But there was a massive leap forward in the application of civil engineering principles in the 1700s, he says.
“Early efforts toward a cost-effective application of resources – today called civil engineering design – could be traced to UK-born John Smeaton and his colleagues, including the Scottish architect and stonemason Thomas
Check out his latest album, 1959, and find him on Facebook at madalakunenesa
Laurie is a singer/songwriter, formerly in the genre of Americana (which is a broad term for alternative country folk music). Presently, she is working on her
new album, which she says has taken an entirely new direction – something she’s not even sure she can classify. “It’s more in the area of indie pop, but I don’t really want to put a label to it,” she says. “It’s alternative and it’s moved away from country and folk to something broader.”
In the last few years, Laurie has been touring with Josie Field, a self-described ‘indie-soul’ singer. As a duo, they’ve performed in big and small cities around South Africa and collaborated on an album. When Laurie recalls their time touring, it is “with mixed feelings”.
“We were doing everything ourselves, from booking and marketing shows, to being the driver and the sound engineer; setting up at gigs, doing the actual show, selling the merchandise and then striking. It was exhausting and stressful at times, but there’s also something really rewarding about creating an experience that’s completely self-sufficient – not relying on promoters or anyone else to make it a success.”
In fact, Laurie and Josie were so inspired by the emotions they felt while road-tripping that they wrote a song called Lifetime On The Road. The song opens with:
“For the first five seconds when I opened my eye/ and I felt the summer breeze and then I remembered why I was in a stranger’s home/ car ready to go another hundred miles or so…
“Roll down the window/ turn on the radio/ as fast as we move forward time is moving slow and it’s hard to know what
day it is/ to know this will never feel like home…”
And then the chorus: “It’s like a one-night stand with a time and a place/ and you know you’ve got to leave early the next day… It’s easy to hold on and hard letting go… lifetime on the road.”
Laurie says the pace of tours is dictated by the need to be as economical with time and travel as possible.
“If we travel down to Cape Town, we’ve got costs to cover, so we have to fit in as many shows as we could – and often that means consecutive nights and days – so you’ve got to do a different town or venue every night.”
At the same time, Laurie says that she’s very aware that it’s a big night out for their audiences. “You’ve got to create that sense for them that it’s a once-off experience, which it is because every show is completely different – the audience, the setting, the mood.”
Getting enough sleep is important, which means turning down the tequilas audience members offer her after the show. She also focuses on her on-theroad diet so she doesn’t end up eating junk food. “I always try to pick up cottage cheese and corn thins from the local Spar.”
Laurie also makes sure she gets some alone-time and practises meditation. Her one unexpected tip for going on the road? Travel with a humidifier.
“If your voice isn’t there, you’re in trouble, so I travel with a humidifier, which helps clear the chest and nasal passages, especially in the dry months,” she says.
Of the driving itself, she says she prefers to be the passenger so that she can sit and daydream. But if she’s travelling with another musician, they always take turns.
“I actually love it. Especially in beautiful parts of the country like the Eastern and Western Cape – different landscapes every day, passing the ocean then going inland and driving through deserts.”
Kenton-on-Sea was host to one of her favourite gig experiences. “It was just exquisite. I was at a backpackers, which makes it really festive and the whole local community came along. It was the middle of summer and it was a balmy evening. It was just beautiful.
Even so, by the end of the tour, she can’t wait to get out of that car and get back to her own bed, dogs and her partner.
Check out her latest album, Canyons, and find her on Facebook at laurielevinemusic, or visit her website www.laurielevine.co.za
Bokani is a jazz musician who won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz in 2011, and the Samro Overseas Scholarship in 2013. Last year, he was also awarded a sponsorship by Concerts SA, as part of a mobility fund that allows musicians to do concerts around the country – so he took his trio on the road.
Bokani applied for national funding, which covered transportation, including flights and car hire, so that he could travel to Durban, drive to Bloemfontein and then, after his return to Johannesburg, to do another show in Newcastle. The next leg of the tour is in Mozambique, but he and his trio were still ironing out the plans at the time of going to press.
Bokani says that because music as a profession is quite social, he usually sticks around after his gigs to have a drink and chat to people. “Most shows I do, that’s how I end up. But you can’t live a reckless lifestyle, because there are practical considerations as well.”
He says being on the road is rewarding because he’s connected to quite a few people on social media who are aware of his work and are excited about the opportunity to see him live.
“In Durban, I met many people whom I’ve known for a long time, who have seen me playing before in bigger ensembles and they really liked the new setup.”
He wasn’t sure what his reception would be in Bloemfontein, which isn’t really ‘on the jazz radar’, but his manager had booked the gig and he chose to trust her.
“It turned out to be a really great show. We got a really good response from the crowd and the place was packed. There was a good vibe. It showed me that things of this nature are possible in Bloem.”
When Bokani is on tour, he does most of the driving because he’s a good driver and he trusts himself. He and his trio fit easily into a hire car, because they mostly specify their instrument setup to the venue.
“In Bloem, there was a grand piano waiting and they had managed to organise a keyboard that I had asked for. “The drummer brings his cymbals and the venue provides a suitable drum kit. So the instrumentation doesn’t take up that much space in the car.”
He says the most beautiful stretch of road he’s travelled in South Africa is the N3 leading into KwaZulu-Natal.
Check out his next show, at the Joy of Jazz Festival, 28 to 30 September at the Sandton Convention Centre. Find him on Facebook at bokani.dyer or visit his website www.bokanidyer.com
This year, Oppikoppi and Rocking the Daisies have teamed up to share some international talent, so the two giant music festivals are taking place over the same weekend (5-8 October).
Rocking The Daisies: Kloof Wine Estate, Malmesbury, Western Cape Oppikoppi: Oppikoppi Farm, Northam, Limpopo