Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Who Invited the Corybantes?

I am not a New Year’s Eve celebrating kind of person. It doesn't make sense nursing a massive hangover or just general fatigue on the first day of the new year. So most years, I've spent a quiet evening with my closer friends, watched TV at home or simply slept through it all.

This year was different. In the last hours of 2012, I found myself gawping at a bunch of dancers wearing grass skirts and engaging each other in frantic pelvic-thrusting and postures that would make the Kama Sutra blush and feel like a gymnastics handbook for toddlers.

I was at the picturesque Season’s Lodge on Pongwe beach in Zanzibar. A waiter, whom we fondly referred to as the Laughing Kenyatta, proudly informed us about the resort’s New Year’s Eve party at dinner the previous evening. He beamed from ear to ear as he read out the menu for the proposed party. “There will also be an acoustic band from Zambia,” he trilled, Cheshire-Cat grin spreading to reveal at least 53 pearly whites glinting in the moonlight.

The prospect of listening to some traditional African music appealed to everyone.

The “acoustic band” turned out to be two guys with bongo drums. The rest – about five men and three women – were dancers. A few men wore grass skirts. The leader had a whistle dangling around his neck, which he blew from time to time as the group pranced around in a circle, singing, clapping and hooting in an indecipherable tongue.

Then the group began pairing off in turn. Each couple would stand in the middle of the circle, gyrate suggestively and end with very frenzied coital poses. Once in a while, a few women would break off from the group and head over to a man in the audience. She’d then do what I have only seen some naughty male dogs do to unsuspecting human legs.

I pride myself on being very open-minded, a progressive thinker and by no measure a prude. But this proved too much even for me. I glanced over at the rest of the audience. Everyone – westerners and us from the subcontinent alike – had the same perplexed and somewhat stunned expression. My neighbour's eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets while his lower jaw fell into his champagne glass.

I clicked one picture of the group and then hastily stuffed the camera away. “Bad light,” I said, but the truth is I did not want to look like a skulking pervert. The resort clientele’s conversation at breakfast the next day was peppered with “shocking” and rolling eyes.

The performance seemed endless. The moves did not change. The only ones having fun were the dancers themselves. A couple of enthusiastic resort staff sang along and clapped with glee before their Punjabi manager told them to stop standing around together.

Soon, the complimentary bubbly, the wine and the incessant drumming and gyrating began to take a toll. Fatigue and headaches set in. With about an hour to go for midnight, we slunk off to our villas.

Lying on a sunbed, gazing up at the star-flecked African night sky and contemplating a lazy ocean gleaming silver in the moonlight as a cool breeze gently tousled my hair seemed a far better way of bidding adieu to 2012. I fell into an easy slumber.

As the clock struck 12, I mumbled sleepy “happy new year” wishes and nestled into bed, enjoying the sound of waves breaking at the villa front. It struck me only much later – the entire resort was quiet. The sound of the bongos had ceased. It would appear that the Whistler and his merry bunch of African Corybantes had successfully driven everyone into the refuge of their villas well before the witching hour.

It was an auspicious start to 2013.

Happy new year, y’all!


  1. Oh, so we’re Southern this year, are we!?! ;-)
    Happy new year, munchkin.

    P.S. Love the collage. Very pretty.

  2. And we continue to be Brit royalty this year too, do we? :P

    Thank ye!

  3. Brit or Southern, the post rocked as usual. By the look of the collage the place looks lovely. How about posting that solitary pic of the African dancers :P

    By the way, wish you a very happy new year.

  4. @SEPO: The picture of the dancers is in the collage, but I can email the single to you if you're really hankering for it ;)

    Thank you :)

  5. Gyrating to afro beatsJanuary 14, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    The Corybantes were trying to inspire their audience to try sex their way and usher in the new year.

  6. @Gyrator: Of course, you would know.

  7. Mmmmm Africa aa aa aa … *thrusting pelvic*

  8. @CN Soap: Not to be pedantic, but "thrusting pelviC" ? :P


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