To the moon and back

The South African music industry is bustling with talent, but what makes one musical artist stand out above the rest? VANESSA SMEETS examines Marcia Moon’s determination to stand ground in a world increasingly plagued by mental disorders.

Marcia Moon pain

SURVIVOR: Marcia Moon suffered a lot to reach a point of stability through her music. PHOTO: Margot Scholtz

“Obsession and fear seem to draw near to the place I call home, to the people I owe laughter to. Obsession and fear seem to interfere with my lifeline, my love, with the place I used to rest so. I forgive, I forgive, I forgive… Oh the anger side, visions in my mind…”

– Obsession and Fear, A Gradual Awakening

As a little girl, Marcia Scholtz would sing along to musicals, memorise jingles from television advertisements and fell in love with her parents’ collection of music. It was not a phase or childhood fantasy. Instead, it created a burning desire within her to perform.

Born in 1976 in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, she was born at the height of the Apartheid struggle and the birth of Black Consciousness. At the age of ten, her own musical consciousness emerged, when a family friend taught her how to play guitar. “He was blind and inspired me to see beyond; into the spiritual, ever moving world of music. It was magical,” she says, her blue-grey eyes glistening.

The musical artist “Marcia Moon” may have been born during the years she would serenade her friends at their windowsills, perform at shopping malls and in streets. People were attracted to her haunting velvet voice, not realising how a horrible breakdown had unleashed this creative energy.

“One day, like the moon has its phases, I died. It was dark then. But, I was re-born with an incredible sense of self,” she explains.“Moon” came from the symbol of the celestial body’s madness, yet mysticism and its ability to influence tides and moods.

Moon in phases

WAXING AND WANING: Just as the moon goes through phases, Marcia found a burning desire within her to perform.

Judged by her sexual orientation, Marcia suppressed a storm of emotions: “There was pressure to be heterosexual, feminine and ordinary. It eventually led to a nervous breakdown.”

Raised by Afrikaans parents, she describes her childhood as a constant struggle:

“I never felt male or female. I was someone in between: androgynous. My creativity came from a deep, psychological place. It was a very difficult and dark time.”

Although her first passion was music and she spent more time studying it than anything else, she did three years at the University of Pretoria doing her LLB (Bachelor of Law) in the late 1990s. Law has constantly followed her and she still wishes to pursue criminal law.

Law has also brought her a sense of stability: “It has taught me a lot about people, culture and politics. What makes us, us. Law continues to inspire ideas for songs.”

After living in Sunnyside, Pretoria, for a year, she decided to work in London for two years. There, she would keep busy doing odd jobs as a cook, factory worker, photographer, waitress and butter packer.

“There’s humility in working long hours for little pay,” she says, grinning, “You find yourself.”

She reluctantly returned to South Africa, singing in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Her years as a modern-life gypsy allowed her music to be an interesting mix of soul, passion and desire. Her songs vary from ordinary, mundane topics like washing dishes to more complex philosophical subjects like same-sex relationships.

“I’m more interested in friendships, love stories and daily tales that I go through,” she explains, “I’m a gypsy through the boundaries I’ve created. You can be mentally unhealthy or suffer through unhealthy relationships, but you only grow once you stay grounded. Like a tree, you need those deep roots. I’ve learnt to have both: incredible experiences within boundaries.”

gradual awakening

AWAKEN: Her debut album is a symphony of symbolic elements.

Like her first album describes, it was a gradual awakening.

The CD cover is a network of symbols close to her. The butterfly symbolises the metamorphosis of rediscovering herself.
The spider symbolises the darkness she had to go through alone.
The subtle African print is proof of her love for Africa, its diverse cultures and people.
The dice on the corner symbolise luck by not always following the rules.
The pair of birds come from the nostalgia of watching David Lynch’s Twin Peaks as a teen.

She says, while fidgeting with the tablecloth: “Those birds in the opening of the first season were about mystery, obscurity. It was dream-like yet frightening. Part of who I am.”

Today, she describes herself as someone whose “intense, obsessed, searching, yet balanced.” Her eyes glisten now with tears: “It has been a long journey; one where I have deepened by finding more tools a long the way. These tools have allowed me to bask in spirituality.”

From the depths of despair, as she puts it, she has grown into four successful spheres: singer, performer, guitarist and songwriter.

Her voice is suddenly deeper and confident:

“I want to be one of South Africa’s best songwriters and performers.”

Marcia Moon

PENSIVE: Marcia Moon finds inspiration within the ordinary. PHOTO: Margot Scholtz

It shows. Marcia puts a lot of effort into every gig, capturing her audience not only with her voice, but her potent facial expressions. While watching her fans, it is clear the music speaks to them. Some even cry while singing along.

“I’m not just singing. It’s a performance. It’s theatre.It’s interacting with your audience. I want to take them into the mood. My music may not be political, but it is a form of activism.”

Marcia explains her views on the South African music scene: “In the last twenty years, we have been creating culture: cultivating and moulding it. I want to be part of that.”

Experience has taught her to be intrigued with daily experiences. Playing chords on her guitar inspire future ideas and words for songs: “Sometimes, it will take ages. But it often happens quickly. Like soft rain after a dry thunderstorm, everything just falls into place.”

Marcia believes there’s still a gap in the Afrikaans music scene, especially when it comes to song writing: “Most of them sing without much passion about what they say or feel. They are just words or nice tunes. I don’t want my words to make people dance, but help their souls take flight.”

Her debut Album A Gradual Awakening is available at PLUM CD in Rosebank Mall and Revolution Records in Observatory, Cape Town. She is currently recording a bilingual album and working on songs for a third one:

“People take the writing part for granted. If it sounds good, that’s often enough. I write for fans that want to experience and explore. It’s a psychological process. I see music as the other mind: a different, profound dimension.”

FACT BOX

  • Full name: Marcia Scholtz
  • Date of birth: 20 October 1976
  • Favourite colour: Blue
  • Favourite food: Mexican, Indian, exotic salads and comfort food
  • Favourite place to relax: forests, bushveld and mountains
  • Favourite countries: South Africa, Romania and America
  • Inspirations: mystery, awareness, darkness, dreams, spirituality, signs, love and difficulties
  • Hobbies: photography, hiking, travelling, law, psychology and writing
  • Movies: In God’s Hands, The Others, Mulholland Drive, Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Books: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernst Hemingway
  • Passions: my dog, family and friends
  • Favourite quote:

Buddha: “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”

  • Likes: animals, nature, politics, sports, culture, stories, history and being African
  • Dislikes: sloth, consumerism, over-indulgence, prejudice, conformity, greed, power and when people wear their sunglasses on their heads.