Letter From Brazzaville
Hi my name is Paul Kinshabe and I’m a very important part of The Fauves’
organisation. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself.
About 5 years ago the guys realised that managing their burgeoning
success in equatorial Africa from thousands of miles away in Australia was
becoming impossible. As one of the very few Western bands to have made
commercial inroads into this region, they were keen to capitalise on their
promising start. To this end they made a decision to greatly expand their
operations, opening up a series of branch offices in various African
nations. This is where I came in. With my intimate knowledge of the
African alternative music scene, I offered the band on the ground experience
in the highly specialised requirements of negotiating a foreign artist
through the delicate minefield of local custom and business practice. I met
with the guys at the Big Day Out in early 2001 in Melbourne and we hit it
off right away. I left for home 3 days later as the proud new owner of the
title, Chief Liaison Officer for Fauves Operations in Sub Saharan Africa.
We set up a base in Kampala, Uganda, a city that had been a long time
stronghold of Fauves support. From there we expanded operations into
neighbouring Tanzania and Kenya, dramatically increasing market share and
being largely responsible for an unprecedented profitability in the band’s
offshore operations. When the guys recently announced a record half yearly
profit for the 6 months to December 2005 it was the African division that
garnered most of the credit.
Early this year I left my second in command to take charge of the office
in Kampala and moved to Brazzaville, the capital of the Congo. Not the
Democratic Republic of Congo our larger and more famous neighbour but
Congo, a 342,000 square kilometre tropical wonderland stretching more than
1000 km in from the Atlantic Coast to the border with the Central African
Republic. Two mighty rivers, the Congo and the Ubangi, provide a
commercially navigable highway along virtually our entire eastern frontier
allowing unfettered access to markets hitherto unknown to rock music.
Anyway, enough about me. I was asked if I would mind contributing to
thefauves.com, an important plank of the band’s ongoing global publicity
operations. Naturally I was more than happy to come on board, even if only
to share just a small amount of my unique experiences promoting The Fauves
in a country that remains largely ignorant of their work. Rest assured they
won’t be unknown here for much longer. In the meantime, please enjoy my
’Letter from Brazzaville’!
The guys charged me with locating a giant screen TV so they could watch a
live coverage of the ARIAs. This was no mean feat in a country where many
people don’t even have access to such basics as running water, telephones
and electricity. In the end I was able to source one from an aide at the
French embassy who didn’t need it back until Saturday night when State run
television was airing a documentary celebrating the benefits of nuclear
testing in the Pacific. Calling in a few old favours, I managed to cadge an
emergency generator from the maternity ward at the Brazzaville Municipal
I have to tell you, the boys were pretty nervous. I had organised a live
satellite feed so that they could accept their awards in real time during
the show. The afternoon was spent refining speeches and rehearsing lines.
They carefully practiced an acapella version of Advance Australia Fair
planned as a spontaneous reaction to winning the ARIA for best band.
Unfortunately, the evening was a bit of a let down. It turned out that the
guys hadn’t actually been nominated a communication breakdown for which I
assumed all responsibility. I was sure when I overheard Coxy talking to
Bernard Fanning’s answering machine that he’d mentioned the band was
nominated for: "At least 4 or 5 to tell you the truth I don’t take much
notice of that sort of thing. How can you give awards for rock bands? Who
measures greatness in art? Anyway, call me back if you get this message.
I’d love you to give some thought to that duo idea. Bye mate. Call me.
Leave a message if I’m not there, I’ll call you right back. Ok. Bye matey.
Stay well. 041 567 980 43. reverse the charges if you like though I know
you’re pretty loaded and would probably consider it an insult. Did I give
you my number ?"
Shortly before the show’s big finale, a huge thunderstorm hit Brazzaville,
knocking out power to most of the city. Fortunately we had the back up
generator although we had to turn the volume up to overcome an unseemly
disturbance coming from some of the kids in the hospital next door.
Some nasty hangovers this morning. Neither were they overly impressed down
at the embassy when I returned their TV. The screen seemed to have been
inadvertently kicked in and one of the diplomatic corps wanted to blame the
guys. I stood up for them unflinchingly it’s just not the kind of thing
they would do. At least not after last year’s show when Doctor got his foot
stuck in the cathode tube of the giant screen at the Plantation Owner’s Arms
and had to be helped out by the fire brigade with the Jaws of Life. I’ve
seen them shoot out a screen with semi automatic weapons for a joke after a
few drinks but kicking? no way. They’ve stolen 4 wheel drive army jeeps
from the local barracks and driven them through the front window of
electrical goods shops accidentally smashing a few TV screens along the way
but I have total confidence in the fact that they would never knowingly
kick one in. Yes, they have buried the heads of unappreciative fans through
a row of screens set up as a backdrop on stage, but not so much as a
sandshoe went near any of them. Still, the French would not be placated and
refused to let me off the compound until I had reimbursed them. For some
stupid reason I tried to claim the fee as part of my monthly expenses and
fully deserved the lawsuit the guys served on me.
Once the ARIAs were over, the guys’ focus switched to the upcoming CRIAs
(Congolese Recording Industry Awards) where they were nominated in a record
23 categories. We managed to get temporary citizenship for them from a
photocopying shop just off the Place de la Revolution so they would be
eligible. These awards are a big deal in a country where rock music is only
just getting a foothold. To this end it was a little problematic finding
enough entrants to fill some of the categories. The weeks leading up to the
show have been a frantic search around local rehearsal studios looking for
contestants. We set the awards up as a response to the lack of any
meaningful Congolese equivalent to the Australian version, and it is thus
very important that there be at least some local representation that the
cameras can briefly alight on before the guys get up on stage to accept each
award. This inaugural show is going to be a beauty. The boys are playing
the opening number and sharing hosting duties with Bono*
*Not the U2 singer but Bono the bonobo (a small chimpanzee like animal, homo
sapiens closest animal relative) who co hosts an afternoon children’s show
over here and lent some guest backing screeches to several songs on the
Fauves’ last album)
What a triumph! The boys opened the show with Dogs are the Best People (12
inch remix) and dedicated the evening to Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Aung San
Suu Kyi and Keith Urban all of whom had their people send form letters
apologising for their absence. Mandela was busy, Ghandi is dead and Suu Kyi
is under house arrest but the guys were pretty disappointed with Urban’s no
show, especially after they sent him and Nicole that case of whisky as a
wedding gift. Anyway, the evening just got better from there. The guys won
a swag of awards everything from Best Australian Band Based in Brazzaville
to Best Australian Male Performer Resident in Brazzaville For Less Than 6
Months (a nail biting 4 way tie between Coxy, Doctor, Doug and Ted).
Immediately following their stunning success there were some petty
allegations of vote buying all of which had no basis in fact. An
unidentified source claimed to have seen Ted in an alley paying someone off
with a wad of bills. It’s amazing how these rumours start. Certainly Ted
does not deny being in the alley, but he was buying heroin at the time.
Makes some of the self appointed ’media commentators’ who get on the guys’
backs from time to time look pretty damn stupid.
Sadly, the evening got a little out of hand with the announcement of the
winner in the Urban Roots category, the Impfondo Rebels. After a great build
up, during which Doctor created incredible suspense by excusing himself for
a toilet break just after saying " and the winner is ", it turned out that
the winners were actually an armed militia group. They stormed the stage in
balaclavas and military fatigues, killing several other nominees in their
category and holing up in the media room, refusing to do interviews. Some of
these young bands need to take a lesson in class from the masters, The
Fauves, who stayed calm throughout the crisis and even offered to look after
the award on the winners’ behalf.
The show got back on track when the guys rose to accept their Lifetime
Achievement Award, becoming the first inductees to the People’s Republic of
Congo Hall of Fame. It was so touching when they accepted their trophy from
a small refugee boy who had needed both arms amputated after a crate of
awards fell on him during rehearsal. Ted and Doctor hoisted him high on
their shoulders, letting him balance the statuette briefly on his head
before he dropped it and was passed back to his mother. It only surfaced
later that the young fellow was a Muslim, leaving the guys with no option
but to call a number of terrorist hotlines set up in accordance with the
heightened security surrounding the event.
The next award was for Best Newcomer won by the B’aath Party Boys
Kevin Borich’s new cover band with Dave Gleeson from the Screaming Jets out
front. This was a bit of a sore point for the guys who felt that they
should have been able to enter this category. Sure, they have been going
for a long time, but this was the CRIAs first year so everyone was in effect
a newcomer. Doug gave a pretty pointed speech to that effect when on stage
to accept the award for best Australian Right handed drummer.
After such a great night, there was bound to be a let down and it came
when Powderfinger won the final award album of the year. The Fauves had a
stack of albums up for the award, due to a technicality that they worked on
with the organisers at a pre event summit only weeks before the show. This
loophole allowed Greatest Hits Albums to be broken down into the constituent
records from which their songs were drawn, leaving the Fauves with eight
entries in the category. Although initially there seemed to be no record of
Powderfinger ever having released an album in the Congo, it later turned out
that someone had bought a copy over the net enough to get them over the
line in a tight race. It was a bitter pill, made especially difficult to
swallow because the boys had flown in their great friend Ben Lee specially
to present the award.
In a sad postscript to the evening, Lee’s light plane crashed shortly
after take off from Brazzaville International airport bound for New York,
killing all on board. The guys immediately wrote a tribute song and posted
it on the Internet but had to withdraw it almost immediately when it was
discovered that people were downloading it for free. Contrary to the
accounts of several eyewitnesses who reported seeing survivors, Coxy, who
was one of the first people on the scene, reported that Lee was a confirmed
victim. Grim faced and reading from a prepared statement, he offered his
thoughts to the media pack that quickly assembled near the runway from which
Ben’s fateful flight had departed.
"Today the Congolese music scene lost a valued friend but you may rest
assured that he died doing what he loved most appearing at celebrity
events. I know for a fact that this is how he would have wanted it, the end
was quick and he suffered only several minutes of acute pain. Ben told me
with his last breath that he knew his music was a fraud and wanted me to
apologise to everyone on his behalf".
For some bizarre reason the coroner returned an open verdict at the
inquiry into his death, claiming that it "Couldn’t be stated beyond
reasonable doubt that the impact of the crash was the sole contributor to
the injuries of the deceased. In particular, the presence of several
unexplained knife wounds to the chest area, throws doubt over the cause of
death". The guys are playing a benefit show for Lee from which they hope to
raise enough money to bury the much lamented singer’s body deeper than the
statutory 6 foot requirement.
DATELINE: TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER
Coxy approached me today with a great new idea. He wants to me to help put
together the Andrew Cox Foundation, a charity fund after the fashion other
similar celebrity organisations already in existence. How generous is this
guy?! The giving never seems to stop and he reckons there will be at least
6 to 7% of the capital left after administrative expenses. It hardly needs
saying that the genius frontman will be far too busy to get involved with
the day to day running of the fund but he was good enough to give me the
number of his tax accountant.
DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER
Copped a mild rebuke from the guys this morning not that I didn’t deserve
it mind you! Album sales have been slower than projected and responsibility
necessarily falls on my desk. An Australian independent rock album was
always going to be a hard sell in a country where few people can afford to
own CD players.
"What about their iPods?" Doug asked. "Why don’t they just download the
album from iTunes? We still get a cut from that don’t we?" He went on to
make the interesting point that Fauve is a French word and, in a country
where French is the official language, I had neglected to fully utilise that
asset as a marketing tool, in his words, ‘going forward’.
"What’s the GNP per capita of this joint?" Doug continued one rainy
afternoon recently as we waited for soundcheck in Ponte Noire.
"About $US680", I replied. "It is a poor country. Many people live off
subsistence agricul ."
"You’re damn right it’s a poor country", Doug interrupted. "A pretty poor
country that can’t understand the value of a $15 Fauves album. I mean we’re
selling them for $25 back home! How much more of a discount do they want?"
He sat back down in his chair. The only sounds were the equatorial rain
hammering on the corrugated iron roof of the dressing room and Ted making
out with a young Bantu girl he had haggled for in a laneway earlier in the
"My God these people are savages", Doug resumed, frustrated. "Can’t they
see that buying ‘Nervous Flashlights’ still leaves them with fully $660 for
the rest of the year?"
DATELINE: FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER
The guys are getting a bit sick of the local food. People here are generous
and will offer whatever they have even if means going hungry themselves
but let’s face it, the Fauves deserve the best.
"Goddamn cassava and yams again", Doctor complained before Thursday’s show
in Impfondo after our hosts delivered the evening meal.
"Hey boy", he yelled at the servant backing apologetically out of the room.
"Get over here. What is the meaning of this starchy mess?" The waiter
seemed embarrassed and motioned that he would try to source something else.
Presently there came a series of squawks from the yard outside. Shortly
thereafter the man reappeared with 4 chickens and began preparing a small
fire upon which to cook them. Sensing trouble I tried to shepherd the
unwitting local out of the room but it was too late.
"We’re fucking vegetarians", Doctor and Coxy screamed in unison, rounding on
the unfortunate aide de camp. Coxy began dismantling the chicken and hurling
parts of the greasy carcass around the room.
"See the chicken fly, see the chicken fly", he chanted, growing increasingly
agitated as he tore at the barely cooked flesh. Eventually he calmed down a
bit after Ted injected him with some elephant tranquilliser. Tomorrow we
are having a funeral for the 4 chickens. Coxy has written a moving eulogy
and he and Doctor are going to play acoustic at the service. The guys are
thinking of recording it as a pre Christmas stocking filler release.
DATELINE: SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER
We had Pascal Lissouba and a bunch of his cronies try to come backstage
after tonight’s show. After being ousted from government in the civil war
of ’97, Lissouba has been nothing but trouble. Security tried to stop them
but it seems that Lissouba had picked up an Access All Areas pass from
somewhere. Surprisingly, the guys appeared happy to see him, gathering
round the deposed leader as though he was an old friend. Apparently he has
organised to take them riding tomorrow because I heard Doug say something
about a horse. They seemed strangely listless onstage tonight and seemed to
have lost all interest in the trail ride when I asked if they wanted me to
book a wake up call.
DATELINE: MONDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER
Met some of the guys for breakfast to find them in various states of
distress. News down the wire from home was not good it seems a great
friend of theirs had passed away over night. Even worse, it looked as
though the sound track they were writing for his next show probably wouldn’t
"He was one of the best", Doctor explained as he ordered his usual breakfast
of poached cassava on boiled yam. "You have crocodiles here in Congo?"
I explained that we did.
"Really", Doctor continued. "You’ve got an Australia Zoo franchise here
too?" I told Doctor that the Congo was one of the mightiest rivers in the
world and that crocodiles were manifest in every reach of its immense
"Oh, well you’d know Steve Irwin then". I had to confess the name was
unfamiliar to me.
"Steve fucking Irwin, you idiot", Doctor berated. I knew I had not done my
research properly and began to apologise before he interrupted.
"Major disrespect dude. Man, no one knew how to torment a croc like that
bugger’. He fished a photo out of his wallet. "Have a look at that". A
gregarious looking man in khaki shorts gave a thumbs up while posing with
his head inside the gaping maw of an estuarine crocodile. Doctor stared at
the photo a while longer, lost in reverie.
"The good die young", he whispered after a while. "The good also die middle
aged. They can die any time but many of them die young". I saw a tear well
in the corner of his eye.
"You guys must have been very close", I said after a time.
Who? Me and Steve?"
"Nah, didn’t know him mate. But he was an Aussie icon kind of like us
only not quite as talented. Aussie values mate. You Congolese wouldn’t
understand anything about that. You kill yourselves with civil war, famine,
AIDS, malaria. You guys have a choice. Stop fighting; eat some food; wear
a condom; take some quinine. Steve never had that chance. All he ever did
was torment a few animals. Entertained millions. And for that he was
taken. No fucking quinine invented that I know can protect against a
fucking Stingray through the guts".
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.
"Guess he’ll never get to hear that soundtrack we were writing now", said
Ted, joining the others at breakfast with a young Sangha girl he had met by
the roadside on the way to the café.
"You never bothered to learn your fucking bass parts for it anyway you
fucking fuck" screamed Coxy, the elephant tranquilliser wearing off. They
set to with fisticuffs, spilling into the dusty road outside. I rose and
made to go and separate them.
"Let ‘em go", Doug counselled, a restraining hand on my shoulder. "Emotions
are raw. Coxy was very close to Steve".
"I should ring the airline and organise a flight back for the funeral".
"Nah, he’ll be right mate. Steve was an entertainer. He would have
understood that the show must go on. Besides, Coxy didn’t actually know
"Oh really?" I was surprised. He seemed so upset.
"Nah, didn’t know him from shit. Tried to get backstage at one of his
crocodile tormenting extravaganzas once but there was a mix up with the
guest list and security stopped him. He just always felt very close
to him. Both frontmen you see. The likes of us could never understand the
pressures that those guys deal with. Coxy was now on his knees, lost in a
spiritual trance. A guttural moan issued from deep in his chest and he began
rocking back and forth, slapping open palms onto his bare forehead. We sat
around in awe, transfixed at this incredible moment, embryonic creativity at
close range. It seemed that he had started speaking in tongues.
"Hey Paul", he broke off suddenly. "Can you tape this in case I come up
with some shit we can use later?"
DATELINE: THURSDAY 18 MAY
New album instore today! It’s been as busy a time as I can remember. The
boys haven’t had time to actually record any new stuff it’s been a crazy
10 years so they’re repackaging some of their most popular songs into a
brand new compilation.
The lads are expecting Greatest hits the King Leopold II of Belgium
Special Selection to debut high on the charts. Guess who has to make it
happen! Bribery and graft are not unknown in this country and the boys are
well known for their insistence on adopting the cultural proclivities of
whichever country they happen to be in. The CD is being released in special
rubber packaging partly for cost reasons but mainly as a tribute to Leopold
himself, a guy who did much to open up this hitherto backward region to the
realities of global commerce.
DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 17 MAY
The boys arrived today pretty jetlagged but in typically giving style they
insisted on meeting the girls before checking in at the hotel. I suggested
that perhaps the contestants could meet them there and they leapt at the
idea. "That’s the kind of thinking they pay me for" apparently. Have to
admit I felt pretty chuffed when I dropped the ladies off and the guys
crowded round me high fiving and intimating that a raise may be on the
agenda. Just think of it, my first raise in 13 years! Not that I’m
complaining they’ve always really looked after me. I’m on $1.50 a day
plus commissions after the sale of 5 million albums in the greater Congo
basin area. Some of the girls are very young so I’m really glad they’ll have
the band’s steadying influence to help them through. Ted offered to take a
couple of the shyest ones under his wing. They jumped at the chance; so
much so that I had to break into his room and prise them out from under his
wing next morning to make sure they got to school on time. He’s really good
like that though. His wing is available to pretty much anyone who wants it.
DATELINE: MONDAY 15 MAY
I’ll let you in on a secret. When I first came to work for the Fauves I
thought they’d probably be a bit arrogant, maybe even a little precious.
Not that they wouldn’t have had a right to of course; coping with talent on
their scale is a serious business. Well it didn’t take long for me to have
that notion quelled. A more compassionate, down to earth bunch of guys you
could not find anywhere. Only a year after the tsunami tore a swathe
through the countries bordering the Indian Ocean, their publicity agent Beth
was on the phone. The guys, ever concerned about those less fortunate than
themselves, wanted to do a benefit, here in Congo, to help the victims. I
can’t tell you how much of a heel I felt having to let them down by
informing them that the Indian Ocean was on the other side of Africa! Still
the guys would not be dissuaded. They had a new album coming out and were
determined to help some people less fortunate than themselves. They charged
yours truly with the job of coming up with a worthy cause, and I, in my own
humble way was more than happy to oblige. As one of the poorest nations on
earth, Congo has no shortage of heartbreaking social and economic ills so I
drew up a short list of worthy charities for the boys to choose from:
children’s orphanages, AIDS foundations; housing projects that sort of
thing. Apparently none of my suggestions quite fitted the bill after all
the guys are very busy and Sub Saharan Africa’s problems are pretty
intractable. In the wash up they are coming over in 2 weeks to do a gig to
help raise money to send a Miss Congo to the next Miss Universe Pageant!
It’s a really worthwhile project and the guys are being really generous with
their time even insisting that they meet each of the contestants
personally. Moreover, they have taken an active role in personally selecting
the outfits, all the while maintaining a keen eye on cultural sensitivities.
As a matter of fact a huge box of Brazilian style bikini bottoms arrived
this morning. My next job will be getting on to someone in Customs: the
tops seem to have gone missing. All shoulders to the wheel !
DATELINE: MONDAY 8 MAY
Saw the boys off at the airport today with an extra heavy heart. After a
hastily convened meeting in bathrobes outside Coxy’s room at 4am we decided
it was best that my wife accompany the guys home to help take the burden off
the overworked staff back in Australia. With only 178 people on the payroll
back there they are really short staffed and we all came to the agreement
that she would probably be of more use working as Coxy’s Personal Assistant
than here in the Congo cooling her heels. It’s not as if I’m not going to
see her anyway, as the band have promised to fly me over in 6 years for
their 20th birthday celebrations. Now that sounds like a big one! In the
meantime I need a bath and a good night’s sleep. Over and out for now!
DATELINE: SUNDAY 7 MAY
Headaches all round! Last night was the final show of the tour and, in
keeping with tradition; the boys really turned it on. Things got a little
tense pre show in the backstage compound when the rider arrived minus some
of the band’s specific requirements. A heated debate ensued with the local
promoter threatening to blow Doctor’s brains out with a small handgun and
several of his goons roughing up one of Doug’s consorts. I really despair
at this kind of thing as it undoes a lot of the hard work we have put in at
this end to get Western bands over here. The promoter called the guys a
bunch of greedy, bloodsucking, imperialist racists or words to that effect
and produced some statistics to show that the Congo’s annual GDP was
less than the band’s mini bar bill back at the hotel. That’s just sophistry
as far as I’m concerned. The guys have been incredibly giving and patient
on this tour, often performing at venues without spa, sauna, massage and 5
star restaurant facilities or 24 hour helicopter access all for fees only
marginally above those charged by contemporaries like U2. I could hardly
have blamed the guys if they had cancelled the show after suffering through
this kind of treatment. As it was they gave the crowd the greatest
18 minute rock set I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.
DATELINE: SATURDAY 6 MAY
Was awoken early this morning with a call from a hotel staff member claiming
to have found ’drug paraphernalia’ in one of the rooms. The petty
functionary seemed really worked up as he melodramatically described a cache
of hypodermic syringes, burnt spoons and traces of ’an unidentified white
powder’. Sometimes the most outwardly sinister scenarios have the simplest
answers! Apparently a couple of weeks on an African diet have taken a heavy
toll on everyone’s pancreatic systems and they have all become diabetic. I
really wish people would check the facts before jumping to rash conclusions.
I managed to mollify the hostile manager with some copies of the new album
and 50,000 dollars in unmarked bills.
DATELINE: FRIDAY 5 MAY
Late start today after the boys were involved in judging the annual Miss
People’s Republic of Congo competition last night. Everyone kicked on
afterwards to ZONEOUT Brazzaville’s hottest nightclub where we had set
up a special roped off VIP area for the band. In these situations there are
always going to be more people who want to attend than we have places for.
The guys really wanted some breathing space after their hectic week so we
kept the guest list really tight pretty much just the Miss Congo
contestants and a couple of Sports Illustrated models in town on a photo
shoot. I’m constantly amazed at how down to earth these guys are. They
were buying the girls free drinks, showing them how to play pool and
offering to put them up back at their hotel. I was especially grateful to
Coxy who gave up his evening to chaperone my wife while I caught up on some
DATELINE: THURSDAY 4 MAY
Fewer than 50,000 people own television sets in this country so a talk show
run that the guys had planned was shelved. We organised a series of small
and intimate acoustic performances instead: all in all a great success. The
Congolese people have really responded to the boys’ warm personalities and
easygoing manner and these low key concerts have proved a perfect showcase.
We had a little trouble in Pointe Noire today when the crowd got a bit
enthusiastic and started trying to breach the razor wire barriers we had
erected in front of the stage. It can be difficult getting the locals to
understand that the guys are very tired and not really up to meeting anyone.
In lieu of an actual face to face with the band we had printed up some
framed photos with stamped on facsimiles of the band’s autographs that sold
really well. Of course we have to be careful and are only able to except
hard currency, preferably American dollars, so a few kids who had only CFA
francs went away disappointed. The guys were philosophical and felt excited
that they had been able to teach the children a really valuable lesson.
DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 3 MAY
The guys swung back into Congo after a couple of night’s relaxation in
neighbouring Gabon and walked straight into a firestorm of controversy.
Apparently Reuters were carrying a story about the meet and greet cocktail
party thrown by the Australian ambassador the other night at which the band
and several members of the Congolese government, including President Denis
Sassou Nguesso, were in attendance. According to the story running in
several major dailies, one of the guys was seen in the grounds of the
ambassadorial residence entertaining Sassou Nguesso’s teenage daughter. I
mean come on! The age of consent is a notoriously hazy concept in this part
of the world and extremely difficult to prosecute. The President’s daughter
is obviously a major fan of the band and I have it on reliable information
that their activities went no further than a little light bondage. Sure
there were some minor issues of cultural sensitivity involved but you have
to wonder whether some people have anything better to do with their lives.
DATELINE: TUESDAY 2 MAY
A Chief Liaison Officer of Fauves’ Operations in Sub Saharan Africa’s job is
never done! Some of the press got hold of a rumour regarding a small
incident on a boat cruise the guys took on Saturday and really blew it out
of proportion. I spent the whole morning hosing it down and reassuring the
foreign affairs department that threatening to sever diplomatic relations
with Australia was a gross overreaction. The alleged infraction was a
simple case of misunderstanding. The lads were keen to do some sight seeing
so I organised a boat trip up the Congo for them and a few local
dignitaries. Anyway, boys will be boys and after a couple too many glasses
of the local firewater things got a little rowdy. Doug and Ted are real
Joseph Conrad fans and they decided on an impromptu re enactment of the
Kurtz death scene just as we pulled up alongside a small riverside village.
The face paint was nothing more than a light hearted joke and the accents
were so obviously a humorous parody that it was amazing anyone took offence.
The chief of the local tribe was one of those who didn’t see the funny side,
however, and it took no small amount of convincing him to release his
vice like grip on Ted’s badly damaged windpipe. Naturally enough the band
was pretty hot under the collar over their shoddy treatment at the hands of
the ungrateful natives and went on a brief rampage to avenge their damaged
honour. Apparently some religious icons were smashed in the ensuing fracas
and a female member of the community was verbally abused. After an
undisclosed financial settlement the village elders agreed that they were in
the wrong and happily signed a prepared statement to this effect in which
they offered the band an unconditional apology.
DATELINE: MONDAY 1 MAY
Wow what a weekend! The guys just wrapped up their first series of shows in
Congo and I am beat! Boy do they know how to party!! It’s been five days of
non stop activity exhausting but heaps of fun. Most of the band members
are really friendly and seem genuinely interested in the country and its
people. I had a great conversation with Doctor about Cobalt mining after
the show the other night. He seemed really well briefed and asked a lot of
detailed questions about local regulations, the statutory rights of the
indigenous population and the legal validity of Congolese environmental
laws. He has a small logging concession in one of the tropical rainforests
about halfway up the Ubangi and really feels that now might be the time to
expand operations. I said I’d speak to a couple of people and he said yes,
DATELINE 20 APRIL
The guys take Anzac Day really seriously and, being so far from home, the 25th of April is always extra special. They had the great idea of celebrating Australia’s defacto national day with a concert to raise money for the Andrew Cox Foundation. It was also a chance to spread a few Australian values to some starving kids in need of a good role model. Where Aussies have a proud history of invading other lands, the Congolese have largely been passive onlookers as the white man, justifiably frustrated at centuries of inactivity, was at last forced to come in and take control of the country’s under utilised natural resources.
The fellows made it my job to find a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign whom they could get on stage to help sing some back ups. It was a tough job finding a 1915 digger living in the greater Brazzaville area so I had the idea of showing Breaker Morant on a large screen behind them as they played. This apparently wasn’t good enough and I was sent to the only video rental store in Brazzaville with the order to "Get Gallipoli and if they haven’t got that then Crocodile Dundee". Unfortunately neither of these quintessential Australian movies was in stock. At the last minute Normie Rowe’s management called and, after some brief haggling to increase the amount he was offering to pay us, the grizzled old rocker/Vietnam vet was on the next flight to join the guys on stage.
DATELINE 22 APRIL
The last concert the guys held here was on Australia Day back in January and, to be honest, there were a few problems. Firstly, Doug had the idea of getting everyone in the crowd to wear green and gold face paint as a way of getting into the spirit of things. The locals proved a little hesitant so the boys decided to kick things along a bit and organised two large water cannon to shoot the paint directly at the audience. Sadly, the pressure of the large bore weapons was a bit too high and many of the small kiddies who had congregated around the stage were knocked off their feet and sent scudding many metres backwards through a large mud pit. This lead to a bit of a fracas, which ended with 25 people dead and scores more injured. Fortunately, we had a pre recorded message of good will from Australian Prime Minister John Howard to help calm the confusion. Mr Howard reminded the assembled guests that Australia is the greatest country on earth and urged them to remember the hardships borne by ordinary hardworking Australian families. There was a definite decrease in the death rate amongst the rioting locals while the PM’s speech ran. He reminded them that they were, in effect, guests on Australian soil and as such needed to respect his country’s culture, history, and shared values. He was also clear in stating that the concert grounds were well outside of Australia’s migration zone and that, unfortunately, his country would not be in a position to provide refugee status to anyone seeking asylum. While the footage ran, a team of white South African mercenaries hired to provide security helped sort out the confusion. These guys were all ex policemen from the Johannesburg precinct and quickly restored order while keeping further deaths to a minimum. The band, to its credit, was visibly upset by this unforeseen tragedy and sought solace in the arms of a small legal team assembled backstage. While in no way accepting responsibility for the tragic events, the guys were good enough to offer one of their air conditioned trailers for use as a temporary morgue.
DATELINE 26 APRIL
The Anzac day concert went off fantastically well. We opened the show with a minute"s silence, after which Doctor played the Last Post on electric guitar truly spine tingling once he remembered to put his capo on the right fret. Doug then launched into a performance piece in which he ate Turkish bread while drumming along to a tape of Waltzing Matilda as a way of reconciling old enmities. Then in the set piece of the day Coxy and Normie Rowe dueted on I was Only 19. Emotions were raw as the two Vietnam vets pulled in close around the same mike to sing. Coxy quickly pointed out to Normie that his mike was over the other side of the stage. Once the confusion was cleared up Coxy belted out the lyrics with his customary gusto. Some people in the crowd complained that Normie’s voice was a little hard to hear and it seems he may have accidentally unplugged his mike with his walking stick. Unfortunately crowd numbers were a little down on those of the Australia Day event. Apparently the 25th of April is also Swaziland’s National flag day and the do gooders down at the Swazi legation had organised a concert of their own, mischievously making it free so as to directly compete with the $98 AUD ticket price at our show. It was a shame because the guys had deliberately tried to keep prices down this year, pegging any increases to rises in the Zimbabwean CPI.
The boys put in one of their patented five hour sets* before coming back for an encore. Just as they were about to return to the stage we heard a horrible screaming coming from the dressing rooms. It was Ted and Normie Rowe, locked together in vicious combat.
"You wouldn’t know ‘cos you weren’t fucking there!" Normie screamed as Ted sought to gain one of his patented pressure holds on the beleaguered veteran’s windpipe. Rowe was blue in the face and fading fast when we finally managed to loosen Ted’s vice like grip on the angry faded star’s chicken neck. It is always sad to see someone who can’t let go even worse when jealousy of the new generation boils over into physical violence. Apparently Rowe had questioned the veracity of Coxy’s military record an outrageous slander against a true patriot who would never refuse the call of his country in its hour of need. Ted, always ready to defend the honour of the only man he has ever truly loved, leapt to Coxy’s defence vowing to: "Smash Rowe’s head all the way back to Saigon". We had Normie sedated and put in restraints whereupon each of the guys had a bit of a go at teaching him a lesson before extracting a signed confession stating that he had made up the allegations about Coxy not serving in Nam. Later that night the guys challenged Rowe to a friendly game of paintball. The Fauves quickly chose to be the Australian Defence Force while Normie was left to play the Viet Cong. He suffered from a lack of manoeuvrability in his wheelchair and got a nice little touch up as payback for his earlier indiscretion.
*Original band members may not be on stage for entire duration of show
DATELINE 27 APRIL
The fellas put on a family day by way of thanking everyone who had helped out on the amazing Anzac Day show. We barbequed some Mountain Gorilla and everyone had a good feed before joining in a scratch cricket match organised to foster reconciliation. Just as the first ball was about to be bowled who should show up as an interested spectator? Shane Warne! He was quickly drafted onto the Fauves team and, after Doctor bowled an unchanged opening spell of 25 overs, took over from the River end. Shane is a great ambassador of the game and was keen to introduce the locals to the mysterious art of leg spin bowling. He started rolling his arm over to a few Congolese kids. Howzat!!! He soon had five for not many and was holding the ball aloft to acknowledge the generous applause of the crowd. Unfortunately one of his victims, a young boy with polio, was not fully versed in the rules and failed to immediately depart the crease upon being given out. Warney and the guys quickly set about providing him with directions, telling the young lad to "fuck off back to the pavilion" and gesturing demonstratively in its general direction. The guys came up with some really funny sledges when the boy came out to bat in the second innings, Doug at one stage asking if his withered arm was a result of "too much jerking off". Everyone fell about laughing and the kid, who plainly couldn’t read Warney’s flipper, was caught plumb LBW second ball. It was a long trudge back to the pavilion with the opposition’s laughter ringing in his ears. Warney promptly declared that the kid was now his "Bunny" before he and the guys decamped for a local nightspot to drink bourbon and sing Under The Southern Cross.