Soli is Socially tuned in and aware

Soli is Socially tuned in and aware

PETER TROMP chatted to SOLI PHILANDER about his new show ‘The Passion Gap’, showing at the GrandWest Roxy Revue Bar from Friday July 26, as well as life in general for the comedian and presenter.

It’s been a while since we’ve interviewed you for The Next 48hOURS; five years, in fact. Twitter wasn’t even that big a thing, back then. How has your life, and possibly your focuses changed during that time?
I think last time I spoke to The Next 48hOURS I was still very focussed on being a breadwinner. My kids were either at school or college still, so that was an important motivator for me – and still managing my creative output without compromising my creative instinct.
In a scenario like that one can get a bit obsessed with image and of course there is the added complication of working with ‘bosses’ and their agendas. The rather nasty conclusion of my time at Capetalk prompted me to pursue something that had been crapping at me for a while – the need for independence and being more in control of what I was associated with and what I support. For the past just over two years the bulk of my endeavours has been geared towards ‘The Taxi’ – the online community with ‘Taxi Radio’ (www.thetaxi.co.za) and ‘TaxiVision’ (our show for CapeTownTelevision) as its mouthpieces and leverage across our Social Media platforms. Recently we added ‘Vanity Case’ (our lifestyle and beauty show for CTV) to our endeavours and the big push for us now is ‘The Passion Gap’. I think all this activity reflects a shift within me, specifically my own understanding around issues of identity, like-mindedness and community.

You’re back on stage with ‘The Passion Gap’ at the GrandWest Roxy Revue Bar. Tell us about the show and what audiences can look forward to.
Most of my self-penned work has been around considering context and the universality of the individual experience. ‘The Passion Gap’ is in part a response to the stereotypical accusations levelled at Coloured people over the years (No, I won’t be singling out Kuli Roberts – bashing The Coloureds is an old South African game) and the fact that Coloured people as a grouping are about to increase in desirability with the looming elections. Let me hasten to add that it is not about politics – so there’ll be no baiting political parties and politicians – but more around the economic, social and developmental issues that confront Coloured people in The Cape. I’ve for a while been keenly interested in deconstructing performance and ‘The Passion Gap’, to over-stretch a metaphor, is sort of the start of the relationship that has grown out of all the flirting. So, ‘The Passion Gap’ is also a show about being a show. I’ve always been fascinated with breaching The Fourth Wall’, that imaginary construct that separates performer and audience.
The audience will dictate the shape of the show, as I’ll be offering them the pick of ten pieces I’ve written, each in response to a stereotypical accusation, and they’ll be able to choose which ones they’d like to hear when. The pieces are not so much stand-up comedy as stand-up commentary, which is always a lovely reason to employ humour. Every evening we’ll showcase a different performer who will be our special guest in the ‘MTN Haal Uit En Wys’ section, where with the support of MTN we’ve sourced some of the best of local talent to come and impress.

A “passion gap” is a uniquely Cape Town phenomenon. For those not in the know, please explain what that terms means.
Traditionally it refers to the lack of teeth between the two eye-teeth. On ‘The Taxi’ we’ve come to understand it means the thing that drives you, what makes the sacrifices worthwhile and what gets you up in the morning.

A particular thing that stood out from our last interview was the following quote from you: “As I’ve gotten older, I’m beginning to realise that most anything is pointless without healthy community. My intention is to build community.” I imagine you still feel the same way, but what is your opinion on the current state of our communities? Have things improved in the last five years, or are we worse off?
Sjoe, I didn’t see that one coming. Did I say that? I suppose there is expressing a desire and then there’s materializing it. ‘The Passion Gap’ examines attitudes and opinions attributed to specific communities and I like to believe it’s impossible for me not to be positive – so my perspective is skewed by my approach and I’m always aiming for resolution.
We’re worse off, but we’ve also improved. Now the question becomes, “What are we going to do?” On a personal note I am inspired, comforted, challenged and buoyed by The Taxi Community – and I’ve helped build that.

You’ve seemingly dedicated a large part of your time of late to unearthing local talent, and audiences will get a taste of that in ‘The Passion Gap’. Why do you have such a strong belief in what the Mother City has to offer?
I think on some sub-conscious level I’m never going to shake this feeling that I got lucky. I’m not being falsely modest when I say I have come across people with more talent in their ‘pinkie’ than I have in my whole body, constrained by lack of opportunity.
So I’d like to be part of someone else’s getting lucky. The talent is there, I’m exposed to it all the time on The Taxi. We’ve been a magnet for people who think they’ve got something to offer, and they do.

Getting back to Twitter, you’re quite active on there. As someone who has always had a major presence in the traditionally structured mainstream media, how do you feel about the forever burgeoning alternative media world?
I love Social Media. It’s a direct line to audiences. Who you engage and interact with is entirely at your own discretion.

* Book at Computicket.