A chance encounter on a street corner
“Who are you?”
“Who are you?” I retorted with a slight roll of the neck.
What a strange question from a total stranger! I looked at the man who’d paused as he was tying his shoes to address me so abruptly. We stood on the sidewalk on Plett’s Main Street, regarding each other.
“What?” I countered, visibly annoyed.
“No…no. I said, ‘HOW are you?” he clarified.
Ugh! The South African accent had led me to misinterpret what someone had said to me yet again. This was not the first time. I was quickly sorry for my rudeness to this stranger, so I let my guard down – only slightly – and replied that I was fine.
“You were at Sao Gançalo for dinner with your family the other night, right? You were with your family? American?”
Now I was beginning to panic. Who was this guy? Was he stalking me?
“I eat there fairly often, so it’s very possible that I was…”
“I was there with my son and he pointed you guys out. I’m Leslie, by the way.” He extended his hand and shook mine congenially. “It’s nice to meet you.”
And that’s how I met Leslie Carpede, a Johannesburg transplant to Plett and worship leader who has performed for audiences in America and all over Southern Africa.
What got off to a bumpy start extended into an amiable twenty-five minute conversation about God, family, the arts and personal choices. I am often asked what led me to leave America to live in South Africa, a question I confess I often have some difficulty answering. I’ve written about it extensively. Upon meeting Les, I found myself asking the very same question while experiencing the same sense of disbelief that my own inquisitors no doubt felt. What could have possibly persuaded him to leave Johannesburg in favor of a small town like Plettenberg Bay? His answer was simple and honest.
“You know, in life you experience so many things. And after a while when you’re in a certain environment, you can almost predict what’s going to happen based on certain events. I love Johannesburg. It’s my home. But I’ve been there and done that. It was just time for something new for myself and for my family.”
I understood his motivations completely. His was the true heart of the adventurer and the artist.
In speaking the Mr. Carpede, it’s difficult not to be infected by his enthusiasm for music, the arts and the Lord. He effuses such a spirit of joy that one passerby – an elderly backpacker – was compelled to interrupt our conversation in order to comment, “It’s so good to hear people laugh!”
Soon our conversation turned to perception, race and identity. He looked at me with hopeful eyes and asked if I could sing.
“What?” I laughed. “Because I’m a Black American?”
Clearly, he was talent scouting. He grinned sheepishly.
“I think it’s a general (mis)conception we all probably have about each other,” I continued. “I assume all South Africans can sing, because so much wonderful music comes from this country. But I know it’s statistically impossible for every South African to be blessed with the gift of blow.”
“You’re right,” he agreed, and proceeded to tell me a story about an African American woman in a church he was performing in who had exasperated the choir director to no end. She refused to admit that she just couldn’t sing!
Fortunately, I hold no delusions about my abilities and spared him the waste of studio time and money by declining to lend my voice to his project. It was the holy thing to do.
What lies ahead for this artist?
Les is currently working on a live studio recording for a worship album to be released at a future date. Amid the bustle of downtown, I took a shot and disclosed that I was inspired to feature individuals who are exploring new passions and/or projects, I asked if I could feature him on MOM. I admitted that this was more to my benefit than his.
“You would really be helping me bring a vision to life if you would,” I added.
“Why not?” he smiled. “It’s all good if it’s for a good vision.”
If his music is any reflection of his personality, this is one album I will personally looking forward to purchasing. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy music that makes you feel happy.
About Leslie Carpede
Les is a South African born Pianist/Vocalist/Songwriter. He is an accomplished musician, and well-noted psalmist by leaders in ministry, with remarkable people skills, leading praise and worship from the piano. He is a reasonably well-travelled musician, whose ministry spans South Africa, Lesotho, Nigeria, Namibia and the United States. He regards himself as a “no barrier” musician with distinct versatility, and frequently spends time, composing & producing. He coaches emerging musicians and facilitates performance practical sessions with middle and high school groups.
He holds a Diploma in Creative Ministry from the Rhema Bible Church, Johannesburg South Africa.He currently lives in Plettenburg Bay, Western Cape, with his wife Cecily and their 13-year-old son, Jordan.
For media and music related enquiries contact (+27) 83 249 0064 or Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
This represents the third feature in a week of MOMvertising. Are you familiar with Les Carpede’s music? Who are some of your favorite South African worship teams or ministries? Has anyone ever asked you if you can sing (or play basketball) because you’re Black? It’s safe to be honest here. 🙂