The South African Series

‘Club Quarantine’ Has Reminded Me Of The Enduring Power of Music

Club Quarantine is the brainchild of DJ D-Nice on Instagram Live on weekends, usually at 11PM EST, or whenever he feels like spinning. 

Before they cut it down to make room for a bank, I used to live in a cavernous house shielded by a massive white wall and a towering neem tree in LaBone; a suburb of Accra. People were always coming in and out of our house: celebrities, beggars, Peace Corps conscripts, children whose parents had banished them from America to Ghana with the intention of straightening out their wayward ways. I could never figure out what made our home such a magnet for the general populace, and then I realized it was because my parents were self-styled merchants. At the time, we were the only place in town where you could by quality two-ply toilet paper of the Charmin variety – a small luxury for the discerning booty wiper. I suppose you could say my family’s lifestyle was (temporarily) funded one sphincter at a time.

One day, a woman whose name I’ve long forgotten, but whose face is forever etched in my mind came to buy toilet paper. She was gorgeous, as far as I at 15 was concerned. Short cropped curly hair, hazel eyed and bespectacled. And she spoke with a voice that sounded like a meandering brook. I noticed an odd thing about her: she kept looking at my mouth – not my face – as she spoke. I brushed it off, retrieved her requested items from the garage and handed her the requested items. In the background, Arrested Development was playing.

“I like your music,” she said serenely.

I brightened. “Oh! You like Arrested Development too?” I asked her about which lyrics she liked best.

She shook her head and said she couldn’t hear them. Why not, I asked.

“Because I’m deaf.”

“Well then how can you like the song?” The words were out before I could stop them. Being much older, she had the grace to ignore my lack of tack.

“I can feel the vibrations,” she said simply.

And then – and I have no idea why – I asked her if she’d like to come in and touch my boom box and “listen” to Every Day people with me. She did, smiled and thanked me and then left when it ended. That interaction has stayed with me ever since. My family had always been music lovers, but it was in that moment that I understood its power.

Arrested Development’s album cover circa 1992

Today, 28 years later, the world finds itself in the midst of a pandemic. COVID-19 has changed everything. We are living in times of uncertainty and anxiety. One thing that is certain is that once the crisis is under ‘control’, what we once knew as normal life will no longer exist. Just as September 11 changed everything about how we travel, gather, even what vocabulary is permissible in public spaces, so will the novel corona virus alter how we conduct our daily lives.

From my home in South Africa, my and every other family around the nation is in the throes of a 5-week lockdown. For a road warrior like myself, this is as close to incarceration as I ever want to get. I have a lot of nervous energy and I miss being able to just GO, but I understand that it is my civic duty to stay at home and help flatten the curve. Within the first three days of the lockdown, I had completed all my sewing projects, baked all the things I’d wanted to eat and flooded my Instagram with copious content. But now what? Read the news, I guess.

After slogging through a litany of Corona related titles, a very different headline nested among the stories heralding doom and ruin caught my eye. Some guy called D-Nice had hosted an IG Live event with over 100K people in attendance, among who included Barack Obama and Rihanna. The comments were exultant, crammed with positivity. Everyone talked about how good they felt being in Club Quarantine, which has at this point become its own zeitgeist. I quickly followed D-Nice’s account and waited (and waited) to gain entry into the club. What the article neglected to mention is that you had to just “know” when he was going live. (Now he creates dope posters to advertise when the next party is going to be.)

Image Source: Instagram/dnice

“This is the greatest night of my life!!” I scream/typed in the live chat.

I thought it was pathetic, but a few days later someone else across the other side of the world typed the same words, almost verbatim. What was life like before these moments?

Club Quarantine has preserved my mental health. D-Nice has made lockdown and self-isolation almost enjoyable for myself and numerous other people. It gives me something to look forward to during the week and it is the only club I’ve ever shown up to with a pen and paper in hand, expecting. What separates him from other DJs – in my limited experience – is that he not only entertains, he educates. In these short 2 weeks that I’ve been in Club Quarantine, I’ve learned about the links between some of hip-hops most iconic releases and the orchestral funk records that serve as their inspiration, re-discovered artists that I hadn’t engaged with in years and – more importantly – watched people interact with each other and Derrick with love for hours. The vehicle for this manifestation is of course, the music.

Listening to D-Nice spin has given me something that no other institution or announcement has been able to: I feel joy, encouragement, hope, normalcy and peace. But above that, I feel optimistic about the future. I can feel it in the vibrations of each song, and I am reminded again of the power of music.

How are you getting through these COVID times? Have you discovered something special? Share in the comments if you’re feeling generous!