Lime for beginnings, lemon for warmth

There’s a wall in the sea in the Somosomo Straits.

60 metres long, 45 deep, it glows an UV white-blue in the filtered sunlight; fish disco amid the luminescent coral.

The plantation gardener sits in the croaking dinghy, line between his thumb and index finger. When we clamber up with empty air tanks, there are two fish in the boat: an enormous barramundi for the village, a short fat albacore for us.

At the plantation, the water around the dock is oily with salty and sweet meetings. The rocks are black. The coconut trees grow of out of buffalo grass.

Jon shimmies down the trunk with bounty in hand, chucks it against a rock so the wood hairs sprout from sides.

The rich white is scraped with raspy metal, squeezed by big hands. Clear tuna eyes stare as red flesh is sliced into cubes. Chilli turns into juicy red dust under the blade of an enormous cleaver. Everything ends in a wooden bowl, with the juice of two hard, green limes.

Two fat ladies hold me down and comb knots of out of my hair with coconut oil. By the time they’re finished, the kokoda is on the table: tuna cubes seared grey with sharp citric acid, now swirled with the fresh coconut milk. Fiji in a bowl, accompanied with whispering kerosene lamps and Jon’s ballads on acoustic guitar.

Lime is beginnings and tropical trysts: holidays, the tang of sea wind and street food sweat. Squeezed over halved baby papayas in bare-legged garden breakfasts. Red Chinese New Year packets dangling from potted kalamansis. Condensation rolling down glasses where the sugar syrup sits at the bottom, and the limau kasturi pulp swims.

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Take the slow train

For Business Day's monthly lifestyle supplement, Wanted

In a metallic bikini, Neyma curves her back, catlike, kicks her bare feet in the air and breaks into a frenetic dance, muscles taut and glistening, her voice rising to match the men on electric guitar.

A clutch of gyrating dancers topped with chiffon rosettes and impossibly high foot arches shimmies in front of a capulana kaleidoscope cyclorama - flowers and hearts and spinning discs of stars emerging from the smoke.

The crowd is entranced, the rhythm contagious, hips picking it out on wooden benches.

But it is the sweet old man in crimson Hawaiian print and low-slung dress trousers that brings them to their feet.

Dilon Djindji, a father of the genre, mic in hand, hopping from foot to foot in deliberate slow motion, in a matching marathon of hypnotic drum beats, the spotlight picking out the enormous whites of his eyes as he croons, eyebrows raised, raspy, soulful, seductive.

The melody picks up speed, intensity building to a climax. As bodies swing to the floor, a frantic saxophone solo cuts through the rumble. Then three deft bass drum thumps, and silence.

An intake of breath and the air is filled with the singing of the crowd, a song as if they’d agreed it prior. They sing of marrabenta, the music of their struggle, Portuguese fado given African heart and turned against their colonial oppressors.

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