The Sound Of Memories

Every city has its own distrinct sounds. Moon Mokgoro pieces together the melodies and memories of Johannesburg.


I live in a city, and cities are loud. Silence is rare; movement is never-ending, and spaces are occupied by familiar and unfamiliar sounds: voices, footsteps, birds, traffic, instruments, sounds of movement, and endless stories. Sound will permanently be attached to these spaces. I cannot remember anything without remembering what I heard, without remembering every piece of sound around me. My memories are made of sound.

Combining sound with visual memory is a form of interrogation, another way of identifying the intricate details captured and experienced at that moment, that minute, that second.

Parties, strangers voices. Parks, birds. Roads, traffic. Libraries, whispers. Galleries, explanations, voices wandering. Meditation, gentle breaths.

Many avant-garde and experimental filmmakers use sound in place of voice in their films, moving away from the conventional form of dialogue-based storytelling. These are the sounds they associate with the footage they've captured. In "Outer Space" by Peter Tscherkassky, the audio used in the film fits perfectly with its visual chaos and unconventional storytelling. The sounds cause discomfort and leave you unsettled but perfectly align with the film. Some scenes would not have felt as intense without these doom-impending sounds. In "Blue" by Derek Jarman, against a plain blue background, he weaves the color to stories, songs, the sounds of waves, conversations, and memories of friends - he turns this shade of Blue into a visual representation of that. Though there is the use of voice and dialogue, the main takeaway is the unconventional use of audio in the film. Here, audio becomes a picture, and somehow, you can hear the picture come alive through the intended use of sound. Will I ever see that shade of Blue and not hear his voice, not hear his music, not remember his stories?

Sound will forever be attached to most memories, which is part of what transcends them - what makes them beautiful and brings them to life. Sound is a welcome reminder of all our senses. And now, blue sounds so beautiful to me.

A Bar

Moon Mokgoro · A BAR

It's just after 20:00, and I'm at a music show. I hear music - the guitar, the artist's voice, the drums.

We're all focused on the music, so no one says much except for the occasional interruption. A girl tells her friend that she's going to get another drink. My friend asks a guy for a lighter, and he gives him a matchstick instead, so they start talking about matches. The bartender can't hear the patrons' orders; occasionally, he has to ask them to repeat themselves.

Music. Conversation. Exchanges.

Taxi Rank

Moon Mokgoro · TAXI RANK

It's just before rush hour. Hooting and inaudible conversation cloud the inner city space. There are shouting voices of men who usher travelers to the taxis, passengers asking where the taxis are going, catcalling, and sounds coming from outside the taxi rank: traffic, the sounds from the freeway, and street vendors in their kind of nine-to-five, "selling" the occasional smile for free, fruits, cigarettes, and lollipops.

Voices. Stories. Traffic.

Outside my Window


It's 21:00, and it's raining. I hear raindrops hitting the ground, thunder, and the slamming of my neighbor's doors. I'm assuming they ran outside to ensure nothing would be drenched by the rain. The thunder is harsh. It's aggressive and sudden and comes in bits and pieces, with long moments of silence in between. Sometimes, the sound travels from one part of the sky to another in less than a second.

Birds. Cars. Neighbors. Traffic. Doors. Rain. Thunder.

44 Stanley

Moon Mokgoro · 44 STANLEY

I'm sitting outside a coffee shop at 44 Stanley. Jazz is playing in the background while people catch up with friends. I love the mundanity of each conversation, and I love how simple these moments can be.

"It's such a nice day."

"This drink is too strong. That's why I'm not drinking it."

"I know that girl from the bookshop."

Conversation. Music. Laughter.

Little Addis

Moon Mokgoro · LITTLE ADDIS

Little Addis is an Ethiopian restaurant near the city center. I hear the voices of the people around me, the chefs in the kitchen, and doors opening and closing. A woman explains the Ethiopian calendar to her friend. Ethiopian music plays: "Tizitash Zewetir" by Getachew Kassa, "Mejemerya Fqri" by Tsehaytu Beraki, and "Sintayehu" by Dahlak Band and Hailu Mergia are a few of the songs that play.

Movement. Music. Conversation.

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