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South Africa: a journey in song

18 February 2004

The Playhouse Company presents the classical African choral musical Senzenje Chorale A Journey of Song at the Playhouse Opera Theatre from 26-28 March.

The production is a sequel to the Senzenje community outreach competition that took place at the Playhouse earlier this year.

A first of its kind, the musical tells a South African story in song, taking the audience on a journey in time: from a youngster's rural childhood through the country's period of struggle through to post-democratic South Africa and life in the city of Durban.

Conceived by Playhouse chief executive Caesar Ndlovu, the musical incorporates choreography by the late Sibusiso Dube, assisted by Hamilton Mbatha and Khulekani Shongwe.

Senzenje Chorale includes amahubo (melodies) and indlamu (traditional dance), with most of the songs composed by classical African composers such as Phelelani Mnomiya, LMB Chonco, Thandi Ngqobe and SMM Ntombela.

The choir was formed in October 2002 and trained by Sipho Nzimande and Thanduxolo Zulu, who also assists with the conducting. Mthunzi Namba of Joyous Celebration is the music director, while the storyline is written by Caesar Ndlovu and Durban playwright and director Jerry Pooe.

The band is made up of legendary South African musicians Mthunzi Namba (keyboards), Brian Thusi and Jerry Kunene (brass), Dumisani Shange (guitar), Philani Ngidi (bass), Kwazi Shange (drums) and Mandla Mgabhi (percussion).

"This style of music is the only African musical style that is performed by African choirs standing still, a physical behaviour that is un-African", says Ndlovu. "Furthermore, this idiom only exists for competitions, and does not go beyond to explore other musical dimensions. It was precisely for this reason that I decided on the introduction of a band to accompany the choir."

The songs express the euphoria of independence, but also the fact that deliverance comes with a price, with some people succumbing to greed, jealousy and lust.

The government's provision of housing for indigent communities is lauded, while the song Amathwasa encourages black South Africans to become educated.

The musical journey closes with Umdubane (City of Durban), telling of a city where people dress with panache or are festooned with traditional finery, walking with pride because they are educated.

The set and traditional African costumes were designed by Lindiwe Buka. The production is sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

Performances are at 7.30pm (Sunday matinee at 3pm). Tickets cost R35 before 29 February, thereafter R40 (R25 for students and pensioners).

Bookings can be made at the Playhouse box office, through Computicket, or by calling 083 915 8000. Group bookings can be made through Smangele on 083 5111 407 or Thanduxolo on (031) 369-9555.

Source: ArtSmart

Traditional stick fighting scene from Senzenje Chorale

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