South African Umoja Dances into ShaftesburyDate: 9 October 2001
A musical celebration of South African song and dance arrives at the Shaftesbury Theatre in November, to replace Peggy Sue Got married. Entitled Umoja - The Spirit of Togetherness, the production previews from 12 November 2001 before opening on 15 November.
Umoja incorporates the rhythms of tribal music, gumboot dancing, jazz, gospel and the contemporary sounds of Kwaito and Pantsula. South Africa's musical heritage is represented throughout the show, which utilises a cast of 36. The company is drawn from South Africa's versatile young singers, dancers, drummers and marimba players, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Umoja (which translates as Unity) was created by Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni (of Ipi Ntombi movie fame). It is scripted and directed by award-winning theatrical creator Ian von Memerty. Hope Ndaba is the show's narrator, with the rites-of-passage narrative exploring the activities and ideologies prevalent in Ndaba's childhood village. Umoja arrives in London following a successful run in July and August at Johannesburg's Sandton Convention Centre.
Umoja is actually a theatrical development of Baobab - a ten man tribal show that successfully toured all over the world. The creators of Baobab were also Twala and Nyandeni, who joined forces with von Memerty to develop their creation into a larger event, portraying the growth of South African music. In addition, the show has recorded a cast album with Sting Music, and has been performed in front of Nelson Mandela, the President of China, Winnie Mandela and Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, as well as performing at numerous corporate functions and fundraisers.
- by Gareth Thompson