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SENZENJE CHORALE (article first published : 2004-02-13)

The Playhouse Company will present Senzenje Chorale – A Journey of Song, a classical African choral musical that will have three performances in the Playhouse Opera Theatre on March 26, 27 and 28. The production follows the successful Senzenje community outreach competition that took place at the Playhouse earlier this year.

A first of its kind, the musical tells a story about South Africa in song. It takes audiences through a journey in time; from a youngster’s happy childhood in the rural areas, through the period of the struggle; right up to the post democratic phase and life in cities like Durban.

Conceived by Playhouse CEO Prof. Caesar Ndlovu, the musical has choreography by the late internationally-renowned Sbusiso Dube assisted by Hamilton Mbatha and Khulekani Shongwe. Formed in October 2002, the choir was trained by Dr Sipho Nzimande and Thanduxolo Zulu who also assists with the conducting. Mthunzi Namba of Joyous Celebration is the music director and the storyline is written by Caesar Ndlovu and well-known Durban playwright and directorJerry Pooe.

Most of the songs performed were composed by respected African classical composers such as Phelelani Mnomiya, L M B Chonco, Thandi Ngqobe and S M M Ntombela. Some of the songs were discovered by the producers of the show in a research trip to Appelsbosch, a rural homestead in Zululand.

Senzenje Chorale includes Amahubo, indlamu (traditional dance) choreographed by internationally renowned Sbusiso Dube.

“This style of music is the only African musical style that is performed by African choirs standing still, a physical behaviour that is unAfrican. 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,” says Caesar Ndlovu.

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

The songs describe the euphoria of independence but reflect that deliverance comes with a price where some people succumb to greed, jealousy and lust. Others deal with deviants, social ills and social aberrations. Thanks are given to the government’s RDP initiative that provides housing for indigent communities while the song Amathwasa encourages all black South Africans to be educated.

The musical journey closes with the singing of 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 full-scale production has an impressive set and colourful African traditional costumes designed by Lindiwe Buka. Thanks are due to the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NDTF) for its support.

Performances are at 19h30 (Sunday matinee at 15h00). Tickets R35 before February 29, thereafter R40 (R25 students and pensioners). Book at the Playhouse Box Office or at Computicket (www.computicket.com or call 083 915 8000). Group bookings through Smangele on 083 5111 407 or Thanduxolo on 031 369 9555.




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