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CULTURAL CROSSOVER (article first published : 2000-07-20)

Pinkie Mtshali is a generous performer. Generous in proportions, generous with her smile, generous with her talent. To entertain the July visitors to Durban, she got together with Mpume Mthombeni who has toured with numerous traditional and cultural promotional shows and Technikon voice teacher Xolisa Dlamini who performed with Karen van Pletsen at last year’s Playhouse Women’s Festival. Calling themselves the Durban Divas, they have produced a show called Cultural Crossover which is running at the Royal Hotel's Backstage until Saturday (July 22).

Pinkie is no stranger to Durban audiences. She was a member of the Playhouse Singers before they were disbanded and appeared in Opera Africa’s Faust, The Orphans of Qumbu and the musical comedy Abba Maniacs. She has a considerable voice and is quite at home in either opera, oratorio and jazz or traditional Zulu dancing songs. The latter makes up part of Cultural Crossover along with songs sung in shebeens and numbers such as No Woman No Cry (Mpume), Thetha (Xolani) and an all-stops-out Simply The Best (Pinkie). Their upbeat Sisters are Doing it for Themselves could become their signature tune!

The sophisticated Xolani, irrepressible Pinkie and laid back Mpume work well together and present a programme that works in three stages. The first features songs in Zulu from Ethekwini (“where old ladies go down to the beach to have fun with the boys!”) to the moody Lakushona Ilanga. The second part deals with more contemporary songs and the final section takes the form of a medley of well-known favourites such as include the well-loved Intonga Zamakhwenkwe (the "Click Song"), Mama Thembi's Wedding, Iphathapatha (Pata-Pata) and Jikelamaweni.

The Durban Divas are backed by a fine four-piece band and how they all fitted onto the stage – seven people with microphones, instruments and equipment - still amazes me. Maybe it’s time the Backstage built a small extension onto the stage. The musical director on lead guitar is the well-known and respected Bhabha Mokoena who wrote one of the band’s solo numbers For Brothers. He is well-supported by Mdu Mhlongo on keyboard and Bongani Nkwanyana on bass guitar with Ray Chiliza proving himself to be an excellent drummer.

While the sound was loud, it was well controlled – all credit to the sound technicians. My only gripe with the lighting was that unless she was in the follow spot, Mpume was half in shadow. This also applied to Ray Chiliza which was a pity because he was a delight to watch.

Tickets at R110 include a three-course meal. For starters, there’s a tasty butter bean soup flavoured with coriander. The main course is either Grilled Rockcod served with vegetables and a spicy tomato chutney or a herb-filled Roast Leg of Lamb. The fish was succulent but the sauce was more of a salsa than a chutney. The lamb was delicious accompanied by a grilled meali meal gallete (like a hamburger pattie but in mealiemeal), mixed vegetables and Mint Jus (sauce). Dessert is Crème Caramel with Bitter Orange Sauce.

To book phone the Royal Hotel’s Reservations on (031) 304-0357.




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