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DURBAN DIVAS - CULTURAL CROSSOVER (article first published : 2001-08-30)

Fresh from their success at the South African Women’s Festival hosted by the Playhouse Company, the irrepressible Pinkie Mtshali and her Durban Divas are set to take the Royal Hotel’s Backstage by storm for the next week or so. This is the group’s second appearance at this popular supper theatre venue and last night’s audience included a fair number of delegates from the World Conference Against Racism.

Their response proved what a staid and ”careful” bunch we Durbanites can be on occasion. As soon as the rhythm got going, most of the delegates were up on their feet and dancing while the rest of us stayed obediently seated like well-behaved schoolchildren in class. Who had the best of the evening – the delegates, for sure!

In her programme notes, Pinkie Mtshali (director, costume designer and choreographer) talks about the show being the “beginning of the celebration of Mosaic Music”. It’s certainly a wide-ranging programme representing an impressive “cultural crossover”. It includes numbers ranging from Mama Thembu’s Wedding and Jikelemaweni to My African Dream, Natural Woman, Killing Me Softly and It’s Raining Men.

With her trained voice, considerable experience in operas and musicals and seeming ability to be comfortable in any musical style, Pinkie could well be considered another Sibongile Khumalo in the making. The voice is certainly there. Her size – and this is fairly considerable – seems not to worry her in the least and she performs in some outrageous - and what most designers would consider “highly unsuitable” - costumes. But then she opens her mouth and sings … and all else is forgotten.

Performing with her are the diminutive and spunky Thandi Soni and Noluthando Madondo who despite her laid-back approach is also a principal trombonist as well as the Chief of the Army and the Durban Youth Wind Band. Together they gave a beautiful rendition of the duet Tell Him.

The enjoyable and slick cabaret plays without an interval. Its earlier success in this venue made it a perfect choice for the hotel’s entertainment offering during the World Conference Against Racism. Whilst including familiar popular numbers, it presents an insight into well-known traditional music as sung in shebeens around South Africa

The menu is a good one. For starters, there’s a beautifully-presented Farm Chicken Roulade or an appetising mildly curried Butternut Soup. The main course poses a difficult choice as they’re both excellent: oven braised Karoo Lamb Shank Casserole or Grilled Cornfed Chicken with a honeyed barbecue sauce served on a skewer. For dessert, there’s Chocolate Mousse with Amarula spiked whipped cream.

Book through Restaurant Reservations on (031) 333-6222.




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