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Africa UMOJA Rocks Accra

Fri, 28 May 2010 Source: GNA

(A GNA Feature by Dzifa Azumah)

Accra, May 28, GNA - When, in 1996, I went to watch the two great stage players ever to come out of South Africa, John Kani and Winston Ntshona featuring in "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" at the state theatre in Pretoria, I was convinced nothing from South Africa would ever beat that. I was wrong and happily so proven by the young women and men who drum with magical wizardry, dance like a million demons possessed by the spirits of Africa and sing like the theatres of heaven has just opened. UMOJA is the name. Not even visiting the Victory Theatre in Johannesburg twice to watch AFRICA UMOJA could quench my thirst for more, and I am not alone. In fact, many were those who thought it was too sweet a piece of news to be true. It took the reassurance of Stephen Pilate Ngwenya, UMOJA's Director for Business Development and Special Project, for the news of UMOJA at the National Theatre this weekend to sink in.

"We are thrilled that we are coming to Ghana, the history making nation and we are most thrilled because we are coming at the time another history is about to be made by South Africa and Africa hosting the world cup. The wonderful young women and men of UMOJA are excited to give Ghana a show they have never seen before" Ngwenya Stephen said in a phone interview with this writer.

After touring over 26 countries before returning to the shores of South Africa to revitalise, AFRICA UMOJA is in Ghana to continue their journey of sharing what can be described as Kwame Nkrumah's dreams, the spirit of Togetherness and what better time to visit than the centenary of Osagyefo. AFRICA UMOJA is a superbly told tale of South Africa, its people and their songs. It is a story told through the magical mastery of drum beats, from the dusty streets of Soweto to all the corners of the world's best and biggest stages. AFRICA UMOJA tells the moving tale of indigenous South African music - from the earliest rhythms to "kwaito" and perhaps you might just see Hiplife.

Like John Kani and Winston Ntshona's "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" which tells a story of the difference between African innocence and experience, between the rural and urban and between the masks an African was obliged to wear at the time and the man within, AFRICA UMOJA relives the cold story of forced removals yet the feet continue to stomp, nicely rounded backsides gyrate with rhythm in a choreography that is second to none.

Whilst John Kani and Winston Ntshona portrayed what it was like to be black in South Africa at the time, a dehumanising bureaucracy as the black cannot find employment because they do not possess a pass, with humourous ease UMOJA takes it to the "shabins", the dancehalls and the theatres and instead of the pain and anger, give it colour, style and joy that after many years still remain the stage act yet to be surpassed.

In UMOJA, you will hear and see the reminiscent sounds of the vibrant jazz that forced its way free from the constraints of the times and the thread of gospel music running through the tale recall the huge helpings of faith and courage. Even the story teller stops the narration and does some singing. You will marvel at how talented youth are able to tell such a "heavy" story of one of the world's darkest moments in a loud, colourful, and jubilant celebration made infectiously delightful and uplifting. If you are a lover of great and sexy costume or excited about great props, the 40-piece cast will leave you gasping for breath and yet you would be asking for more. You would not be alone. Such acts have won ovations and earned a good number of awards across the globe for UMOJA. The tall list of awards includes the FNB Vita Award, Performing Arts Award (Canada), SAMA Award and the prestigious Planet Africa Award (Canada), to mention but a few.

Columnist: GNA