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CD: Umoja - Spirit of Togetherness

CD: Umoja - Spirit of Togerness
Music from the show
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Umoja DVD
available from Sept. 2004

Ipi Ntompi
VHS (NTSC) Video from an earlier show by the creators of Umoja
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German language version of this page: Umoja - Der Geist des Miteinanders

Umoja -The Spirit of Togetherness

Umoja - The Show. Review of London Musical, June 2003

UmojaTwo long-time friends and celebrities are responsible for bringing together a unique troupe of African dancers and singers. Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni met each other growing up in the townships during South African apartheid. Through their drive and careers they got a rare chance to see the world outside. Only a few "black shows" with tribal dances were allowed by the white rulers as they were regarded as primitive and harmless folklore. When apartheid was finally abolished in 1994, working conditions improved and in late 2001 the show "UMOJA – the Spirit of Togetherness" premiered in London's West End. Umoja and its cast emerged from a dance school in Soweto. An admirable project aiming to keep kids out of trouble and off the streets. But make no mistake: This is not a group of street children playing for a penny. These are now 36 professional dancers, singers and musicians capturing audiences and critics all over the world.

Umoja

The troupe arrives in town with enough equipment, costumes, light and speakers to stage a rock concert. But fortunately the enthusiasm in the cast and the spirit of the whole show has survived the transformation into international show-biz. The sheer joy of the people on stage transmits directly to the hearts of everybody in the audience. It's virtually impossible to look away from the gorgeous girls as they master all types of dance with an apparently everlasting energy. They are different in size and type, but all glows with the beauty and grace unique to Africa. The men as well performs with power and remarkable athletic skills in both the ritual warrior dances and when they are swinging the girls around for a jitterbug.

UmojaUMOJA tells the story of South African music from tribal dances to Kwela, and from the mine workers' gumboot dancing to the sound of the big city: Kwaito and Pantsula which are popular today. Culture and music are tied to the history of the country. The white-haired narrator Hope Ndaba binds the songs together with comments and memoirs from past times. His resemblance with Nelson Mandela is probably fully intentional. Any reference to the father of the new nation is natural and welcome. But here is my sole objection to the show: Could it be that the commercial success is pulling out the teeth of the most sensitive subjects of South African history? Social issues and the horrors from 46 years of racial suppression are only mentioned as "hard times". A new song starts and everything doesn't really seem so bad at all. An important chapter of the history book is written in very small letters. I hope it's not because the creators of UMOJA fears to provoke the mainly European audience? Surely reconciliation is the issue now, but not forgetting or ignoring the past.

"Besides learning about culture, Umoja is about who you are - where you are coming from, and where you are going. The spirit of togetherness will live on in your blood, your soul and your heart."
-Thembi Nyandeni

The Swahili words uhuru (freedom) and umoja (unity) are catchwords from the time of East African independence about 40 years ago. UMOJA uses the power of music and dance to deliver a message of love to all of us. Unity and solidarity are crucial elements in making things work whether we are talking African politics, business or cross-cultural understanding. UMOJA makes the African audience proud of their heritage and the rest of us 'Wazungu' has a great chance to learn about the African ways, feel the spirit of togetherness and simply engage into two hours of sheer passion and joy.

Umoja

Visit www.umojatheshow.com to see when to catch them.

More View more photos from Umoja

 

Text and photos:Copyright © Jacob Crawfurd - crawfurd.dk 1996-2017. All Rights Reserved.

A German translation of this review was published in Africa Positive, no. 12, 2003. Photos and review has also been published in Coloured Pictures Magazine, issue 4, 2003 and The African Courier No.40/Vol.7

 

 

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