Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Songs of Migration

I had another date night with one of my sons, Chad, and we headed off to the Artscape Theatre to watch Songs of Migration which have just returned to South Africa after performing in Washington DC, London and Amsterdam. A show about migration - the songs of migration of those who would move across the African continent in search of a new future.

Two internationally acclaimed South African artists Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo, masterful storytellers - led us on a journey of joy and excitement, sorrow, victory and freedom.  This production was not only about a journey of migrants but the political journey in South Africa.  Issues of prejudice, expectations and township life were laid bare before us as.  Incredible as this may sound, I was faced with emotions and situations that I, as a white South African have never had to experience and had in fact never thought through or faced.

Though many of the songs were in traditional South African languages, so much of what was being expressed was portrayed in drama, song and music. Beautiful music and wonderful songs sung by performers whose showmanship had us laughing, singing and clapping along.  Hugh Masekela's flamboyant dance antics with a wicked sense of humour and a bit of swagger has the audience in stitches.  Sibongile Khumalo sang on par with any international singer I have ever heard.  I felt privileged to hear her sing and perform alongside Hugh.

There were some special moments in the performance that really made an impact on me: at one point the old South African flag was replaced with the current flag and I felt the elation of the moment and the victory.  It brought back so many memories of that eventful day when I voted and knew that there was a new day dawning.  I also loved the haunting melodies played by internationally acclaimed trumpeter Hugh Masekela.  What a talented man and what an asset he is to our theatres! The five piece band were brilliant.  I heard them use their voices as instruments, saw traditional African instruments and was enthralled by the violinist.

I would have liked to have had a translator sitting next to me as I felt at a distinct disadvantage not knowing what they were singing about and some of the dances were clearly significant in their movements and style. Chad struggled with this production because of not understanding a lot of what was happening due to his age. I know Declan who is 12 would have enjoyed this more.  With the added element of no intermission which surprised me,  it was just far too much to expect from him.  Too much for an 8 year old - especially a boy with so much energy!  I was taken by surprise as at one point Hugh swore very crudely which took me by surprise but thank goodness my son didn't seem to notice it too much.  There were also a few sexual movements and connotations which I didn't think were appropriate for a child to see.

I also stumbled on this short video on You Tube where both Hugh and Sibongile were interviewed on the Expresso Show.

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