Dance ‘African celebration’ unites SA musos

‘African celebration’ unites SA musos

An African Celebration is bombastic. The show is larger-than-life, and brings together the best classical, jazz and dance that South Africa has to offer in one huge, slickly-produced package. An African Celebration was held to mark the 25th anniversary of Standard Bank’s National Arts Festival sponsorship. The production brings together different eras of Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners. Seeing the 1993 winner, Festival Committee chairman and vocal legend Sibongile Khumalo, jamming with 2008 winner Mark Fransman was truly inspiring; proof that music is indeed the universal language which can unite different ages and styles.

‘The’ celebration
The mixture of jazz and classical (which could have been awkward) seemed effortless and there is absolutely no reason why these styles should not meet again in the future.

The sound in the Guy Butler theatre, courtesy of Marius Marais of Matrix Corporate & Theatre Sound, was crystal clear. Rob Watson’s drums sounded truly impressive and, together with John Hassan on percussion and former Standard Bank Young Artist Concord Nkabinde on bass, the rhythm section was so tight you wouldn’t have been able to stick a pin in it.

Janine Neethling held processions together musically with her excellent piano playing, which stretched across different styles and genres effortlessly. The smooth and witty narration of James Ngcobo complemented these flawless performances perfectly.

Peaks of virtuosity in an entire evening of musical highlights included a goosebump-inducing rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi by 1997 Young Artist Sibongile Mngoma, a searing saxophone solo by 2007’s winner Shannon Mowday and a comedic interpretation of Largo al Factotem from The Barber of Seville by brothers Zwai and Phelo Bala with Nicholas Nicolaidis.

Not to spoil the surprise for you, but it’s not every day that one hears Mandoza’s hit Nkalakatha worked into an operatic piece.

Grandiose to the end
The performance tempo never dropped, and there was always something new to pique your interest. The mixture of styles worked extremely well, and having opera and jazz followed by dance meant that the audience was never allowed to get complacent with their listening.

The variety also made An African Celebration go by in a flash of pomp and dazzle. By the final number – which included all the performers jamming together on stage with champagne flutes – people were grooving in the aisles while Sibongile Khumalo gave dancing and singing lessons from the stage. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie between the audience and the musicians, which meant that there was none of the stiffness usually associated with large theatrical productions.

So if you’re looking to see some of the best performers South Africa has to offer and want to be royally entertained while you’re at it, then go and see this show.

It won’t give you the solution to the world’s problems, but it will put a smile on your face and leave you with a renewed appreciation of the diversity and talent present in South African arts and culture. It certainly made me feel like I was privileged to have witnessed it.

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