UMOJA: THE SPIRIT OF TOGETHERNESS 4
Umoja:The Spirit of Togetherness
Umoja:The Spirit of Togetherness
Umoja:the Spirit of Togetherness was aimed at educating the new SouthAfrican generations about their rich heritage. It takes its audienceon a historical journey from the tribal dances of celebration andcourtship to the celebratory rhythms of Kwaito in the joyouspost-apartheid Africa. The colorful and energetic should tells thehistory of rhythm and music in Africa at large and South Africa inparticular. The journey begins with the harmonious and gentle hummingof women as they carry out their traditional tasks. Eventually, itbreaks out to a furious warrior dance before it evolves intobreathtakingly sensual female and male dance. Varied traditionaldances follow the exquisite introduction thereby making way for themore contemporary European influences such as acapella and gospel,jive and swing (Crawfurd,2014).As much as the style may have been altered, the rhythm has remaineddistinctively African. It is in the movement of the music to thepresent day that the modern sounds of Kwasa Kwasa, Kwaito and Kwelabecome eventually heard.
Oneof the key historical issues presented in the show apartheid. In thesong sung by the men, Ngikhonzele, the issue of HIV/AIDS awareness ishighlighted through the concept of sending letters to loved ones andgetting no reply. The lack of reply, nevertheless, has resulted fromthe poor postal services infrastructure in the rural areas, as wellas apartheid. On the same note, the issue of class disparity ispresented with Hope Ndaba recalling the South Africa that he used toknow. Hope leads the audience to the YMCA talent competition inDurban, before going off to Sophiatown, a Johannesburg shantytowncommunity, as well as its street life and a township illegal drinkingplace or shebeen. These two notable historical issues are presentedby the elderly narrator Ndaba who reminisces with the audience like agranddad. The varied types of bodies in the dance shows areincredibly refreshing especially the women who engage in theshimmies, and purposeful booty shakes and jiggles. As much as this isoften interrupted by the more somber topics such as HIV/AIDS ashighlighted by the red ribbons on the t-shits that the girls wear,the authentic African dances keep the issues tied to the Africanculture.
Oneof the crucial parts is the introduction where the show (UMOJA) opensup with a barrage of drums, as well as the trace of village scenesthat highlight the Venda Snake dance. At this time, the women dancesmake a conga-style procession thereby simulating a sliding python,after which the men come with testosterone-heavy Zulu warrior dance.The second part involves the Durban YMCA talent competition whichoffers the star-turn of the show. The incorporation of the energeticdancers while eliminating any possibility of a political bite come aswelcome and understandable especially considering that the countryhad had been left with too-fresh wounds by the whites-only regimes ofthe previous century, in which case it may be uncomfortable for sucha thing to be dealt with at the musical stage. Nevertheless, this mayhave been compensated for by the inclusion of apartheid and HIV/AIDSsnippets albeit in covered tones. The third part incorporates awell-choreographed romp that combines the characters and costumesfrom the previous scenes. This proves effective as it shows theultimate result of unity or togetherness, which is the main theme ofthe show.
Crawfurd,J (2014). Umoja -The Spirit of Togetherness. TheAfrican Courier,No 4/ vol.7