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 Post subject: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2001 3:50 am 
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<B>Dancing like men possessed</B> <BR>UMOJA - SHAFTESBURY THEATRE LONDON <BR>Much enjoyed by NADINE MEISNER in The Independent <P><BR>THIS SHOW has a large cast (33 singers, dancers and musicians) and certainly feels like it. Or rather, the wonder is that there aren't more of them, so quickly do they switch roles, make lightning costume changes, transfer from a breath-sapping gumboot dance to a spruce gospel chorus.<P>The gospel singing starts fairly sedately (the term is relative): orderly lines dressed in pristine white gowns which spread out into the centre aisle and the balconies, and swell the air with a cappella counterpoint. But even that evolves into transports of massed sound and movement. And suddenly I became a gospel fan, the form's exciting potential flooding my mind.<P><A HREF="http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=011120000772&query=dance" TARGET=_blank><B>click for more</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2001 5:28 am 
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<B>Umoja's raw energy</B><BR>By Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times<P><BR>If some bright spark could harness the energy released on stage during a single performance of Umoja at the Shaftesbury Theatre, they could run the Oxford Street Christmas lights for a good few hours. This all-singing, all-dancing show about the music of South Africa simply exudes vitality and goodwill. The sheer warmth and exuberance of the show make it hard to resist, and the singing and dancing are executed with immense brio. But those looking for a substantial analysis of either the music or politics of South Africa would certainly feel short-changed. <P><A HREF="http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3MG2VWCUC" TARGET=_blank><B>Click for more</B></A><p>[This message has been edited by Emma Pegler (edited November 25, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2001 2:09 am 
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<BR> <BR> <BR><B>If you need to lift your spirit, a lively South African troupe offers an upbeat view of the future, says David Dougill of The Sunday Times</B><BR> <BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The new song-and-dance show from South Africa, Umoja (Shaftesbury), is a colourful, exuberant, cosily comforting and inevitably simplistic history of black identity through music. Issues of apartheid crop up, but never detain us long enough to be worrying. Nostalgia and optimism are the themes, summed up in the narration as “a nation learning to sing with one voice”. Umoja’s meaning (and subtitle) is “the spirit of togetherness”. <BR>The choreographer, Todd Twala, and the designer, Thembi Nyandeni, veterans of the hit musical Ipi Ntombi, set up a performing-arts school for disadvantaged youth in the townships, and a decade’s work has produced this heart-warming company of versatile and irrepressibly energetic performers. A genial, grandfatherly narrator, Hope Ndaba (who also sings like Louis Armstrong), links the scenes. There is a fine band — the drummers are terrific — and a beautiful number for marimba-players. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR><A HREF="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,9013-2001541489,00.html" TARGET=_blank><B>more...</B></A><P> <BR> <BR> <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2001 3:26 am 
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‘Umoja’ at The Shaftesbury Theatre, London

You would have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy the vitality of the performances in this song and dance show from South Africa. The company started life as a performing arts school for youngsters from disadvantaged communities around Johannesburg. ‘Umoja’ began as a 10-man tribal music group to provide work for the graduates and then expanded in several stages to the present hit show.

The programme tells us that they were recently auditioning for a second company and some of the young people dancing their hearts out were sleeping on the streets. Nevertheless, the show is not about the politics of South Africa, but about the styles of music and dance that have developed from the tribal forms. However in looking at the city developments the scenes touch lightly on the circumstances and abuses of the Apartheid years.

I don’t have a problem with the politics taking a back seat, but I did have a problem with some of the stereotypical characters. In the opening scene in a tribal setting the main figure is drunk on local beer. In ‘Johannesburg Street Scene’ the central figure is a young prostitute and the first act closes in a shabeen with gangsters to the fore. Ok, these things exist, but they are given a prominence that distorts the dignity of a people that in Nelson Mandela gave the world one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. The second half leaves politics to one side and frankly works better for it. I guess the message is if you’re going to tackle these themes then it does need to be done in a heartfelt way. A prime example was the brilliant theatre piece ‘Woza Albert’ from some 20 years ago.

But let’s focus on the song and dance that lie at the heart of this production, which is very much a stage show rather than a folkloric presentation. The singing is great with strong attack and tuning in both the solo and group sections. In several scenes exciting drumming pounds away in the background, underlining the key role of rhythm in all the elements. The ensemble dance sequences are full of energy and performed in perfect unison. However, the small stage doesn’t help, particularly when there are 24 dancers strutting their stuff and a podium assembly at the back and middle of the stage doesn’t help matters either. The dancers never seem inconvenienced by this lack of space, but it does result in a constrained atmosphere.

The Zulu dancing that opened the evening is as dynamic as you could want and provides a macho spectacle to put The Chippendales firmly in their place. Next we saw a gentle line dance for the girls with their arms together making intriguing snake movements. The shift to the City brought a sequence of scenes with lively dancing and singing and a Miriam Makeba song taking the honours.

After the interval, the show kicked off with one of the strongest scenes, with Gumboot dancing full of jumps and boot slaps. Not to be upstaged, the girls have a Tin Can Dance with two tins being knocked together here there and everywhere, including one demonstration to keep the boys in their place at risk of a terrible punishment. Perhaps one of the reasons why these two dances had so much impact was the smaller number of performers, which allowed the choreography more space to make its mark.

The narrator’s task in such shows is usually a thankless one, but Hope Ndaba transcends his material and wins us over with his relaxed charm. All the performers do well throughout and each gets a chance to take centre stage with full credits in the programme. In particular, one of the girls, Nonsikelelo Dipudi, kept catching my eye.

If you enjoy stage shows and African music, why not give yourself a treat and see ‘Umoja’.


[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited January 30, 2002).]

<small>[ 11 August 2003, 05:46 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2002 3:35 pm 
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<B>'Noise' threat to African musical</B><BR>From the BBC website<P><BR>London's hit musical Umoja, a journey through South African culture and history, is under threat from nearby residents. <BR>People living near the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End have said that the noise of the show's drumming is impossible to live with. <P>The musical has been a popular success and had its run extended to May.<P><A HREF="http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/entertainment/arts/newsid_1791000/1791173.stm" TARGET=_blank><B>click for more</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2002 8:53 am 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>By Corey Ullman<P>LONDON (Reuters) - London's theater district could lose a popular South African musical because of local resident complaints that the drum-and-dance show is too noisy, city officials say.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20020130/od/drums_dc_1.html target=_blank><B>More</B></a>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2002 12:20 am 
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A really sad end for a very good, spirited show. I hope it will be temporary, but I suspect that finding a new theatre at short notice will not be easy:<P><B>Song and dance over noise shuts West End show</B><BR>Fiachra Gibbons, arts correspondent for The Guardian.<P><BR>The cast of a hit West End show were locked out of their theatre yesterday and forced to stage an impromptu protest on the pavement after an extraordinary row over noise. <BR>Umoja, a successful South African show featuring 40 drummers, dancers and singers, which had just extended its run for another four months, may now be forced to close - all because one neighbour is objecting about the noise. <P>The doors of the Shaftesbury Theatre were shut on the cast as they turned up for yesterday's matinee after a deadline set by Camden council to reduce noise levels was reached. There were angry scenes as people who had paid to see the show, which ran for two years in Johannesburg before transferring to London, were turned away. <P><A HREF="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,646668,00.html" TARGET=_blank><B>click for more</B></A><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2002 11:12 am 
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Another article on the closing:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Final Drum Sounds in London for Noisy Africa Show<P>Tim Castle, Reuters on Yahoo!<P>LONDON (Reuters) - A hit South African musical has closed at a London theater after people living next door complained the drum-and-dance routine was too loud.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020208/stage_nm/arts_umoja_dc_1 target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 11:58 pm 
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Article in the FT as this show reopens in London.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The spirit of togetherness" is the meaning of "Umoja" and the show's subtitle, but the opposite by which it was for so long defined - apartheid - is not even mentioned.<P>Nor is there any story at all to speak of; what we get is a simple tour d'horizon of South African music, from tribal snake and shield dances through shebeen culture and township jive to contemporary versions of hip-hop and techno.<P><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1024578169309&p=1016625900929" TARGET=_blank> <B> MORE </B> </A>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2002 8:33 am 
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<B>Umoja – The Spirit of Togetherness</B><BR>By Chris Bartlett from The Stage<P> <BR>When this celebration of South Africa's musical heritage burst on to the London stage last year it seemed destined to reach further than its niche world music audience. One impromptu change of venue later and it looks poised to fulfil that potential.<P>The story of South African music and dance is really the story of how black South Africans used culture to survive apartheid's divide and rule. Which makes Umoja sound preachy. In reality it is nothing of the sort.<P>Creators Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni have accentuated the positive and director Ian von Memerty's script lets the music speak for itself. The tribal dances come alive under Denis Hutchinson's scorching lighting but it is when the story spills into Durban's concert halls that the music really grabs you.<P><A HREF="http://www.thestage.co.uk/paper/0226/0206.shtml" TARGET=_blank><B>click for more</B></A><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Umoja - from South Africa
PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2002 2:44 am 
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"Umoja" is moving house again, but may be around for a long time in the New London. It's definitely worth a visit:

Noisiest show set to drum up success at Cats theatre
By Angelique Chrisafis for The Guardian

A troupe of 36 South African dancers and drummers - once famously evicted from a London theatre after noise complaints - tonight takes over from Britain's longest running musical, Cats.
After months of speculation over who would fill the gap left by Andrew Lloyd Webber's show, which ran for a record-breaking 21 years and took £136m until it closed in May, the African musical, Umoja or Spirit of Togetherness, has moved into the New London Theatre.

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