BLACK UMFOLOSI: Black African Dance & Song: Tours till Nov 20`

Touring till November 20th 2001

Black Umfolosi
Tour Info: Adastra, 01377 217662
Runs: 2 hours, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 3rd August 2001, @ mac, Birmingham

Delight in every moment

This is a potent mix of black African vigorous dance and hypnotic song. Black Umfolosi
is a politicised group of entertainers. They see their songs as ‘vocal newspapers’ and the aim
of their work ‘to revive Zimbabwean culture and introduce it abroad.’

The show is broadly in two parts.

The first half is centred around life in the rural communities. Here are the gorgeous
headdresses and arm and leg decorations, the dances of celebration and rites of passage. This
is beautiful dancing – not in the usual Western tradition of grace and elegance (though there
are these too) but beauty that stems from natural masculine strength, from exuberance and joy,
and from a connection with the world around the dancers. The group manages to retain a
spirit of improvisation within their controlling discipline.

The second part of the evening centres more around urban life. Here the company
concentrates more in its singing – first some gospel, later Phetsheya, song about the group’s
travels and a celebration of the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind. If this sounds naive,
we do well to note that the tour opened in Birmingham, a city who, that very weekend, had
taken steps to ban a National Front march. The song is both celebration and challenge. And,
yes, the famous Gumboot Dance is there too.

The company’s song underpins the work throughout. Whether it’s the deep, chest-
throbbing, bass ostinati that supports the music, the curving, close-harmony that is the mark of
this style, or the lighter melodies that float shimmeringly over it all, there is delight in every

2001-08-06 09:09:42

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