In a recent press release for Sing! A South African and American Musical Holiday Celebration producer Eric Krebs noted, “With our nation in the throes of a most dis-spiriting election season and much of the world fighting the forces of division and cultural anger, I could not think of a more uplifting notion than the joining of several cultural traditions in a musical celebration.” Krebs was on hand at a recent performance, welcoming a packed house and reinforcing his timely sentiments before opening the heartwarming night of music that engages both the soul and mind.
Led by the spry and talented Thuli Dumakude, (Broadway’s The Lion King), the staged concert unfolds with short stories and traditions shared in small town South Africa. A trio of dynamic singers (Nomthi Langa, Silindile Sokutu, and Tonya Nomaziko Zondo) accompany her, along with bongo drummer player Mar Gueye and Mthakathi, a multi-instrumentalist who, mid-way through show, uncovers the secret of a fuller music sound in spite of having only two musicians onstage. Although the magic is revealed, it’s still a mighty impressive feat. All six individuals in this ensemble piece create a truly unique holiday experience that is joyous, touching, and even educational.
Some of the music is sung in the Zulu language, but with Dumakude’s thoughtful explanations, audiences will understand the essence of the songs. If not, they’ll still feel the rhythm. Dancing is strongly encouraged and it’s nearly impossible not to jump onboard, particularly with the crowd pleasing, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Dumakude explains the true origins of the 1961 hit by The Tokens and how its’ lyric “awimbawe” became “wimoweh”. Who knows?!?! This could be vital knowledge to a Jeopardy contestant. An a capella version of “Silent Night” sung both in English and Zulu is another gem in this piece, along with “Pata Pata”, a tune made popular by the South African singer, Miriam Makeba and is now universally known.
This is by no means a splashy spectacle, but it is not intended to be. With this group, raw energy and talent is more than enough. It seems fitting that it is being presented in a church. Regardless of your religious beliefs or non-beliefs, you’ll be hard pressed not to leave Sing! without a spirit of joy and gratitude amidst the frustration of worldly chaos.
Sing! A South African and American Musical Holiday Celebration plays at the Church at St. Clements (West 46th between 9th and 10th) through Dec 31, 2016. For tickets and information, https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/965952