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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

African troupe brings "Spirit of Togetherness" to Charlotte
Africa Umoja performs at Belk Theater July 23 28
Published Thursday, July 18, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness is a musical production celebrating the song and dance of South Africa. Africa Umoja is performing at The Belk Theater July 23 - 28.

Africa Umoja, a 40-member entertainment troupe from the Republic of South Africa, will be arriving in the Queen City this month to perform at the Belk Theater July 23 – 28 as part of its first North American tour.

"Umoja" loosely translates as "The Spirit of Togetherness," and the showcase is a loud and jubilant celebration of the indigenous music, colorful costumes and other vestiges of Black South African culture. Among its components are ancient tribal rituals of the Zulu, Xhosha and other famous tribes whose presence in South Africa long predates the arrival of the white Europeans.

Africa Umoja gives audiences a sampling of native South African life, art and culture by telling the moving tale of indigenous South African music - from the earliest tribal rhythms to kwaito, an internationally popular genre that emerged in Johannesburg in the 1990s.

The production’s storyline begins during the years when individual tribes reigned over their own lands and takes audiences on a journey through a century of White rule and the forced oppression of apartheid, to the present majority Black governing structure.

Featuring a large cast of South Africa’s young versatile performers, singers, dancers, drummers and marimba players, the pulsating musical production pays tribute to the potent rhythms of tribal musical and the intricate steps of gumboot dancing, as well as the jazz of Sophiatown and inspirational joy of Gospel.

Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni founded the Africa Umoja troupe in the early 1980s. The two longtime friends grew up in the segregated townships of South Africa during the era of apartheid and began performing as a way to preserve what was then a dying culture among South African youth.

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