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Mama Africa The Musical returns to Cape Town


The cast and crew of Mama Africa Musical

The Artscape Theatre Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, came alive on Thursday, February 2, as Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa The Musical returned home for the second time base on popular demand. The show, which will run till January 12, is courtesy of the United Kingdom office of the Lagos-based ZMirage Multimedia Company led by the ace theatre technician and producer, Teju Wasee Kareem.

The production, which premiered in Cape Town mid last year, is returning for the second time, after its intensive tour of Missouri and New York in October last year. The story of the life and career of the Grammy award winning singer and civil rights activist, Mariam Makeba, is delightfully told in the musical, written/directed by Niyi Coker Jnr, winner of Washington DC Kennedy Centre Award for directing. Coker is the E. Desmond Lee Distinguished Professor of African/African-American Studies, Theatre & Cinema Arts at the University of Missouri, Saint Louis.

The cross-continental cultural project, Mama Africa The Musical, started three years ago as a collaboration between the University of Missouri, St. Louis USA, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa with the collaboration of the ZM Makeba Trust. But Professor Coker did an extensive research into the life and career of Miriam Makeba; especially her role in the struggle against apartheid. Makeba’s life story illustrates the resilience of the African spirit, master artistry and positive, forward-looking spirit.

The maiden show of the 40-man cast with an international crew was at The Great Hall, University of Western Cape, South Africa (May 25-29, 2016). It later proceeded on tour of the USA at The Anhuesser Busch Theatre in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Centre, University of Missouri Campus, St. Louis (September 15—18,, 2016); and Skirball Performing Art Center, New York City on October 3, 2016.

After these successful runs, Mama Africa has been repackaged for wider public showing starting with its scheduled run at the influential theatrical performance space, ArtsCape in Cape Town. It is also billed to tour the United Kingdom in March, and Nigeria in May 2017.

Mama Africa parades top performers including Jennifer Pau-Kakaza, whose credits include Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Ciesca, Gianna Schichi; and 1st Chercatrice Suor Angelica. She has also done voice over work, background vocals and in acted films, series, and musical shows.

Simangele Mashazi is a talented singer/songwriter, who has performed on various stages at festivals such as KKNK, Woordfees, the Artscape Youth Jazz Festival and Darling’s Vooorkamer Festival. Most recently, she shared the stage with the Ramon Alexander Quartet at the 2016 Cape Town International Jazz Festival. There’s also Phelo Nodlayiya, who performed roles including Osmin from Die Entfurhung aus dem Serail, Coppelius from Tales of Hoffman, Don Alfonso from Cosi fan Tutte to mention but a few.

Born in 1932 in Prospect Township, Johannesburg, South Africa, Zenzile Miriam Makeba was a world-renowned singer and civil rights activist. In the 1960s, she was the first artiste to popularise African music around the world. Ms. Makeba became active in and outspoken against the Apartheid system, which led to the revocation of her South African citizenship.

Though banned from South Africa until the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990, Ms. Makeba was a towering figure in the global anti-Apartheid struggle, leveraging on her highly successful music career. She lived and worked in the US, Europe and Africa during these years, enjoying both celebrity status as an entertainer and often encountering difficulties because of her outspoken political positions.

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