Mbuso Khoza

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9min470

In the last two years, Covid19 hasn’t only robbed us of our loved ones, jobs and freedom of movement, but also music festivals that we normally see around this time. It’s the first time in two years that the South African State Theatre welcomes patrons to its annual Mzansi Fela Festival, without the dogmatic restrictions.

“Particularly the past two years, audience numbers dropped largely due to a limiting environment that came with COVID-19 restrictions. Gatherings were discouraged and people got used to staying at home. However, we kept shows and festivals going and even went at length to deliver content to our audiences through digital means to keep the theatre love alive, the South African State Theatre’s Artistic Director Aubrey Sekhabi tells Tha Bravado.

The Mzansi Fela Festival (MFF) which was found in 2007 celebrates its 15 years this year. The festival is in its final week of the 2022 instalment which commenced on December 1st and runs until this Sunday where renowned vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai will close it off. “Our people have missed the live performance spaces and the electric atmosphere that comes with being together. Hence we are welcoming them back with a diverse and star-studded line-up boasting musicians, comedians, poets, dancers, thespians and more for them to dig in,” says Sekhabi.

Crowd Puller: Zonke Dikane. Image Supplied

With this being the festival’s 15th year, Sekhabi says the disparity between this year and previous years isn’t that big. “Same festival, different artists – we have kept the same look and feel, with the exception that we included the Conversations with the Author, featuring the legendary Des Lindberg, chatting to us about his and her departed partner Dawn’s book, Every Day is an Opening Night.”

The past few weeks have seen the various stages at The State Theatre occupied by artists KB Motsilanyane, Zonke, Tumi Mogorosi, Mbuso Khoza, Zakhele Mabena, Pdoto & Blaklez, and comedians Thapelo King Flat Mametja, Trevor Gumbi, and Toll A$$ Mo. According to the Artistic Director, Zonke’s show has been the biggest in terms of audience numbers at this year’s MFF.

Funny Man: Thapelo King Flat Mametja. Credit Thobekile Shoba

“Zonke Dikana’s concert happened on the 2nd of December brought us a full house in our biggest theatre, The Opera, a 1300-seater. The partnership with Banda Banda Agency brought us a convincing audience number, followed by other in-house productions billed under the festival. Mayibuye Community Outreach programme which is a developmental programme with 15 productions, has also brought quite a convincing number of audience since it started on the 1st of December 2022,” Sekhabi says. 1264 of the 1300 seats were occupied during Zonke’s performance. The Soil and Langa Mavuso also brought a steady audience to their concert.

Teacher: Mbuso Khosa with Afrikan Heritage Ensamble in Amahubo in Concert at The State Theatre. Credit Sbonga Guyborn GatsheniTheatre.

The common thread between all the artists showcasing their work at this year’s MFF is their strong sense of identity, of being African. “Together with both independent producers, Banda Banda and the Akum Agency, we work together to curate the festival. The vision of the South African State Theatre is to be ‘The prestigious theatre of choice for a distinctly Pan-African Experience'” Sekhabi tells me.

The festival the stage for the future generations of artists through its legacy development programme, the Mayibuye Community Outreach Programme. This is a two-year mentorship programme, with the first year having communities/cultural groups allowed to present only South African classics. “This helps them to ground their work in South African theatre-making culture, and in the 2nd year are allowed to create/write their own works. All the works are presented at the SAST during Mzanzi Fela Festival. Testimony to the success of the programme, is the appointment of the SAST Associate Artistic Director, who started from the MCO community group.”

One of the stand-outs on this year’s line-up is Lifted- Let the blind sing directed by Zakhele Mabena, which is a theatre musical production featuring a vibrant cast of 12 artists with different disabilities and a five-piece band consist of musicians such as The Ga-Rankuwa Requesters which is a sextet of blind people. They are accompanied by mainstream artists such as SnowWhite, Tshepo Nkadimeng, Khwezi Sondiyazi, Maira and Sebenzile “Sebeh” Kuzwayo, and the award-winning songstress Nhlanhla Dube as a narrator.

Grounded: The Soil. Image supplied

“Our mission calls for ‘an entertainment destination of choice for inspiration, education and socio-economic transformation which is underpinned by our unique, engaging and diverse artistic offering that encourages audience growth and an appreciation for the performing arts’. We are inclusive to all creatives in their diversity and different abilities,” reiterates Sekhabi.

For more info about the Mzansi Fela Festival CLICK HERE

Thato Mahlangu05/21/2019
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6min1650

Mbuso Khoza plans to take theatergoers on a trip to Africa through music this week at the Joburg Theatre.

The celebrated musician whose love for culture and heritage can be heard in some of his hits songs including the recently released track Thando which he collaborates with the talented deejay, film and music producer Black Coffee.

Khoza will be joined on the Mandela stage by his band the Afrikan Heritage Ensemble, where the team will, in music demonstrate what Africa Day is. Africa, a rich continent with a painful and dark history has enjoyed little freedom, with much of existence was spent in freeing itself from foreign exploitation and domination.  Many countries will take part in celebrating what is today known as Africa Day, which is really a celebration of what Africa and Africans have achieved in these past decades after many years of colonel rule.

In a statement, the versatile Khoza said that art is the most influential channel to make the intangible heritage felt. He said he uses it to also pursue the revival of Afrikan unity which he said is very important to use it without dividing our people.

“We continue to draw inspiration from our roots as we redefine our identity using the body of work bequeathed to us by our forebears in the arts, culture and intellectual disciplines. I believe that as an artist, my job is to mirror the views and feelings of my people – especially around the painful issue of Xenophobia. Africa Month serves as a tool to spread the message of patriotism and acceptance of one another as brothers and sisters, and with the universal language of music we want to contribute towards breaking these chains that bind us as brothers,” says Khoza.

Mbuso Khoza clad in African attire. Photo supplied

According to the Joburg Theatre, this performance follows three consecutive sold-out performances in January 2019 where Khoza and the Afrikan Heritage Ensemble staged the first Isandlwana Lecture which was described as a first of its kind in the country.

Khoza together with his four-piece band will mesmerize those attending with a two-part performance. Patrons will enjoy 16 songs chosen from the band’s previous projects. “With the four-piece band, we shall present a selection of Africa-centric music consisting of both original compositions as well as other seminal works by other African giants including Salif Keita and Richard Bona,” says Khoza.

The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble. Photo supplied

Khoza and The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble will give audiences an enchanting performance when they interpret Amahubo, the music from 17th century Southern Africa region, concretising this marriage of past and present with the view into the future.

The ensemble will also explore the relationship between Amahubo and the songs of struggle.

The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble has recorded two full albums of Amahubo with the latter featuring a decorated jazz pianist from Amsterdam, Netherlands Mike del Ferro.

“Those lucky enough to secure the tickets for the Joburg Theatre shows will be mesmerized by the vitality, originality and the stimulating qualities of this long-abandoned art-form whose relevance remains uncontested centuries later,” read the theatre’s statement.1

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4min1780

MBUSO KHOZA’S performance at the Market theatre this weekend is akin to an adult meeting their former high school bully after years, for the first time. It’s life coming into full circle.

Having left home in 1999, to pursue his dreams in the City of Gold, Khoza found himself homeless for months. “As a young man around 2000, I would always sit outside the Market Theatre and see artists walk in there and I would dream of performing there one day,” Khoza tells me.

Nearly 20 years later, he will for the first time have his own show at the historic Joburg Theatre. “This is the most fulfilling thing for me” he says over the telephone.

His one man show this weekend will be the first time he headlines his own concert at the Market. “I performed here in 2013, doing backing vocals for Mam’Sibongile Khumalo, and it was around the same time of the year.”

I talk to him just after the completion of his first rehearsal, hours after arriving in Joburg from KwaZulu-Natal. “We left Durban at 1AM and got here around 6:00 in the morning.”

His band is based in Gauteng, while he’s down in the KZN, but this won’t affect his performance he says. He performed with the same band at this year’s Joy Of Jazz which received warm reviews. Comparing a performance at the Theatre to that of a festival he says “It’s [the theatre] more intimate and there’s no space for talking, but just the music.”

“Performing at festivals like the Joy of Jazz, is different because there are different artists there- it often feels rushed because you need to make way for the next artist. A show like this one this coming weekend is different because people specifically buy a ticket to see you- so the setup and preparation will be different,” Khoza says.

He has two supporting acts for his show this weekend, Zawadi Ya Mungu and Nandi Mzobe from the Legacy of KZN Mentorship Program who both have been performing with Khoza on his African Heritage Ensamble. Part of his performance this weekend will be him presenting research he’s done on heritage together with the Wits School Of Arts. “I’ll be narrating it myself, but a part of it will be music.”

His set will include jams from his critically acclaimed 2012 debut album Zilindile, together with some of his new compositions. The concert will take place for three consecutive days but Khoza says he’ll make some tweaks for each day.


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