Comprising a group of fourteen young men and women and two children, The African Choir during the years of 1881-1893 embarked on an international tour of Britain, Canada and the US via boat. Missionaries, their connection to faith, integral, their mission to unite incredibly apparent. Tying their story to present prevalent issues of migration and division, Gregory Maqoma and Thuthuka Sibisi present Broken Chord.
Anchored by its choral roots, Broken Chord stunningly deconstructs the power of music, Maqoma our charismatic conductor leading the hour long musical procession and the encounters that inhabit the evening’s structure. From The African Choir’s departure from South Africa to their multiple American and European encounters, we absorb the ‘brick walls and glass ceilings’ experienced by the troupe. The Echo Vocal Ensemble consisting of Sally Carr, Sam Cobb, Graham Cooper, Lucy Cronin, Freddie Crowley, Stephen Fort, Harry Fradley, Sam Leggett, Daniel Marles, Rose Martin, Benedict Munden, Laurel Neighbour, Florence Pettet, Sam Poppleton, Cathy Philips Brady, Sophie Timms and conducted by Sarah Latto placing faces to these experiences. Othered, the hostility felt is tough to take in – swaying between cheers of celebration and hostile heckles, the cultural clash between the troupe and the nations echoes.
Nokuthula Magubane’s arresting vocals summon all to stop and listen, fellow choir members Tshegofatso Khunwane, Simphiwe Sikhakhane and Lubabalo Velebhayi provide a soulful, earthy foundation that wonderfully compliments Magubane. The troupe work in stunning harmony to push through the barriers they face, an emphasis placed on the power of sound and how it has the capacity to move and heal. The Echo Vocal Ensemble and The African Choir face off against eachother, as well as themselves working together to showcase a rich musical framework. Maqoma choreographs a work steeped in traditional South African dance originating from the Xhosa tradition which is intertwined with contemporary movements, we’re gifted a fusion of the West meeting the South – graceful stances mixed in with fluid ripples and effortless footwork present throughout. The power of dance also, and it’s ability to push through miscommunications a takeaway of the evening. Sibisi composes an intricate observation of culture clash and migration through sound, calls and responses, choral work and solos all working together to capture the zeitgeist.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Broken Chord was shown from Friday 17th to Saturday 18th March 2023 at Sadler’s Wells. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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