The theme of the concert, which celebrated and promoted African cultural heritage was One Last Dance Africa. It also dovetailed with the students’ love of performing together, representing their last time as a team before they graduate and embark on their own music careers.
The concert featured a stellar line-up of artists performing music and dance traditions showcasing African creativity. Songstress Nobuhle Khuzwayo fused Afro Soul and Folk Music; AKulture sang a new age Scathamiya that involved Afro Soul and RnB; and Milton Chissano composed original Afro Jazz and performed with Durban favourite, alto saxophonist Leon Scharnick while Ghanaian Palmskandic fused Palmwine guitar with local South African Maskandi.
Providing a dance extravaganza were Ikusasa Lethu, an ensemble of African Music and Dance students that performed Umzansi Zulu dance and Kwasa Kwasa and Iphupho Lethu who performed a breath-taking edition of their own choreography of Zulu Indlamu dance. Closing the concert was an original maskanda composition by the Calabash Team AMD third-year students titled: One Last Dance Africa!
‘This year, we took a different route to expose vibrant aspiring artists who have not been given a chance to showcase their craft on big stages. We chose artists who invoke emotions onstage and they lived up to all the hype and delivered a spectacular performance. You could clearly see the audience enjoying themselves. That is what our concert is about,’ said AMD student Mr Mangaliso Ndwalane.
Keynote speaker, Opondo, shared her journey of joining the UKZN music discipline and bringing the African Music Project, one of the University’s community outreach programmes, to life. With limited funding for an initial three years, she crafted a vision for the project, which led to its success and longevity. Her keen ear and eye for African music enabled her to bring together different sounds and dances from the African continent and introduced them to UKZN students.
Opondo spoke fondly of her time as a graduate student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA and performing with the UMOJA African Arts Company as a singer and dancer. She was a founding member of this ensemble of African immigrants that was based in Durban.
‘I drew on this experience with UMOJA as I set out to design the 3rd level courses in the new African Music and Dance Programme, and would think of a creative way to link the academic programme with the community. This gave birth to three outreach courses: African Music Outreach: Music Education; African Music Outreach: Community Development; and African Music Outreach: Documentation,’ she explained. She then taught students how to fundraise, and draw up a business plan and funding proposal while also teaching them the art of self-promotion.
Opondo noted that the concert concept, Cultural Calabash was inspired by a folklife event in Taung and was coined by alumnus Mr Buller Ramadiso Sello. It was later fine-tuned to incorporate African Cuisine, a range of African dishes prepared by AMD students themselves. ‘We continue with that same work ethos and 14 years later we once again bring you the much anticipated African Cultural Calabash and African Cuisine.’
Opondo, who has served UKZN for 23 years, added: ‘I tell you about my beginnings as a way to give hope to all in the audience particularly my AMD students, that anything you dream about is possible if you have the vision, passion, endurance and fortitude to make it happen.’ She thanked the National Arts Council of South Africa, SAMRO Foundation and Concerts SA for sponsoring the 14th edition of the African Cultural Calabash.