The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN it was time for President Mnangagwa to make his exit from the Bulawayo Large City Hall, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation Benson Dube spoke words that were already on a lot of people’s minds on that Thursday afternoon.
The President could depart, but he would do so with the sweet melodies and the rhythmic instruments of the cast of the Songs of Lozikeyi playing behind him.
On an afternoon in which Black Umfolosi had already won the hearts of an expectant audience with their song Unity, it had seemed almost impossible that any other act would top it.
Black Umfolosi, the stalwarts and pioneers of the city’s imbube scene, had spoken to the heart of what matters to those that gathered at the City Hall on Thursday afternoon. Indeed, the hall had seemed to vibrate to the sound of that evergreen tune and it was clear that anything other than a five-star showing will erase any memory of what had just been dished in front of the President and several other distinguished guests.
Enter Thandy Dhlana and Noma “Nkwali” Mkhwananzi. On that Thursday afternoon, the two songbirds showed why their voices are held in such high regard, as they poured sweet melody after juicy harmony into the ears of the President and everyone else with functional ears within the auditorium.
“Through these songs, you will hear the thumping of feet with amahlwayi, resonating to the rhythm of melodious singing,” part of the production’s synopsis reads.
In that brief presentation, the sound of amahlwayi indeed seemed loud enough to touch the hearts of sleeping ancestors and the melodies, to the ordinary ear, sounded like a belated seductive attempt to charm Lozikeyi herself back to life. “Wherever Lozikeyi is I’m sure she enjoyed,” President Mnangagwa would remark afterwards. She must be saying my grandchildren remember me.”
Songs of Lozikeyi, conceived and directed by the man who brought to the world Zambezi Express, Siyaya’s Saimon Mambazo Phiri, is billed as an attempt to understand “a woman who possessed many traits, some good, others questionable and most misunderstood. They tell of a strength that leaves people in awe of the woman that she was.
These songs let you in on her internal struggles, her highs and lows. These songs introduce Queen Lozikeyi Dlodlo to the world. They show you where she hails from and give you a glimpse of the importance of culture and faith not only to her but to her people. A people she loved and protected with her all.”
Songs of Lozikeyi
According to Mambazo Phiri, the musical is an attempt to bring to life a uniquely Zimbabwean story that has often been neglected.
“Basically, this is based on my history and journeys throughout the world especially in the musical theatre industry.
Wherever I go, the biggest players in those industries celebrate their own stories. If you look at the British, they have these stories about Cinderella or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. All these are European illusions that are created by their own people.
You go there and they will celebrate King George and even if you go across to South Africa you will see the way that they celebrate King Tshaka and others. It is different for us. We are a country that is not telling its own stories. So, this is our trial at trying to re-track the biggest symbols of our history, the women,” he said.
According to Phiri, Thursday’s presentation was only a starter, with a larger buffet set to be served next year.
“This is a work in progress. This is a workshop production of a musical to be launched next year called Lozikeyi the Musical. What we have been doing over the last two months has been making The Songs of Lozikeyi which is what will celebrate the life and history of uMama uLozikeyi.
“Our idea is to pick up the best performers and the women with the best voices in this city because this is a city which is endowed with so much talent. What you saw today was almost four weeks of a journey. It is not just about the singing: it is also about the lectures that we received. We got together with Pathisa Nyathi, we got together with the Lozikeyi Foundation, we got through to the Lozikeyi Trust through the likes of Sihlangu Dlodlo to talk to them and understand what we can create for our own people,” he said.
While the stories of historical figures were intriguing, Phiri said the stories of legends, both living and dead, would be resurrected and brought to the stage as a part of an ambitious project to retell the city’s history.
“So, this is the start of telling our own story. How can we know the story of Peter Ndlovu if don’t talk about how a young boy left the dusty townships and went to play for Coventry City Football Club? How will we tell those stories?
It’s not just the old stories but the old and contemporary stories. So, this was just the start of what we want to do here,” he said.