Photos by: Val Adamson
Read more for three reviews by our student writers-in-residence
Spicy and Uniquely Durban
By: Bronwyn Botha
Hot, sticky air; I can smell the distinct saltiness of our warm Indian ocean. The noise of the wind mixes with the strong beat of steel drums while I walk in between the beach-goers as if I were a fish swimming up-stream. Spoken word poet Iain “ewok” Robinson can be heard introducing the various acts over the speakers and the earth moves under the wheels of skateboarders. There is an aura of excitement surrounding Durban beachfront and skate-park and it is clear that Jomba! City is the place to be.
The skate-park which holds so many good memories for Durbanites was transformed for a night of dance, food, art, skating, music and mostly a whole lot of talent. From Durban's authentic I heart Market to Nateshwar Dance Company's glamorous Kathak dancing, there was a flavour to suit each individual in the spicy evening line up.
The high energy collaboration of South Africa's Via Katlehong and Reunion Island's Lindigo in Umqombothi Kabar brought musical madness together with tap, pantsula and gumboot rhythms danced to the Maloya music from Reunion. This created a ripple of foot-stomping and hand-clapping from the audience who sat with their own versions of 'umqomboti' in hand on the banks of the lawn. The stage, wet from the humidity, did not stop the passionate spirit of the performers.
Poets spat their rhymes while competing with the sound-checks of upcoming bands. Their words spoke truth to an audience that whistled its appreciation.
I tasted the spice in real Durban food as I watched graffiti artists spray their thoughts onto walls. Fruits & Veggies’ afro-punk sound consumed the park and people danced crazily while skate- boarders wove through the crowd capturing the madness of the night.
In another corner the BBoyz from the 031 Floor Assassins were warming up to burn the floor. The DJ spun a track and the Assassins assumed their positions, wild eyes waiting to let go into the music and find their flow. The movements defy the capability of the human body, causing chaotic excitement in the audience.
The beach front skate-park gave us a night full of flavours to accommodate the spicy taste-buds of a Durban audience. The colourful attire of many individuals, the whistling and stomping, the art, as well as the head-banging to mind-blowing tracks gave credence to the madness that a full moon can conjure. There's no harm in going a little crazy and Jomba! City couldn't have done it better.
Vuka steel drums
Painting the city blue
By: Thobe Molefe
The energy and intensity is immensely powerful as singers and dancers are in a cipher, singing in IsiZulu and Creole; an audience is drawn in by the passion and enthusiasm of the performers. This is the dressing-room where the Flatfoot Training Company, Via Kathlehong and Lindigo shared space before the performance.
The beachfront skate-park played host to JOMBA! City, curated by David Gouldie and hosted by Durban's renowned spoken word poet Iain “ewok” Robinson. This night promised to be a night that transpires once in a blue moon. The atmosphere at the skate-park was one that could not be created in a theatre. From graffiti artists to skateboarders, the audience was given an opportunity to experience and appreciate art in a different way. Formal boundaries were removed and the audience could engage verbally and physically with the performers.
031 Floor Assassins demonstrated why they are the "it" BBoyz crew in Durban. Audience members were not only watching the break-dancers but they were also dancing to the old school-jam, altering the traditional performer-audience relationship. The dancers made the audience experience street-dance by allowing them to be "on the stage" while they performed.
The BBoyz’ dazzled with their versatility, spins on one-handed hand-stands and an infinite number of spins at a time while moving towards the audience and away. The strength was visible not only in their arms and legs but also on their faces. The movements became more intricate when the audience cheered loudly.
The collaboration between Via Kathlehong (SA) and Lindigo (Reunion Island) was an ingenious idea. Umqoboti Kabar meaning ‘traditional beer’ in both cultures embraced the many dance and music languages of the performers: Lindigo’s Maloya music borrows from the slave music of the island and adds a modern percussive twist while Via Katlehong performs its own version of ‘tapsula’ (tap and Pantsula) as well as gumboot and step.
The dancers moved easily from one dance form to the next and the atmosphere during their performance was one that can only be created when the performers are in tune not only with each other but also the audience. There was immense focus but also a lot of fun being had on the stage.
The performance space took the performers out of their comfort zones. Music resonated from the skate-park while dancers performed on the main stage; lighting from street poles and hotels beamed onto the stage; the coolness of the air soothed the skins of the dancers on a (slightly slippery) stage. The clear sky and rare blue moon was mesmerising as one looked up while dancing. Although there were some technical glitches, this experience will be cherished and appreciated by many who experienced the soul of Durban.
Flatfoot Youth Training Company in Sifiso Majola’s Being After Not Being”
South Africa meets Reunion in Umqomboti Kabar
By: Prosperity Shange
Like a leopard, a male dancer from Gauteng company Via Katlehong, sprints and jumps onto stage, dressed in grey all-star tekkies with khaki trousers and a leopard-print vest. He calls the rest of the group onstage and they gather to share their unique blend of music and dance, their artistic ‘umqomboti’ (traditional African beer). The sharing of traditional beer is significant of unity and a celebration of heritage.
Umqomboti Kabar is a collaborative work bringing together dancers from Via Katlehong and musicians from Reunion Island, a group called Lindigo. Via Katlehong’s style is characterised by a unique blend of tap and pantsula (‘tapsula’) as well as gumboot. Their mixing up of ritualistic and contemporary styles, the Dombolo, kwasa and even certain night-club moves made for a heady cocktail.
Performed to the intoxicating Maloya (slave) music played by Lindigo, the work celebrates a sharing of cultures and was performed as part of Jomba! City at the beachfront.
The collaboration is an artistic marvel which I would have never imagined possible; the work manages to integrate distinct styles, histories and influences. The invigorating Maloya music and ground-breaking dancers got me shaking and dancing in my chair; for minutes I felt like I was at a concert. Being at the beachfront, in the open air under the stars, made the experience even more powerful, transporting me to an Indian Ocean island. This work made Jomba! City a memorable experience.
Via Katlehong in Umqomboti Kabar