Gregory Maqoma ǀ Thuthuka SibisiBroken Chord
Between 1891-1893 a group of young African singers travelled by boat to Britain, Canada and America. This ensemble of the missionary-educated black elite, named The African (Native) Choir, were on a mission to raise funds for a technical school in Kimberley, South Africa. Using traditional Xhosa and contemporary dance styles alongside atmospheric soundscapes, we weave together recorded personal accounts of the African Choir, revealing a drama of truly global dimensions , whilst simultaneously looking at the black body as a political site. Further, questioning the relationship between the colonised and the coloniser; and either’s complicity in shaping and shifting a South African narrative – past and present. Broken Chord not only reflects on an archive but looks to trigger, critique and comment on urgent issues of migration, dispossession, borders and paths of forced closure – a deliberate and disturbing gesture on the part of the West against the other.
We come from, and have been taught in, a music and movement tradition that stipulates itself according to this binary of the West vs the other. What then comes to the fore is how the West concretely safeguards itself and its boundaries. We want to disrupt this positioning by planting ourselves at the centre of this dichotomy thus becoming the friction that can summon, envision and engender a newer, more original conversation concerned with sonic-gestured worlds: who do we write these worlds for; whose stories are we to tell through these movements, sounds and text practices? Ultimately, this work serves as a deliberate and fiercely subjective act of self-beatification.
In this work we focus on the voice not only as a bearer of loss, hope, wisdom, and affection but also as an instrument of witnessing – of seeing and re-membering. What makes this work unique is the origin of the musical material – renderings and sketches adopted from a meagre and faint program of songs. From this arises a severe provocation; encouraging a want to dance, dart, ripple and rip apart; a desire to dive deep and far into imagining what these songs looked, tasted, sounded and felt like. Central to this we find our instigator; the messenger, the saviour, the destructor, the disembodied figure of a broken past.
Gregory Maqoma & Thuthuka Sibisi
Artistic Team & Credits
Concept Gregory Maqoma & Thuthuka Sibisi
Choreographer Gregory Maqoma
Composer/Musical Director Thuthuka Sibisi
Assistant to Composer Mhlaba Buthelezi
Cast Tshegofatso Khunwane, Nokuthula Magubane, Simphiwe Sikhakhane, Lubabalo Velebhayi
Dramaturg Shanell Winlock Pailman
Technical Design Oliver Hauser
Sound Design Nthuthuko Mbuyazi
Costume Design Maxhosa by Laduma Ngxokolo
Wardrobe Assistant Nathi Mnisi
Production Manager Siyandiswa Dokoda
Movement Understudy Katleho Lekhula
Executive Producer Gregory Maqoma Industries
Co-Produced by Festival Grec – Barcelona, Manchester International Festival, Théâtre de la Ville – Paris, Weimar Arts Festival (National Theater), Festpielhaus St Pölten, Torinodanza Festival / Teatro Stabile di Torino – Teatro Nazionale, Festival Aperto / Fondazione I Teatri – Reggio Emilia, Stanford Live at Stanford University, Saddler’s Wells
Special thanks to the Market Theatre Foundation, Tshwane University of Technology Performing Arts (Vocal Arts) and Carlos Cansino Pérez
Echo Vocal Ensemble
Conductor Sarah Latto
Singers 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
Gregory Vuyani Maqoma
Born in Soweto, October 16 of 1973, Gregory Vuyani Maqoma became interested in dance in the late 1980’s as a means to escape the political tensions growing in his place of birth. He started his formal dance training in 1990 at Moving into Dance wherein in 2002 he became the Associate Artistic Director. Maqoma has established himself as an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, teacher, director and scriptwriter. He founded Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT) in 1999 when he was undertaking a scholarship at the Performing Arts Research and Training School (PARTS) in Belgium under the direction of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Maqoma is respected for his collaborations with artists of his generation. Since 2000 he has collaborated with choreographers including Akram Khan, Vincent Mantsoe, Faustin Linyekula, Dada Masilo, Shanell Winlock and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Several works in his VDT repertoire have won him accolades and international acclaim. They include FNB Vita Choreographer of the Year in 1999, 2001 and 2002 for Rhythm 1.2.3, Rhythm Blues and Southern Comfort respectively. He received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance in 2002. Maqoma was a finalist in the Daimler Chrysler Choreography Award in 2002 and the Rolex Mentorship Programme in 2003. He is the recipient of the 2012 Tunkie Award for Leadership in Dance, which is presented annually to a South African who has elevated the standard and visibility of dance in South Africa.
In 2017 the French Government awarded Maqoma the honorific Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Thuthuka Sibisi’s musical education began at the world-renowned Drakensberg Boy’s Choir School where his passion for performance was born. He subsequently went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Music at Stellenbosch University in 2011. Alongside his music studies, he completed studies in Physical Theatre and Movement with Sam Prigge and Estelle Olivier. He is a graduate of the MA (Performance Making) program at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.
Thuthuka has toured extensively, performing throughout South Africa as well as Asia and South America. Further tours include Stockholm, as Musical Director of Philip Miller’s opera Between A Rock and A Hard Place (premier) in collaboration with Cape Town Opera. Further, he was Associate Conductor and Chorus Master for Bongani Ndonana-Breen’s oratorio Credo, which was written to commemorate UNISA’s 140th anniversary of its founding. Other engagements include Chorus Master for UCT Opera School: Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims and Four:30 - South African Operas.
Visual collaborations include work with Johannesburg-based photographer and sculptor, Jake Singer, on Joburg City Hustle (2015) and Intersections To This City (2014) – presented at Sustainable Empires (Venice, Italy) and Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art (USA). Other exhibition work includes a reiteration of the short opera Between A Rock and A Hard Place into a live-art installation – renamed Extracts from The Underground (2013) – presented at The Cape Town City Hall; in collaboration with Gordon Institute of Creative Arts. This installation was later presented at Wits Art Museum in 2014 as part of The Migrant Journey Series. In 2016 a new work, a sound/image installation, The African Choir 1891 Re-imagined was presented as part of the Black Chronicles Archive Laboratory display at Autograph ABP (London).
In China, he served as Musical Director to Philip Miller’s Pulling Numbers (premier) and performed as Musical Director for Ciné-Concert presented as part of Notes Toward a Model Opera by William Kentridge. 2016 also saw Thuthuka make his Italian debut as Music Director for William Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments to be presented in Rome, Italy. Further projects include a commission by Cape Town Opera for Musiquées Sacrée d’Afrique et d’Europe, in residence at Festival International d’Aix-en-Provence (France).
Most currently he is the Musical Director and co-composer alongside Philip Miller for William Kentridge’s The Head and The Load to premier in July 2018 at London’s The Tate Modern. He is a recipient of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans 2017 award and the 2018 Ampersand Foundation Fellow.
Shanell Winlock Pailman
Shanell Winlock Pailman was born in Eldorado Park, a township south of Johannesburg. After completing her matric she joined Moving into dance (mophatong’s) one year edudance diploma course. She then joined the full time dance company at moving into dance under the direction of Sylvia Glasser where her professional dance career started. Two years later she won a scholarship to Brussels to attend the the school of Performing Arts Research and Training Studios ( P.A.R.T.S.) under the direction of Anne Terresa Dekeersmaker. A year later she returned to Johannesburg and was a founding member of the Vuyani Dance theatre. She also worked with various South African choreographers including Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, Pj Sabagah, Sello Peso, Moeketsi Koena, Tracey Human to mention a few. She won awards for most promising and most outstanding female artists for the FNB vita dance umbrella awards.
In 2000 she was invited to work with the UK based company the Akram Khan Dance Company where she lived and work for 10 years. In this time she toured world wide extensively and became the rehearsal director of the company. The AKC works and collaborations included artist such as Kylie Minogue, Nitin Sawney, Cloud Gate dance company from Taiwan, London Symphonietta, Aniesh Kapoor, Anthony Gormley and Sidi Larbi Cherchaoi. She also gave intensive workshops world wide.
In 2005 she studied at the Central London College of reflexology, she qualified as a reflexologist and a massage therapist.
On her return to South Africa in 2011 she choreographed a duet for two members of the Vuyani Dance and Theatre project for their season, as well as a group work for the Forgotten theatre collaborative (fact). She created her first solo work in 2016 for the FNB dance umbrella festival. To date she assists Johannesburg based companies and freelance performers as a rehearsal director and serves as a guide to choreographers in the creation and direction of their works. She is also the director and registered as boxing promotor for her company Victory sport productions.
Tshegofatso Khunwane is a vocal artist and African percussionist. He has completed his National Diploma at the Tshwane University of Technology in the Vocal Arts Department as well as his Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts (Music) at the Tshwane University of Technology. In 2018 he performed as part of the chorus -Le Nozze di Figaro-opera directed by P. du Toit and the Musical director was T. Zungu at the Breytenbach Theatre and in the same year he played African percussion in the dance season 2018 at the Breytenbach Theatre. Tshegofatso was part of the World Choir Games and the two respective choirs he represented came 2nd position. Tshegofatso was part of the chorus that sang at Monte Casino for Opera Jewels directed by Kutlwano Masote in the year 2019. Tshegofatso played African percussion and was a vocalist for a dance production “LEKGOBA” directed by L.J Makhele at the Dance Umbrella held at the State Theatre. He performed at the TUT Opera Gala (chorus member) held at the Linder auditorium conducted by T. Zungu. Tshegofatso played percussion at the TUT dance season 2019. He was a vocalist and percussionist for Lekgoba directed by L.J Makhele at the State Theatre under the Incubator Programme. In 2021 Tshegofatso was a chorus member in the TUT Vocal Art in Song production featuring compositions by Mozart, Rossini, Moerane, Marivate and Izitibili. He was also a vocalist and percussionist for Lekgoba at the State Theatre for the Kucheza Afrika Festival 2021. Tshegofatso has worked with the following industry professionals on BROKEN CHORD: Gregory Maqoma, Thuthuka Sibisi and Mhlaba Buthelezi. He continued to be part of the quartet, which went on to perform the Broken Chord in Europe – Spain (Seville, Barcelona and Madrid) during the month of July 2021. In the year 2022 he has been part of Mohile music and events which was showcasing cultural exchange in India (Mumbai and new Delhi). Tshegofatso was part of the Kucheza Afrika festival performing as vocalist and percussionist for piece named Internal by Sibonelo Mqunu. He then was on tour for Gregory Maqhoma: Broken Chord co- created by Thuthuka Sibisi in Austria.
Lubabalo “Lubba” Velebayi
Born in East London (Mdantsane) in the Eastern cape. In 1999 studied music at the University of Port Elizabeth. In 2003 he studied choral training program at Cape town opera then joined vocal ensemble chorus of Cape town opera. He played a lot of different roles as a soloist, roles like Simon in Treemonisha which was performed in France (Monaco), the role of lawyer Frezier in Porgy and Bess, Dotore in Il Travatore which was directed by Angelo Gobbato, Balthazar in Ahmal and the Night Visitors.
Lubabalo travelled and performed in many different European countries like Germany, France and England; also performed in Sweden in a production called Poet and Prophetes. He had an opportunity of working with Sir Simon Rattle in Porgy Bess, Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi in many different projects; worked and directed by William Kentridge in The Head and Load which was performed in Amsterdam; also worked with him in The Magic.
Echo Vocal Ensemble
Described as “sparkling, poised and powerful” (The Arts Desk), Echo is an acclaimed vocal ensemble that stemmed from the Genesis Sixteen Young Artist scheme. They made their St John’s Smith Square debut in 2017, and have since performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as Ensemble-in-Residence at Ryedale Festival and live on BBC Radio 3.
The group has quickly developed a reputation for imaginative programming and multi-disciplinary collaborations, including with poet Roger McGough, composer James MacMillan, visual artist Polly Apfelbaum and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Echo aims to explore the full range of what ensemble singing can achieve, including improvisation and audience-immersive concert experiences, whilst achieving musical excellence at all times.
Most recently, Echo collaborated with director Tom Guthrie on a staged performance of Handel’s Messiah celebrating the history of the oratorio in Bath, and performed alongside duo Ganda Boys, reworking traditional Ugandan music for a cappella voices. In 2023, Echo announced a multi-disk partnership with the award-winning label Delphian Records.