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Afrikaaps - a dialect you can’t keep down

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to Afrikaaps

The critically acclaimed, award-winning Afro-futuristic hip hop theatre production Afrikaaps will be reprised at Artscape at the end of the month.

FUSING musical genres and referencing the multiplicity of traditional Cape styles like ghoema with contemporary jazz and hip hop, Afrikaaps premiered in Cape Town in 2010 to critical acclaim.

Using hip hop, the show traces the true roots of Afrikaans to slaves in the Cape, reclaiming the language so long considered the language of the oppressor, as the language of liberation.

The language that is used in the show is the Cape dialect of Afrikaans, as opposed to the suiwer Afrikaans you will find in a dictionary, but the emphasis of the show is that this doesn’t make this version any less valid, especially considering the language’s origin in the 1600s as a creole language.

Afrikaaps director Catherine Henegan says this show won’t be just a reprise, but has changed since they last performed together.

“In the last four years everyone in the cast has grown immensely, so the show feels more organic, and there are more moments of improv,” said Henegan.

Over thepast two years, each performer has been doing their own thing after a 2011 tour of the Netherlands.

For this new version, musical director, pianist Kyle Shepherd put together a trio with Claude Cozens on drums and Gershwin Koen on bass, which has developed the musical side, and they have also included new material they worked on while touring the show in the Netherlands.

Even the political references have changed to keep the show current: “So, there’s lots of new humour in the show, which reflects on contemporary politics,” said Henegan.

The opportunity to reprise the show at Artscape came about because of the venue’s 20 years of democracy celebrations, but Henegan says they are not so secretly hoping the theatre decides to tackle the show as a production house so they can take it on the road again.

“With a cast and crew of 15 people it is an expensive show to mount so it’s been difficult to find producers who are willing to invest. These opportunities to present the show in its big scale are far and few between.

“There are nine people on stage, Claude and Gershwin are new, the rest are the old guys. It’s not theatre people, mostly musicians. So, it’s difficult to get noticed on the mainstream,” said Henegan.

The ensemble Die Argitbekke also includes rapper and guitarist Jitsvinger; hip hop legend and cultural activist Emily XY; singer Moenier Adams; Khoisan activist and traditional instrumentalist and storyteller Jethro Louw; soulful singer Blaq Pearl and B-boy rapper extraordinaire Bliksemstraal.

“Having the live musical component on stage is interesting. Though they’re all essentially jazz musicians, they create hip hop sounds acoustically, so that’s original and authentic. What’s really interesting is, this is live hip hop without any computers,” said Henegan.

She is chuffed that this time around they have included in the narration excerpts from Dylan Valley’s award-winning debut documentary of the same name which followed the artists as they put together the show.

Henegan is now off to Europe as the company manager for Brett Bailey’s Macbeth, so dramaturg Aryan Kaganof is standing in as director, “to make sure it all happens nice and smoothly”.

• Afrikaaps will be at Artscape Theatre from May 29 to 31 at 8pm with a performance at 11pm on May 30 and at 2pm on May 31. R80 from Computicket or at the box office.

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