Dr Thokozani Mhlambi resumes homecoming tour
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After his stint of performing in France over the past two years, revered South African composer and cellist Dr Thokozani Mhlambi returned to South Africa for a homecoming tour that kicked off in Durban in June this year.
However, the tour had to be put on hold as lockdown restrictions tightened in the third wave of Covid-19.
Now he is ready to take his tour back on the road, with a performance in Cape Town this month that will see him presenting his new material created in Paris, as well as some of the favourites from his debut album.
“I'm really excited because the Baxter Theatre has established a garden venue, which is in keeping with the times, in terms of health protocols. Performing in an outdoor setting has a different kind of communication with your audience than a traditional theatre venue,” said Mhlambi.
Given the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, live performances and even sporting events were cancelled around the globe.
While governments race to get citizens vaccinated, some sort of normality is creeping in.
Speaking on the effects the pandemic has had on live performances, Mhlambi said they had become a lot more precious.
“It is that kind of thing you get when you are lucky. In a way, this has reawakened us to the power of human presence, and what it means to be inspired by different people, and different ideas in the world.
“The turn to digital formats has also had some positive spin-offs. We as artists have been forced to think bigger, simply because the digital audience is not restricted by location.
“Suddenly you have a whole audience out there for your art. It is especially important for the kinds of music that are not considered mainstream, but which still have an important message for society, and thus require a space of their own,” he said.
The tour takes as an inspiration Heritage Month, and the diversity of our cultural influences. It will open with a solemn dedication to early African composers, the likes of Enoch Sontonga, John Knox Bokwe, and then will be followed by further live acts.
Culminating with a meditative set played by Mhlambi, which will reflect the influences he came across: there are traces of Arab influence from interacting with Oud players on the streets of Paris, some Kora-sounding reflections from links with immigrants, roaming musical griots, from Mali.
“Heritage Month is an important time for bringing people together. The global pandemic has really redefined our own understanding of togetherness. Music, however, continues to play an important role in promoting diversity of languages, especially African languages, and lifestyles that must define an era.
“By these lifestyles, I mean those conscious choices we make that mark our time as different to that of the Sophiatown cultural movement, or District Six back in the days. We must find the question of our time. This question becomes what our art then tries to unravel, in its multiplicity of shapes and forms,” explained Mhlambi.
Firmly intact is a Zulu aura in the collection of works, arising out of Mhlambi’s firm cultural footing, as a KwaZulu-Natal born artist.
“This concert is unique in terms of the diversity of energies it brings together. Some coming from my global travels, others are brought by the various contributors,” he said.
Mhlambi will be joined on stage by some of his friends, which include some of South Africa’s most vibrant artists.
The 35-year-old KwaZulu-Natal composer and cultural thinker is set to perform at the Baxter Theatre Garden in Cape Town on September 18, and Johannesburg on September 25, as part of the Sophiatown Arts Festival.