Mmatema Moremi, accompanied by the Manhattan Brothers at the Soweto Theatre.
The Manhattan Brothers Tribute concert was something to write home about.

The amount of excellence showcased on the stage on Thursday night left me wondering why we reach out to international acts when the African soil is bursting with sizzling talent.

The premiere was set at the Soweto Theatre, a fitting venue for the story behind what the Manhattan Brothers have achieved.

For those not in the know, the Manhattan Brothers was a popular South African singing group in the 1940s and 1950s, during the apartheid era.

The group became internationally acclaimed for its distinct sound and influence on the music scene. The crowds were welcomed by the Soweto venue’s general manager Nomsa Mazwai, also known as Nomisupasta.

She promised a nostalgic performance, taking the audience back to the time when the band triumphed over apartheid enslavement and made music that touched and moved the soul.

Nomisupasta looked fresh and her bubbly personality was embodied in her outfit. She wore an outfit from Palesa Mokubung’s Mantsho collection.

The orange lip shade gave her black-and-white dress the zing that it needed in a simple but amazing way.

Among the other celebrities at the event were actor Vusi Kunene, singer Tshedi Mholo and three of the five members of The Muffinz band, Keke, Simz and Mthae. I spotted popular actor from the The Queen, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, Joe Mafela, as well as two of this year’s Idols South Africa top 10 contestants, Terra Cox and Keegan Martin - who knew they were buddies off-set? The dress code of the night was elegant 1940s and 1950s, but unfortunately it seemed most people didn’t get the memo.

It was a pity because the night would have been that much more dazzling. The tribute concert produced by Makhaola Ndebele paid homage to the original Manhattan Brothers and was represented by the four-man a cappella group Complete, which is made up of brothers Happy and Bonginkosi Motha, Linda Thobela and Bubele Mgele. The singing was exceptional. Mmatema, who portrayed the late Miriam Makeba, reminded us why we loved and supported her while she was still on Idols.

Her commanding voice gave depth to the songs she led, namely Lovely Lies, Baby Ntsoare and the popular Ntyilo Ntyilo.

Together with Complete, they staged an amazing vocal show that must have transported all Manhattan fans at the theatre back in time, because it surely did that for me - though I am a 1990s kid.

Speaking after the show, Mmatema said she was thrilled to have been selected for the role of Mama Makeba. “I’m so happy that they called me to be a part of it. I sang four songs on the show, and those are tunes that really mean a lot to me.

“These are songs that I grew up listening to and seeing myself singing them in front of the mirror,” she said.

The stage had a pianist, double bass player and a drummer - the three instruments came together beautifully with the lovely clean voices of the singers.

Not to forget the projector that kept changing into pictures of the original band members and Makeba in their glory days.

The producer said the idea was about looking back and appreciating the talent that South Africa has.

“It is about the new generation paying homage to the older generation before we look forward, paying tribute to the old guys in that generation.

“ If you think about it, they started the group in 1948, at the beginning of apartheid - and seven years in, they won international acclaim.”

The show, which lasted almost two hours, had its highs (the voices) and the crowd really seemed to enjoy every bit of it.

I certainly did.

Drinks and finger foods were served after the show, and we got to mingle with theatre lovers.

It was a good evening all round.

The Sunday Independent