ON THE LINE-UP: Sama winners Freshlyground. Photo: Val Adamson, Supplied
ON THE LINE-UP: Sama winners Freshlyground. Photo: Val Adamson, Supplied
BRAINCHILD: Mbongeni Ngema.
BRAINCHILD: Mbongeni Ngema.

A MAJOR festive season music and cultural carnival will start in Durban next month featuring some of South Africa’s leading artists, with its highlight being a Broadway-style musical.

Artists including Jimmy Dludlu, Zonke, Thandiswa Mazwai, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Freshlyground and more have been signed up for the first Siyagiya Durban International Music and Cultural Carnival. The event was launched last night in Durban.

The brainchild of director Mbongeni Ngema (Woza Albert!, Sarafina!, Stimela Sase Zola), the inaugural extravaganza will be staged at West Ridge Park Stadium on December 21.

We asked Ngema about this project: “The carnival has been two years in the making, the vision is that we would like to begin this as a week-long annual festive season carnival in Durban from next year.”

Ngema explained that this year’s one-day event is intended to give everyone a taste of what his organisation, the Committed Artists Foundation, is trying to achieve. After the showcase he hopes to have more buy-in from sponsors to make the annual event a reality.

“We envisage this carnival to be an exhibition of our different cultures. The government speaks of social cohesion; this can be done easily through the arts and culture, and in KZN more than any other province because of our melting pot of cultures here,” he explained.

The carnival will include dance, music, food and theatre shows. Although this year’s event is a one-day affair to introduce possible partners and the public to the concept, Ngema says they have a greater vision for next year.

“For the week-long carnival we hope to book a number of venues in and around Durban and let people exhibit their performances as part of the carnival. Think Mardi Gras – with music, dance, beauty pageants, food festivals – that’s what we want.”

In terms of venues, Ngema said they hope to spread their bookings as widely as possible to create broader access, from community halls to the bigger, established theatres, the People’s Park and Moses Mabhida Stadium.

“If there are festive events already planned at some venues we hope to approach the organisers and ask them to run their shows and events as part of the carnival. So we are also looking at setting up these kinds of partnerships,” said Ngema.

From next year the Siyagiya carnival will also include a host of international guests on the programme.

“Initially this is what we wanted to do from this year, but it was too late to fund-raise. I have spoken to some artists overseas and they are very excited to come on board, so we hope as of next year that we will have some international artists from musical and theatrical backgrounds on the programme.”

According to a press release, this year’s programme will comprise a concert, from 1pm to 7pm, followed by a main stage extravaganza from 8pm to midnight.

Those on the line-up include a host of artists from a variety of entertainment fields. These include popular Isicathamiya groups, MBA champions and Usuthu; gospel groups Abalindi, Isigcino, Mvuselelo Buthlezi and Sifiso Ncwane; Maskandi stars Intombi Yotalagu, Mfiliseni Magubane and Phuzekhemisi; and the Afro-pop group Afrosoul.

The press release said with live backing by a star-studded 15-piece live band, Siyagiya carnival’s four-hour main stage extravaganza boasts other front liners such as Nigeria’s Omawumi, Mbuso Khoza, Sonti, Mzwake Mbuli, Soul Brothers and Zolani Mkiva.

This year’s SA’s Got Talent winner, young poet Botlhale, will also perform.

“This is not just entertainment for an older audience. We have catered for the youth with acts like Omawumi, a kid from Nigeria who is really great and breaking into the European market. Locally we’ve got popular acts like Zonke, Freshly-ground, Bullistic and Professor, so it is something even young people will enjoy.

“I will be choreographing the extravaganza which will be something like a theatre piece, something of a Broadway musical. I wanted to introduce something different to South Africa through this carnival; it will not be like a series of music concerts,” Ngema clarified.

On the choice of Westridge Stadium, Ngema said it was chosen for a specific reason and will remain the venue for the stage extravaganza in the years to come: “For this kind of piece, it is excellent because it is almost like an arena. If you do a show like this at big stadium, like Moses Mabhida, it will get lost. These kinds of bigger stadiums we would like to book for some of the concerts next year. But Westridge will always be booked for the musical extravaganza. It seats 8 000 and you can see the stage at every angle.”

Funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund has made the Siyagiya carnival possible, but Ngema said they are looking for more partnerships for the carnivals to follow.

• Book for the Siyagiya Durban International Music and Cultural Carnival at Computicket: 083 915 8000.