Musician, historian and heritage enthusiast, Mbuso Khoza, kicks off 2020 on a high note with the return of the second edition of the "Isandlwana Battle Musical Lecture". The production looks at how the mighty British army suffered humiliation at the hands of Zulu warriors just over 140 years ago.
Accompanied by the "Afrikan Heritage Ensemble", a 16-member a cappella group, Khoza will again bring to life the true life-events of the Anglo-Zulu War, through narration, song and dance.
The "Isandlwana Battle Musical Lecture" sees Khoza presenting not only a gripping picture of the pressures of a war that drove both sides to a terrifying and bloody confrontation, but a definitive history of the battle that has shaped the political fortunes of the Zulu people and the entire African population.
Commenting on the show, Khoza, the writer and the creative director, said the family show was one of its kind. “There’s nothing vulgar, there’s no violence. It’s music that is well presented with a proper and well researched narration for each song,” he said.
“The story is clear: the English wanted to colonise us and we wanted to protect our land and heritage. The show is not about who stabbed who, or who shot who during that historical moment that you can read of on the internet. Through this lecture, I will be articulating particular aspects that you can take as lessons in the modern day. We want our people to understand what constitutes their philosophies as Africans.”
When asked about the word “lecture” in the title, Khoza explained: “I realised that we normally do shows, but at the end of the day you find that they are meaningless – people dance and clap and that’s it. I then decided to launch this lecture in 2019.
“It’s important for musicians to go back to school, study different things around our heritage and history so that they can turn their performances into lectures.”
On developing the narrative, the KZN-born star said: “Looking at how the Department of Culture and other cultural practitioners position heritage, they make it look like something that belongs to the month of September.”
Khoza said through the show he wants to turn heritage into “a daily consumption, so the African people understand the formation of their identity, appreciate who they are, and not wait for a specific holiday to celebrate their heritage”.
What is he hoping the audience will take away from it? “That they will get the authenticity of their culture, not what is prepared for the tourists. If you’ve been to any African presentation, there’s this exaggerating of things, the way we sing, the way we dance. When we see tourists, we overcompensate and make Africans look like clowns… like we don’t think, only entertain.
“So this time we’re going to prove that Africans are thinkers. Every song will have its own biography, its own historical background, its etymological explanation from the language perspective. What does it mean? Why was it composed like that?”
He said the audience should expect to learn a lot from the show while dancing and singing along to some of the powerful songs of Africa.
“As you asked earlier: why lecture? A lecture is an educational talk to an audience, not just for students. People can expect breathtaking performances as well as a study about African history. They will learn a lot. The walls are going to fall.”
There are about 15 songs in the show. When asked about his favourites, he revealed: “Theta Amacala, which was King Shaka’s composition, Impi from King Dinuzulu and the third one will be Khula S’makade sa Makhosi, it was composed when King Cetshwayo took over the kingdom while his father, King Mpande, was still alive.”
Khoza also sheds light on his latest body of work, Amahubo, a project he is passionate about. “I’ve been researching Amahubo since 2013. Amahubo are the prayers of the nation. Ihubo is a song that embodies the spirit of ancestral praise because these are songs that were composed by our forefathers.
“This is why it’s so important to safeguard our indigenous songs, because we are really presenting a better future for our kids.” Khoza said although he is financing the show, he prides himself on paying his musicians well. “As we move forward we hope that we will get people who would want to come in and be able to fund the project, so that I continue to pay the musicians properly and take the show across Africa and beyond.”
"Isandlwana Battle Musical Lecture is scheduled to run for three days only, from January 24 to January 26. at the Joburg Theatre. Tickets are R250.