The show must go on

SOUTH African per­former Buyi Zama has been play­ing Rafiki in The Lion King for over 10 years, and de­spite surgery this year she shows no signs of slow­ing down.

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Front Page - Tanya MacNaughton

SOUTH African per­former Buyi Zama was orig­i­nally con­tracted for a year when she be­gan her role in The Lion King as Rafiki on Lon­don’s West End in 2002.

She has since con­tin­ued as the joy­ous char­ac­ter in South Africa, Las Vegas, Tai­wan, Shang­hai and on Broad­way, while cre­at­ing the role in Aus­tralia’s first pro­duc­tion in 2003, and re­turn­ing for the cur­rent Aus­tralian show.

“I’ve never counted how many shows I’ve done and I’m not go­ing to start now,” Zama said.

The per­for­mance sched­ule did take its toll on Zama dur­ing this year’s Mel­bourne sea­son when she had to take time off fol­low­ing throat surgery, but the Dur­ban beauty is back and ex­cited about the sea­son at Crown The­atre Perth.

“My dream when I was young was to see the world and I get to do that with the show,” Zama said.

“You look at Simba’s jour­ney where he’s young and doesn’t know what’s go­ing on; that’s how I was while grow­ing up.

“There was a lot go­ing on in the coun­try I lived in but I wasn’t really aware be­cause it’s all I knew; I had to be away to see what was hap­pen­ing.”

Zama said de­spite the sched­ule of per­form­ing eight shows per week, she still loved play­ing Rafiki, which means ‘friend’ in Swahili.

And her en­ergy is al­ways boosted when she be­gins the open­ing song Cir­cle of Life.

“It makes me so happy when I start the show and ev­ery­one in the cast is gen­uinely smil­ing, not just be­cause they’ve been told to,” she said.

Al­though Zama does not speak Swahili, she does speak Sotho, one of 11 of­fi­cial South African lan­guages, which fea­tures in one of the most amus­ing scenes in the Dis­ney pro­duc­tion.

The scene’s hu­mour is achieved de­spite the fact the au­di­ence has no idea what Rafiki is say­ing.

“For me, it’s all about a feel­ing,” she said.

“As a so­ci­ety we’ve stopped lis­ten­ing with our hearts; we want to dis­sect ev­ery­thing when we should just feel.”

Buyi Zama as Rafiki.

Buyi Zama.

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