A Musical Tribute: The Manhattan Brothers, which is running at the Soweto Theatre, with a last performance today at 8pm, commemorates the elegant 1940s and 1950s. The Manhattan Brothers was the first South African musical group to crack the US Billboard charts, and this paved the way for the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and others. The cast for this trip down memory lane includes Mmatema Moremi, Happy Motha, Bubele Mgele, Bonginkosi Motha and Mluleki Chuma.
As with most social and cultural events, the opening of The Manhattan Brothers Tribute (at the Soweto Theatre until today at 8pm) had a theme: the Elegant 1940s and 1950s.
Besides my wife, in a vintage skirt complemented by an old-school fascinator, and myself in checkered pants, braces and a bow tie, no one else bothered to dress up for the occasion. They must have had the classic South Africanism: “Theme for what? Theme for who?”
As sophisticated and world-class as the Soweto Theatre is, there is still such a stark difference between the culture of theatres in the ’burbs compared with those in the kasi. In the kasi, theatre is not seen as much of an outing, but rather as part of everyday life (hence the indifference to dress up I suppose).
In the ’burbs, it’s about who you are wearing (not what), with which celebrities or influencers raise a particular production’s appeal, and the best pose for a selfie.
On the other side of the spectrum, witnessing a little-known a cappella quartet called Complete perform a tribute to The Manhattan Brothers proved just how much pure talent and passion resides in our townships. The audience had a deep appreciation for what Mluleki Chuma, Bubele Mgele, Bonginkosi Motha and Happy Motha pulled off.
Frequenting a township is also a reminder of how badly we need to start celebrating outstanding black individuals. How many people today know that The Manhattan Brothers were the first South African group to make the US Billboard charts, and that they paved the way for the likes of Miriam Makeba – poignantly portrayed by last year’s South African Idols runner-up, Mmatema Moremi?
While taking in the magic that was The Manhattan Brothers, I could not help but agree with the notion that telling stories is what Africans are best known for. However, archiving is unfortunately not one of our stronger points.
Can we at least start by recording such momentous shows at our kasi theatres?