Review: Napo and the Indigenous Orchestra

Written by: Tiisetso Tlelima

Spoken word artist, Napo Masheane has done it again! This time she was armed with an incredibly talented bunch of African instrumentalists who took us all the way back to ancient Lesotho as they celebrated Sotho culture through an invigorating set of music and poetry. She wove poignant Sotho idioms, dithoko and folktales with reverberating sounds of lesiba and setorotoro giving us a taste of a truly authentic Sotho musical experience. Every poem she recited was inspired by a particular African instrument ranging from drums, rattles, musical bows, and marimba to kudu horns, makhoyane and meropa played by the endowed Indigenous Orchestra. Whether they were banging on drums or blowing on kudu horns, the ensemble did not disappoint. The most impressive instrument however, has to be Tumelo Moloi’s melodic voice as she sang a moving tune about letting go of those who hurt you and starting afresh in the New Year. Other noteworthy performances included Nqobile Sibeko’s sultry vocals and Moseo Ketlele’s coarse yet infectious voice adding a humorous touch to the show.

The production kicked off with an upbeat praise song “O Mmeile Kae Ngwana Morena”. As the cast broke into song following Napo’s lead, clapping hands rhythmically and stamping their feet, one could almost imagine women doing renowned traditional dances performed at most Sotho social occasions such as ditolobonya and ho kgiba. And let’s not forget the men’s synchronized dance moves and their much-admired stick fighting techniques. Other poems were inspired by childhood bedtime stories like Tselane le Ledimo – the infamous story of a little girl Tselane who was warned by her mother against the giant Kgodumodumo but who disregarded the warning and was caught by Kgodumodumo. Some songs celebrated the beauty of Africa and its women. The performance ended with a medley of Sotho Gospel tunes and messages of love and hope.

Napo and the Indigenous Orchestra performed at the Joburg Theatre from 17th to 20th December. They will be touring Europe on a Cruise Ship in March and April 2010.

Read our interview on Napo Masheane.