Two schools join to present the musical 'Ipi Ntombi'

2009-04-16 00:00

IN 1972, Bertha Egnos and her daughter, lyricist Gail Lakier, produced Ipi Ntombi and Mama Tembu’s Wedding as the two African songs for Earth Kitt’s tour of South Africa.

Although the numbers were rejected by Kitt for being “too upbeat and rhythmic”, Egnos and Lakier were undeterred. They added another eight songs and released an album called The Warrior in 1973.

Despite the SABC banning airplay of the album due to a reference to the Battle of Blood River, sales soared. And, Mama Tembu’s Wedding — which launched the career of singer Margaret Singana — peaked at number six on Springbok Radio’s Top Twenty Hit Parade in 1974, spending a total of seven weeks on the charts.

The success of the album inspired the musical Ipi Ntombi — which tells the tale of a young Zulu tribesman who leaves his rural village for Egoli in search of better prospects.

There he is confronted with the realities of urban life — hardships, disappointments and few joys — and his growing disillusionment and exposure to Western culture (strongly influenced by the trends in the United States in the late sixties and early seventies) make him homesick. With renewed appreciation for his traditional roots, he returns home in time to join his tribe in battle.

With a cast of 22, Ipi Ntombi opened in Australia in 1974 and then at the Brooke Theatre in South Africa where it ran for a record 28 weeks, before touring the country and then transferring to the West End in London. Six other companies toured Nigeria, Israel, Canada, Scandanavia, France, the U.S., New Zealand, Belgium, Holland and Germany for a total of 10 years.

Despite its success, the musical had its detractors. It was called “silly kitch for gullible patrons” and “a propaganda platform for suppressing the truth about apartheid”.

Midlands theatregoers can judge for themselves when a new version of the musical, starring pupils from Michaelhouse and The Wykeham Collegiate, is staged at the Michaelhouse theatre from April 27 to May 1 at 7.30 pm.

Tickets for the show cost R50 and can be booked with Michelle at 033 234 1139. Knights Coffee Shop (at Michaelhouse) will be open for meals before all the shows. Booking is essential.

— Arts Editor.

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