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Ubuntu at Carnegie Hall

Whoever curated the series for Carnegie Hall’s upcoming South African celebration deserves a virtual (and real life) high-five. The line-up features such an extensive list of South African performers and other special guests that I feel as if I may as well just set up shop inside the iconic venue for the month long showcase and not leave so as not to miss a single beat.

That would be limiting though, because the series is taking place all over NYC – not just Carnegie Hall itself.

The usual names that have been part of South Africa’s cultural background for the past 2 decades will be there – Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They’re names that’ll be familiar to many Americans who became involved in the anti-apartheid fight through their melodies.

But at the Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa events – created to celebrate the occasion of 20 years of democracy – there’ll also be a handful of names that represent the new strands of the country’s cultural fibre.

Many of them, like Toya Delazy and Kesivan Naidoo will be performing for New York audiences for the first time. Simphiwe Dana enthralled those who gathered in the bellows of Red Rooster last year, and she’ll be back too.

Each of them has a fascinating story to tell of how they become voices of the new hues of South African music – Naidoo is a child of Cape Town’s rich jazz history, influenced by the many travellers that docked in the port city, Tumi Molekane’s socially-conscious rhymes have seen him collaborate with a number of American rappers visiting the city, and Dana has oft-been compared to a young Miriam Makeba.

Delazy will be making her US debut too. The singer/pianist/dancer daughter of a politician, who is openly gay, creates pop anthems that are sung all over the country, giving the local pop scene a voice of both power and play that unites. She was also nominated in the Best International Act category at last year’s BET Awards, but has never performed abroad before. She’ll be taking to the stage of another legendary venue, the Apollo Theatre as part of the series.

The series will no doubt introduce New Yorkers to many more sides of South Africa’s culture – the parts of the country I miss so much being outside of it. For many expats and Africans living in the Big Apple, the series provides a chance to keep homesickness at bay, for, at least, a month. Plus, New York could do with a little more ubuntu, the ideology that “I am because you are” philosophy too.

And with the additional announcement of Angelique Kidjo closing the fest with Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and British singer Laura Mvula in a tribute to the late, great Miriam Makeba, together with Makeba’s former supporting singers Zamokuhle “Zamo” Mbutho, Faith Kekana, and Stella Khumalo, it truly couldn’t get any better.

The line-up is more than I could possibly cover here, so please head over here for more info.

[Pic: Toya Delazy]

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