Gregory Maqoma & Thuthuka Sibisi
In the late 19th century, a group of South African singers who called themselves the African Choir travelled to Great Britain from Cape Town. Their aim was to raise money for a school in South Africa. They performed in front of large audiences in England, Canada and the USA and even for Queen Victoria, thrilling them with expert renditions of both traditional Western and South African music.
This little-known historical episode inspired the Johannesburg choreographer Gregory Maqoma to create his dance-music-theatre piece ‘Broken Chord’. Together with the composer Thuthuka Sibisi, he weaves together past and present by including traditional Xhosa and contemporary dances.
Maqoma seeks to tell the personal stories of the choir and to reflect on the spiritual and political complications of colonialism. In ‘Broken Chord’ he shows the singers marvelling at Big Ben and the Thames, only to be greeted with hostile looks and shouts of “Go home!” The play goes on to examine missionary education and the representation of ethnic identity and colonial terminology. Maqoma creates a fascinating account, enveloped in evocative sound, within which he himself moves gracefully and attractively.