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The beauty of Hlakanyana is scored in the music

During Lockdown, Madevu Entertainment, with funding and support from the 2020 ACT | Nedbank Development Grant in Music, made possible through Nedbank’s Arts Affinity and The National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC), Janice Honeyman and UJ Arts & Culture, created and developed a brand-new South Africa production; Hlakanyana. Rich in storytelling, relevance and music Hlakanyana is set to delight the audiences in 2021.

UJ University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture Hlakanyana rehersals

Hlakanyana is an Afrofuturistic retelling of traditional Zulu folklore and weaves contemporary issues and styling through the medium of traditional folklore. Originally, Commissioned for the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture’s (FADA) 2020 Interdisciplinary Theatre Programme for second years, the production had to be postponed and moved online with the onset of the Lockdown.
     The first phases of production all took place online as a series of online workshops with the writers, lecturers from FADA, designers, composers and actors all coming together under the direction of Janice Honeyman.
     While most of the script could be developed online and much of the original musical score, the actual creation of the play’s music needed to be completed in the theatre. As the country moved into level 2 of lockdown, Madevu Entertainment was able to move the creative process off the screens and into the theatre, where the next stage of production, the music, could take shape.

UJ University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture Hlakanyana rehersals

‘We have spent the last week-and-a-half on the music and it has been very interesting times moving from our homes where we had no issues with travelling and the risk of being around other people was much less, to the rehearsal room.
     ‘We have taken all the necessary precautions and we were very cognizant of the importance of clearing the room every thirty minutes to spray against the virus,’ explains producer Zolani Shangase, Madevu Entertainment.

UJ University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture Hlakanyana rehersals

The music, created and performed by a Jazz Band that includes Viwe Mkizwana on bass guitar under music director, composer and guitarist Seneliso ‘Sne’ Dladla will be the first taste of Hlakanyana audiences will experience. Madevu Entertainment hopes to release a number of the original songs online and build an audience for the upcoming performances in the new year.
     ‘We have created something very special that I think South Africa is going to be very excited to hear. It is a gem which with the right kind of nurturing and support can really fly and be something we as artists can be proud off,’ says Shangase
     There was limited time to bring the musical score to life with the musicians and the singers, but they pulled it together within the week. Shangase puts this down to the expertise of the band and actors and preparedness of the production team who had the sheet music ready from the get-go.

UJ University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture Hlakanyana rehersals

‘It was challenging to piece together everything with a seven-piece band and nine singers, but everyone has been so professional. This week has been such a blessing and we can’t even begin to articulate how great it’s been working and playing with such talented musicians and a cast of brilliant actors and singers.’
     Having developed the score and sheet music during the time online has also ensured that Hlakanyana has a life beyond this production.
     ‘A lot of our new African shows are not scored and that makes succession very difficult but because we started with the sheet music from the beginning, it has been easy for us to take this and fly with it anywhere we please,’ says Shangase.
     Although Shangase and Madevu Entertainment found funding a challenge, Shangase praised the support of 2020 ACT Development Grant in Music that has allowed the production to continue. ‘It is amazing that we have created something like this despite COVID-19 and all the restrictions that have been put on us, and despite artists been reduced to non-essentials. We are proving yet again that art is essential and the work that we are doing is essential,’ he concludes.

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