BLACK Umfolosi, the a cappella song and dance group from Zimbabwe, played to a capacity audience at Allington Village Hall on Thursday.
The five-man group quickly won the hearts and minds of those of us lucky enough to get in to see them (the gig was sold out).
Black Umfolosi has created a professional act out of something that’s second-nature to most traditional African communities: song and dance.
Most songs were performed in their native Sindebele, which is basically a Zulu dialect. It’s a beautiful, lyrical language much enhanced by three distinctly different click sounds; and the group manage to produce an amazing variety of rich harmonic singing ranging from high, almost falsetto voices, to a soft rumbling bass.
This is not a group that stands primly before its audience like frozen statues. Standing still for them is impossible, and every song is accompanied by movement, from slow symbolic hand and arm gestures to loud, lively and colourful dancing.
Black Umfolosi come from a part of Zimbabwe that has arguably suffered more from the ravages of Robert Mugabe’s regime than any other part of the country. However, none of this is apparent to their audience. The frequent humour, abundant charm and open, friendly faces of the group, together with the clever and gentle ways the two leading figures included everyone in the hall, had us all singing and waving our arms around by the end of the evening (even if no one seriously attempted to copy the dancers’ high kicks).
It was a wonderful, memorable evening; and I couldn’t possibly recommend it highly enough.