14 May 2009

Two decades of song and dance

THERE is a phrase that has become synonymous with patriotism, pride and achievement, which have often been reserved for those who have excelled in various disciplines; it’s called “flying the country’s flag high”.
The phrase brings to mind images of sports personalities in the calibre of Kirsty Coventry and Eliot Mujaji; it conjures up images of football luminaries such as Benjani Mwaruwaru and Peter ‘Nsukuzonke’ Ndlovu.
In the past two decades, individuals have risen who have been honored for raising the country’s flag high and doing the nation pride, but a certain category of the exceptionally gifted sons and daughters of this soil have gone virtually unnoticed.
This category is best exemplified by the Siyaya Arts group that has been touring all over Europe and has recently accomplished the amazing feat of breaking into America’s theatre industry.
Africans have the dubious track record of failing to appreciate and honour its own talent until it is ‘discovered’ somewhere abroad and celebrated elsewhere; and Zimbabweans have also suffered from this unfortunate oversight.
Last year, the country’s Tourism Authority, ZTA went to great lengths and at exorbitant cost to ‘re-brand’ the image of our country by hiring the services of several high-profile international artistes such as Joe Thomas to perform.
At a farewell performance held by Siyaya at Stanley Square last week, one member of Siyaya made an astute observation saying, “We can not re-brand our country without using the arts. In fact, it makes no sense to bring someone else to re-brand our own country.”
Taking into account the vast talent in the local arts industry, it is clear that any initiative that seeks to reverse the negative international perception of Zimbabwe’s image that does not accommodate our arts industry is neither serious nor holistic.
At a time when some self-serving individuals were busy trashing their own country abroad in order to ingratiate themselves to the country’s detractors and worm their way into donor funds as well as asylum lists, Siyaya arts was playing the role of ambassadors.
They were reminding the world that Zimbabweans have a proud heritage re-affirming, through song and dance, that we are as good as anyone else and indeed better than others are.
Firmly rooted in Makokoba, Bulawayo’s oldest township, Siyaya Arts was started in 1989 as NASA (Nostalgic Actors & Singers Alliance).
It was re-christened Siyaya (On the Move) during its 10th anniversary for the reason that it was, “a literal description of our journeys all over the world, as well as of an identity, an ethos and a heartfelt belief” in themselves as well as in their country of origin – Zimbabwe.
Described as “colourful, climactic and bursting at the seams with energy” critics have credited Siyaya for being “the Zimbabwean song, dance and drum troupe (that) puts much of the competition to shame”.
Whilst many artistes used the opportunity of touring abroad as a one way ticket to self-imposed exile in foreign lands, Siyaya has been consistent, returning home to their families and sowing back into the community from which they made their humble beginnings.
Their integrity has been rewarded by them being one of the few groups granted visas by the UK and other countries abroad to work and tour Europe.
“Siyaya has become a household name and we have a good reputation because we always come back – this is our home. Mambazo (the director) has been very instrumental in ensuring that we comply with the migration laws of the countries we visit and we respect the laws and customs of various nationalities who consume our products,” said Desmond Ntini of Siyaya.
He paid tribute to Saimon Mambazo Phiri whose leadership has seen Siyaya grow by leaps and bounds into a formidable art company, which incorporates a junior’s policy as well as various arts genres.
Founded upon “powerful reinterpretation of traditional tales, music and dance, which is often brought to life by relating them to their modern derivatives” and executed meticulously through, “imaginative manipulation and use of social issues in their music”,
Siyaya has become a force to reckon with.
Renowned playwright, columnist and arts critic, Raisedon Baya recently wrote an article urging the media to work together with artistes to create a positive image of our country and its people arguing, “we can not censure what other people have to say about our country. Instead we must take it upon ourselves to correct the negative perceptions people have of us, our country and our leaders.”
Clearly, Siyaya is one group that does not require such prompting as they have been true to the ambassadorial obligation that every Zimbabwean who steps on foreign soil has – to correct the misperceptions and falsehoods peddled about us by those whose ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogant presumptuousness.
Today, arguably one of Zimbabwe’s fiercest defenders, most loyal citizens and least acknowledged ambassadors, Siyaya is leaving the country for the United Kingdom where they will be based for the next seven months on tour.
“When we get to the UK, some of us will leave immediately for Dubai to perform for two weeks and upon return, another group will travel to France to fulfil engagements there. Thereafter we will travel to America for the first time ever on tour,” said Javas, a member of Siyaya.
The group will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and they shall hold their annual Ibumba Festival upon their return in December, which is set to be the biggest ever.
It is easy to be patriotic when one’s country is enjoying peace, prosperity and global prominence.
But when a country has been vilified, ridiculed and treated as an object of scorn as ours has in recent years – being a Zimbabwean on foreign soil has been a test of commitment and endurance.
Siyaya passed the test.
With two decades of song and dance to show for it.

By Delta Ndou

This Article 1st Appeared in The Sunday News (05 April 2009)

stdClass Object ( [ID] => 69 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2009-05-14 06:51:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-05-14 13:51:48 [post_content] => THERE is a phrase that has become synonymous with patriotism, pride and achievement, which have often been reserved for those who have excelled in various disciplines; it’s called “flying the country’s flag high”. The phrase brings to mind images of sports personalities in the calibre of Kirsty Coventry and Eliot Mujaji; it conjures up images of football luminaries such as Benjani Mwaruwaru and Peter ‘Nsukuzonke’ Ndlovu. In the past two decades, individuals have risen who have been honored for raising the country’s flag high and doing the nation pride, but a certain category of the exceptionally gifted sons and daughters of this soil have gone virtually unnoticed. This category is best exemplified by the Siyaya Arts group that has been touring all over Europe and has recently accomplished the amazing feat of breaking into America’s theatre industry. Africans have the dubious track record of failing to appreciate and honour its own talent until it is ‘discovered’ somewhere abroad and celebrated elsewhere; and Zimbabweans have also suffered from this unfortunate oversight. Last year, the country’s Tourism Authority, ZTA went to great lengths and at exorbitant cost to ‘re-brand’ the image of our country by hiring the services of several high-profile international artistes such as Joe Thomas to perform. At a farewell performance held by Siyaya at Stanley Square last week, one member of Siyaya made an astute observation saying, “We can not re-brand our country without using the arts. In fact, it makes no sense to bring someone else to re-brand our own country.” Taking into account the vast talent in the local arts industry, it is clear that any initiative that seeks to reverse the negative international perception of Zimbabwe’s image that does not accommodate our arts industry is neither serious nor holistic. At a time when some self-serving individuals were busy trashing their own country abroad in order to ingratiate themselves to the country’s detractors and worm their way into donor funds as well as asylum lists, Siyaya arts was playing the role of ambassadors. They were reminding the world that Zimbabweans have a proud heritage re-affirming, through song and dance, that we are as good as anyone else and indeed better than others are. Firmly rooted in Makokoba, Bulawayo’s oldest township, Siyaya Arts was started in 1989 as NASA (Nostalgic Actors & Singers Alliance). It was re-christened Siyaya (On the Move) during its 10th anniversary for the reason that it was, “a literal description of our journeys all over the world, as well as of an identity, an ethos and a heartfelt belief” in themselves as well as in their country of origin – Zimbabwe. Described as “colourful, climactic and bursting at the seams with energy” critics have credited Siyaya for being “the Zimbabwean song, dance and drum troupe (that) puts much of the competition to shame”. Whilst many artistes used the opportunity of touring abroad as a one way ticket to self-imposed exile in foreign lands, Siyaya has been consistent, returning home to their families and sowing back into the community from which they made their humble beginnings. Their integrity has been rewarded by them being one of the few groups granted visas by the UK and other countries abroad to work and tour Europe. “Siyaya has become a household name and we have a good reputation because we always come back – this is our home. Mambazo (the director) has been very instrumental in ensuring that we comply with the migration laws of the countries we visit and we respect the laws and customs of various nationalities who consume our products,” said Desmond Ntini of Siyaya. He paid tribute to Saimon Mambazo Phiri whose leadership has seen Siyaya grow by leaps and bounds into a formidable art company, which incorporates a junior’s policy as well as various arts genres. Founded upon “powerful reinterpretation of traditional tales, music and dance, which is often brought to life by relating them to their modern derivatives” and executed meticulously through, “imaginative manipulation and use of social issues in their music”, Siyaya has become a force to reckon with. Renowned playwright, columnist and arts critic, Raisedon Baya recently wrote an article urging the media to work together with artistes to create a positive image of our country and its people arguing, “we can not censure what other people have to say about our country. Instead we must take it upon ourselves to correct the negative perceptions people have of us, our country and our leaders.” Clearly, Siyaya is one group that does not require such prompting as they have been true to the ambassadorial obligation that every Zimbabwean who steps on foreign soil has – to correct the misperceptions and falsehoods peddled about us by those whose ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogant presumptuousness. Today, arguably one of Zimbabwe’s fiercest defenders, most loyal citizens and least acknowledged ambassadors, Siyaya is leaving the country for the United Kingdom where they will be based for the next seven months on tour. “When we get to the UK, some of us will leave immediately for Dubai to perform for two weeks and upon return, another group will travel to France to fulfil engagements there. Thereafter we will travel to America for the first time ever on tour,” said Javas, a member of Siyaya. The group will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and they shall hold their annual Ibumba Festival upon their return in December, which is set to be the biggest ever. It is easy to be patriotic when one’s country is enjoying peace, prosperity and global prominence. But when a country has been vilified, ridiculed and treated as an object of scorn as ours has in recent years - being a Zimbabwean on foreign soil has been a test of commitment and endurance. Siyaya passed the test. With two decades of song and dance to show for it. 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stdClass Object ( [ID] => 67 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2009-05-03 20:06:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-05-04 03:06:28 [post_content] => Those that have been following Siyaya`s activities will definitely agree with us in saying that the year 2008 was a year for Siyaya. At the beginning of this year we sat down and agreed that 2008 should either make us or break us, a week before the end of the year and a week after the success of our Ibumba International Festival we gladly declared that the year “indeed made us”. Before we reflect back to the start of the year, i think the end part deserves special mention first. From the time we sang with the kids at Womad and experienced Jay Zee at Glastonbury we were forced to fore gore our debut performance in Las Palmas due to certain technicalities beyond our control, the gigs were covered by our counterparts Umdumo Wesizwe. We jetted into Zimbabwe surprisingly in November to prepare for our festival that we had to make a success as it was to be our measuring stick for our 20th anniversary celebrations. From the day we had our press launch, we knew the festival was to make it despite a lot of hardships. Running in three stages with a total of more than 75 acts both renowned and upcoming, Ibumba festival sailed through smoothly with Ndolwane Super Sounds, all the way from South Africa sealing the celebrations. More details about the festival are available at www.ibumbafestival.com The festival marked the end of our year which started off as a slow year with a lot of inter-city performances in Oxford, York, Cambridge, Birmingham and Bath has slowly picked up to be a busy and promising year. The first major highlight of the year was our debut performance in Caceres, Spain at the WOMAD Festival, an amazing three days which saw us perform our concert version of the show OnkeOse and also conduct workshop in dance and music for audiences of more than 5000, an experience indeed as we had to work our way around the non-English-speaking audience. June saw Siyaya in collaboration with Umdumo Wesizwe perform at the 3000-seater Swansea Grand Theatre in Wales and received a standing ovation for the performance of OnkeOse. Next stop was Leeds Carriageworks then the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Arts were we were lined up with the likes of Jay Zee, Amy Winehouse, James Blunt, Eddie Grunt and many other acts. At Womad Festival we sang with 140 kids at the main stage. From the archives we had to retrieve our 1996 show ‘Zwelethu’ for the Newcastle audiences which premiered at Dance City on the 4th of July. From then came the month long Edinburgh fringe festival, from venue 127 OnkeOse got a sizzling three star review. At Zimfest we played alongside the great Oliver Mtukudzi, then we invaded the Scottish highlands with OnkeOse before coming back to South Yorkshire for various activities during Black History Month. Due to a lot of pressure we were compelled to call off our annual schools Eita festival as well as our Spanish tour as we opted to head home to prepare for the festival. There could be no better way to sum up our year, we have seen it all, the highs and lows, broke new groups and set new trends, lifted the country’s flag high and sang with pride. like always we thank everyone for a great 2008 we salute Saimon Mambazo Phiri and SMP for the guidance and leadership, the executive at Siyaya Arts, the artists, The media, the venues and theatres, our supporters and friends, the list could be endless but we say Thanks to everyone that has touched us one way or the other. Siyaya always! Thulani Javas Sibanda Administrator & Press Liaison For images and /or more info send an email or Check Website [post_title] => Siyaya in 2008 - A Look at the year ended…… [post_category] => 0 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => siyaya-in-2008-a-look-at-the-year-ended%e2%80%a6%e2%80%a6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2009-05-03 20:10:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2009-05-04 03:10:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://siyaya-arts.com/?p=67 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [object_id] => 67 [term_taxonomy_id] => 3 [term_order] => 0 [term_id] => 3 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 4 )
stdClass Object ( [ID] => 66 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2008-10-17 12:09:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2008-10-17 19:09:27 [post_content] => .. and we still standing. From the last time we danced alongside Jay Zee at Glastonbury, one would think our being quiet has been due to inactivity or would assume that after such a hectic period we would go on to rest but hey it has been the usual – praise to him who rightfully rechristened us to Siyaya. We have been on our normal routine of entertaining the masses and while other raised their nations flags in the Beijing Olympics, we carried our Zimbabwean flag in front of Three thousand people in The Royal Eisteddfod in Wales, the audiences at the annual eisteddfod had not come in the evening to watch a variety of performers, but they turned up to watch Siyaya in OnkeOse and we sang and danced with pride in front of them – “listen to the voice of mwana wevhu” check out the Video The period that followed saw us doing unlimited number of trips from our base in Sheffield to as far Malmesbury to work with young school children. Picture this – A hundred and twenty kids singing our songs from our Cd, in our mother language as well as theirs. We spent weeks teaching these kids our songs and watching them singing songs such as “Iqhiha”, “KokobaTown” and “Ngizobuya” you could be forgiven to think that we spent years and years coaching these Kids. All our effort was rewarded with what a numerous number of artists dream off – Opening the Womad MAIN STAGE where we first performed for an hour then marshalled our hundred and twenty angels onto the stage to move the crowd to tears. See Music Review. A two day rest is all the artists got as they soon packed up for the 7 hour journey into the Scottish city of Edinburgh for the Edinburgh fringe- funny we found a lot of Faithfull’s who had been praying for our return after we subjected them to some non stop hour of dance in Thatha in 2005 and 2006. After failing to play at the Fringe in 2006 OnkeOse finally opened at venue 127 (St Johns) on Wednesday the 6th and was given a three star review by the Scotsman. We braved the bad and unpredictable British weather through out the month of August juggling our energy between the ever busy and competitive streets in the afternoon then the venue in the evening. We are starting to enjoy the glory of headlining events and we are strongly considering amending our “booking requirements” to make headlining a mandatory exercise. Alongside Oliver Mtukudzi we got them dancing and singing along during the colourful Zimfest in London on the 30th, a good way to seal of the hectic month. Now we smile that the month is over, but all the smiles we do on the motorway as we are now in the Scottish Highlands where we will revive our old memories in the city of Aberdeen. It is this City that the first troops of Siyaya discovered in 1995 (the first ever international tour for Siyaya by then known as NASA) and from that day they have never looked back. On the road we will continue staying and so will be the updates. So long dear friends. Aluta continua Siyaya Nomakanjani Thulani Javas Sibanda Administrator & Press Liaison For images and /or more info send an email or Check Website [post_title] => We Sang with 140 Kids at Womad & Endured the Demands of Edinburgh Fringe and Yes 3000 People Paid to Watch Our Show at Llangollen Eistedford…... [post_category] => 0 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => we-sang-with-140-kids-at-womad-endured-the-demands-of-edinburgh-fringe-and-yes-3000-people-paid-to-watch-our-show-at-llangollen-eistedford%e2%80%a6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2008-10-17 14:12:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2008-10-17 21:12:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://siyaya-arts.com/?p=66 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [object_id] => 66 [term_taxonomy_id] => 3 [term_order] => 0 [term_id] => 3 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 4 )
stdClass Object ( [ID] => 11 [post_author] => 2 [post_date] => 2008-06-19 16:46:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2008-06-19 23:46:44 [post_content] => 2008 is definitely our year of greater tests. So far we have grown from strength to more strength to conquer difficulties and achieve targets as well as partially fulfill our dreams. Our growth as a company has brought a new dimension to our work and at the same time brought new challenges and hurdles which have built us into a unit. The effect of Zimbabwe’s political and economic instability has had a bearing in our operations. From various visa delays (no one seems to believe there are genuine artists travelling out of Zimbabwe with the prevailing situations) which resulted in us missing out on some of our contracted engagements, to being lined up alongside renowned artists like Jay Z and Amy Winehouse at one of the world's premiere festivals - Glastonbury - really shows artistic life in contradicting extremes. What started off as a slow year with a lot of inter-city performances in Oxford, York, Cambridge, Birmingham and Bath has slowly picked up to be a busy and promising year. The highlight of the tour so far, which kick-started our summer season,, was our debut performance in Caceres, Spain at the WOMAD Festival, an amazing three days which saw us perform our concert version of the show OnkeOse and also conduct workshop in dance and music for audiences of more than 5000, an experience indeed as we had to work our way around the non-English-speaking audience. A few days upon returning back to Sheffield, which is our international touring base, we had to fly to and from Zimbabwe to fulfill immigration criteria “and get stamps on our passports”, a move that saw us spend days in Harare, the capital (Not our home town) waiting for the issuing of visas and subsequently missed our engagement at Leominster Festival where we were billed to perform for the festival as well as conduct workshop sessions. We would like to take this time to apologise to the organisers, our audiences and fans there we inconvenienced by our non-appearance. Sorry! While in Zimbabwe the Young Siyaya project was re-launched and the young lads staged a memorable show for the touring artists and invited guests as well as members of the press. Young Siyaya performed Thatha and wowed the audiences with the way they managed to reproduce the old show. Young Siyaya is now fully functional in Zimbabwe with a wide range of performances and are available for bookings in weddings, festivals, and private and corporate functions. As is the culture at Siyaya, one of the Young Siyaya artist was promoted into the touring cast and we are pleased to introduce to our international audiences our newest recruit Sibonokuhle `Mercy`Sithole from our juniors policy. Tuesday the 17th of June saw Siyaya in collaboration with Umdumo Wesizwe perform at the 1000-seater Swansea Grand Theatre in Wales and received a standing ovation for the performance of OnkeOse. Next stop is the Leeds Carriageworks then the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Arts. Also billed to perform there are American R n B artist Jay Zee and reggae super star Jimmy Cliff. Siyaya is also billed to conduct numerous workshops for WOMAD festival as well perform on the main stage with a 120-strong children’s choir during the official opening of the festival. Next junction is the 3000-seater Llangollen International Eisteddfod scheduled for the 10th of July. Word is we are sold out!! Indeed there is little doubt that this is a challenging year for Siyaya as we are also in rehearsal reproducing our 1996 show ‘Zwelethu' for the Newcastle audiences. The show premiers at Dance City on the 4th of July. We continue with our quest to bring live arts to the people and with everyday we perform our engagements continue to grow and so will our updates on this page. Keep watching this space for further updates and check our tour schedule for the venue nearest to you Siyaya Nomakanjani Thulani Sibanda Administrator Saimon Mambazo Phiri Producer/Director [post_title] => FROM the shores of SWANSEA via LEEDS CARRIAGEWORKS enroute TO GLASTONBURY WITH JAY ZEE [post_category] => 0 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => from-the-shores-of-swansea-via-leeds-carriageworks-enroute-to-glastonbury-with-jay-zee [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2008-06-25 17:41:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2008-06-26 00:41:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://siyaya-arts.com/?p=11 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [object_id] => 11 [term_taxonomy_id] => 3 [term_order] => 0 [term_id] => 3 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 4 )

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