“There is no political message as we are not a political group,” says Thomeki Dube, a singer with Black Umfolosi.
Then he adds, “That way we stay out of trouble and stress.”
From Zimbabwe, an African country that is ravaged by 80 per cent unemployment and an inflation rate of 1,700 per cent, a Yukon Arts Centre audience will hear only traditional African music filled with intricate rhythms, unusual harmonies, clicking, clapping and shouts.
“Songs of hope and peace,” Dube adds.
And this is not Disney’s idea of African music; this is the real deal. There will singing styles of Imbube, Mbaqanga and Township songs.
The five members of Black Umfolosi will perform the “Gumboot Dance” from South Africa. It was started by miners in that country 100 years ago.
Donning coveralls, they will use their hardhats and rubber boots as “percussion instruments”.
Among their various outfits, there will also be old traditional skins for a traditional young warriors dance called “Umtshongoyo”.
Dube says he is aware Canadians are following the troubles of his country located dangerously close to the equator.
Ten years ago, Zimbabwe fed neighbouring countries. Now, under President Robert Mugabe, it suffers a death rate that, if applied to the population of the Yukon, would see 10 Yukoners die each week from starvation or AIDs-related illness.
The average life expectancy of a male in Zimbabwe is the average age of these performers in Black Umfolosi.
“We feel lucky and privileged to have been able to reach the ages we are in,” says Dube via e-mail. “We are self-employed which was the choice we made in 1982.”
Starting out as a group of students in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe who were just entertaining themselves, the original six grew to 18 members.
They now tour internationally to entertain and to teach.
The group runs various outreach programmes: “Workshops are so important because this is a direct cultural exchange where we explain who we are, where we come from and why we sing and dance,” says Dube.
Tickets for the performance Saturday, Feb. 9, are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.