Review: Zaf’ingane Ancestral Jazz- Liso The Musician, vNAF at the vNAF, National Arts Festival (extended to July 31, 2020)

Performers: Liso the Musician, vocalists and band

Platform: The Curated Programme at National Arts Festival

Direct booking link: https://test.nationalartsfestival.co.za/show/zafingane-ancestral-jazz/

In Zaf’ingane Ancestral Jazz, we see Liso The Musician sharing the stage with fellow artists – vocalists and a band. Liso tags her mode of music as “Ancestral Jazz”.  She speaks about her art in an interview with TheCapeRobyn. Link follows The words of the songs may be in isiXhosa but music transcends language and this comes across powerfully in this film. This music embraces and pulls one into the melody and beat.  Watch out for Liso’s rendition of the lullaby Thula Baba. Liso and her band filmed at Artscape, Cape Town on June 18, 2020 at Artscape – with social distancing in place. The musicians wear masks. Lighting and design is impeccable. A South African flag dangles on the stage, emerging and disappearing in the haze of what looks like smoke from a smoke or hazer machine.

Zaf’ingane [isiXhosa] may be translated as “The youth is dying’.  In the interview on TheCapeRobyn (link follows), Liso the Musician spoke about the play and song that she wrote, titled, Zaf’ingane. Dying, struggle, survival, yearning, hope are powerful images in this film made for the National Arts Festival. Music transcends the physical and uplifts our soul- to another place. The musical arrangements are excellent, with a wonderful rapport between those on stage – the unmasked vocalists and masked musicians. I could not take my eye off young backing vocalist,Mendy George. She is 10 years old! She is also known as “Mendy the Musician” and hails from KASI RC Shack Theatre- the theatrein Khayelitsha which Liso the Musician runs with her husband Mandisi Sindo. During lockdown, they repurposed their theatre into a soup kitchen and fed thousands a day. In-between, the music and theatre making continued. Mendy the Musician has been mentored by Liso the Musician. The Sindos are currently training youngsters age 8-14 to accompany Liso. For Mandisi and Liso Sindo, “art is beyond just telling a story”. They live their art, breathe it feed it. They activate this on very level at KASI RC – a shack theatre which became soup kitchen, refuge, creative hub – feeding people emotionally and physically. Liso is the artistic director of KASI RC Shack Theatre and Art School. Read about her journey on TheCapeRobyn. In the interview, she talks about Ancestral Jazz and what her music means to her. Here is the link: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/tribute-liso-the-musician-south-africa/

Interspersed with Liso and the band playing, the film is overlaid with footage from KASI RC and Khayelitsha during lockdown- scenes from their lives during the pandemic. There are aerial views of their township. There is stirring footage from a GBV (Gender Based Violence) protest that took place on June 16. All this was captured poignantly by cinematographer Motion Billy (aka Mpendulo Mabindisa). Stunning editing. It could not have been easy to work under lockdown restrictions. A huge bravo for the excellence of production –editing, sound, design. Remarkable.

At the end of the film, Liso says: “Thank you.” Thank you to the Sindos for their extraordinary work and the legacy that they have laid down at KASI RC. Not only have they fed their community but they have provided hope and joy through music and theatre. This film is stands as an archive of struggle, joy and transcendence through the arts. It brings together live performance at Artscape during lockdown – sans audience with scenes from KASI RC and images from Khayelitsha in the thrust of the pandemic – with refrains from the past ringing in the present. #SaveTheArts.

Do not miss this beautifully made, stirring film.

Image credit: Liso the Musician- clothes and pic by Ntsikelelo Ntleki. Photo supplied.