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Musical Explores SA’s Slave Roots

Don’t miss the chance to catch the songs of South Africa’s own Woodward and Bernstein, I mean Rogers and Hammerstein, I mean Gilbert and Sullivan (!) – David Kramer and Taliep Petersen, who have brought their smash-hit musical Ghoema to the University of Johannesburg Arts Centre, where it runs until July 23.

In fact, the musical duo are something like a Woodword and Bernstein after all: their show entailed quite a bit of investigative work into the rather murky origins of Afrikaans, and specifically Afrikaans traditional music. In essence, Ghoema is a musical time machine that takes the audience back to the days of slavery at the Cape, and listens in on who was singing what, and the different meanings the songs had to the different singers (masters or slaves).

The word “ghoema” (pronounced GOO-mah) means “drum”, and may have come from the Bantu “ngoma”, which also means drum, or from the Javanese “ghom”, which means “gong” – either way, it points to a creolized start for the young language of Afrikaans. Goema is also practically a style of music in its own right – call it a South African zydeco – having developed over the centuries from its distinctly humble origins, the human voice and the farm ghoema, which was usually an upturned wine barrel or brandy vat.

You don’t need to know Afrikaans to see Ghoema, just as you don’t need to know Italian to see La Boheme – just take along an Afrikaans-speaking friend for key translations, and enjoy the lively, festive show.

UJ Arts Centre & GhoemaLinks