Versatility is the bedrock of great theatre. A great example is the Arden Theatre's upcoming Black Umfolosi a cappella sextet from Zimbabwe followed by three of our East Coast’s top tier acts.
Black Umfolosi may have started in 1982 as an all-male a cappella singing and dancing group from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Currently they have expanded ranks to include two female singer-dancers.
But the message the ensemble brings to the Arden Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 12 remains the same: peace, love and harmony between cultures.
The group takes its name from the Umfolozi Omnyama River in southern Africa where their ancestors settled. Like the river’s fast-flowing strength, Black Umfolosi’s energy-driven performances mix intricate harmonies, exuberant dancing and foot-stomping leaps balanced with a gentle spirit.
“One of the things I like about them is they work so hard to preserve traditional music and dance of South Africa. And it’s very engaging for the audience. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the culture. And the fact they do it as a cappella is very special,” said Caitlin North, Arden Theatre professional programming presenter.
The cast showcases co-founders Thomeki Dube and Sotsha Moyo as well as bass vocalist Austin Chisare, vocalist Sandi Dube, dancer Luzibo Tabona Moyo and dancer Mthokozisi Moyo.
The dancers are known to burst into boisterous routines of astounding rhythmical coordination, mock fights and boot-slapping unison.
“For me, I tend to appreciate their different range from gumboot dancing, Zulu rhythms and different melodies coming from this region. It speaks to the variety and breadth of the cultures that exist in that part of the world,” North said.
Black Umfolosi is featured at the Arden Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $37. Call 780-459-1542 or online at tickets.stalbert.ca.
Anchors Up Tour
The Anchors Up Tour brings together three of Atlantic Canada’s most acclaimed folk-roots acts to the Arden Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The East Coast trio features Old Man Luedecke, The Fortunate Ones and The Once.
“When you hear them, they are all individual, but they can also complement each other as a group. All have received lots of attention and all three have won Junos. They are certainly well-respected,” said North.
Nova Scotia’s Old Man Luedecke, known for his distinctive clawhammer banjo playing style, kicks off the concert as a solo act.
“He’s like an older troubadour of folk songs. He has an honest sense of music. He’s one artist who really engages the audience in the tongue-in-cheek way he writes. Most audiences find it easy to pick up his music,” North said.
His 2021 album Easy Money tackles a range of topics from mid-life crises and politics to a mermaid sea shanty and a couple of island themed numbers that imagine a laid-back life.
Newfoundland trio, The Once, defines itself as classically rooted in storytelling and poetry.
“They’re very traditional East Coast musicians. They are very harmony rich acoustic musicians that focus heavily on storytelling. They are traditional, but they’re not strictly Celtic. They pull inspiration from the land and people of today.”
The Fortunate Ones, also from Newfoundland, are a husband-and-wife team who last performed at the Arden in 2017.
“They’re wildly popular with audiences. They’re married and they have an infectious chemistry on stage that translates to the audience. They have a good sense of melody, and the songs stay in your head. When you first hear their music, you wouldn’t immediately think it’s East Coast. But once you listen, you can hear the inspiration.”
North cautions against stereotyping East Coast music as strictly fiddle and kitchen parties in the same way Alberta is viewed solely as a country music hub.
“All these groups at home are inspired by their traditions, but they are so much more than that.”
The Arden Theatre hosts the Anchors Up Tour on Thursday, Nov.17 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $41. Call 780-459-1542 or online at tickets.stalbert.ca.