By Moses Magadza
The University of Namibia choir has come up with a musical play through which it will showcase Namibia’s traditional culture at an international festival in Germany which starts on May 13.
The Unam choir will be the only African choir at the International Music Festival Competition in Bremen.
Bonnie Pereko, Unam choir’s seasoned conductor this week confirmed that he would lead 42 choristers to Germany following an invitation from Bremen University under an exchange programme.
The choir has produced a riveting musical play called Oshinyandura (Oshiwambo for “play” or “drama”).
It will showcase the most colourful dances of the Kavango, Oshiwambo, Herero, Nama Damara, Basters and Tswana.
History records show that the Herero are Namibia’s second-largest ethnic group after the Owambo. The Owambo are cattle keepers and are also noted for their dressmaking, pottery and weaving.
The Nama/Damara are said to be Namibia’s oldest ethnic group. The light-skinned Namas were mostly small-scale miners and reared small domestic animals.
The San are considered the earliest inhabitants of Namibia. They preserved their cultures through rock paintings and story telling and were essentially hunter-gatherers.
The Lozi are found in Caprivi, near Zambia. They sustained themselves through fishing, crop growing and hunting.
The Basters are products of Khoisan women and white European men who settled in Namibia. They speak Afrikaans and are found mainly in Rehoboth.
“Students on the choir will, during performance of the play, dance in their traditional attire and when we sing songs form their culture, they will step forward and lead us in a choreographed dance,” Pereko added.
He lamented the absence of Lozi and San dancers in the play.
“None of the students from these cultures showed any interest in joining the choir, which is sad as their inclusion would have made our play fully representative of Namibian culture,” he said.
Although Bremen University will feed and accommodate the choristers during the tour, the choir has to fund its own air travel to and from Germany. Bremen University students are also expected to visit Namibia later this year, he said
The choir comprises students representing all tribes of Namibia, save the Lozi and the San. Students from all over Africa studying at Unam are also part of the choir.
Pereko said the tour would provide for a sharing of cultures and experiences among participating students at the festival.
“We are very excited and as a Namibian choir we will seize this opportunity to showcase Namibia’s diverse culture,” Pereko said.
The Unam choir has, according to Pereko, grown from strength to strength. In 1999 it recorded its first 18-track album titled Aluboke Namibia, followed by Ti Igores (My Prayer) in 2000 and Ondjila (The Way) in 2006. According to Pereko, a fourth album is in the ‘oven’ and will be released this year. There are also plans to record a video to promote the musical play.
Pereko is a graduate of South Africa’s Wits University and has conducted the choir for 11 years. He has led the choir to various countries that include Scotland and France.
In 2005, it won the top prize in the ATKV competition, a Southern African regional choral tournament held in South Africa.
Pereko said while their play highlights the cultures of Namibian ethnic groups, there are plans to produce a similar play but that highlights the cultures of the southern African region.
He implored Windhoek residents to attend the fundraising event to share and support the choir.