Hot on the heels of “Happy Beat” the Namibian musical genre seems to be gaining momentum in a promising and poignant presentation of “Say Sjibbolet,” a theatre production inspired by the poetry of award-winning South African poet, Adam Small.
Set somewhere in a Namibian township with a church and a mosque in either direction acclaimed local writer and director, Aldo Behrens, grapples with issues of religion and acceptance in an alternatively haunting and high-spirited musical offering featuring Randall Wicomb and our own Maranatha Choir led by Evy George.
“Sjibbolet” which is a reference to the Bible’s Judges 12 v. 6 is a word that refers to the conflict between the Ephraimite and Gileadite tribes; the latter of which avoided infiltration by the former by asking them to say “Shibboleth.”
It transpires that the pronunciation of this word was so particular that only a true Gileadite could say it properly and those who could not were revealed as the enemy. Today, a shibboleth is any pronunciation, mode of dress or particularity in behaviour that distinguishes a specific class or set of persons from another. And it is on this connotation that Behren’s hangs his tale of faith and tolerance.
Despite the seemingly deep and controversial sub-text, audiences can look forward to catchy and relevant melodies in a presentation which is delightfully local.
Songs such as ‘Ludwigsdorf’ which bemoans the plight of workers who rise before everything is open and go home after everything is closed are an emotive presentation of lives lived in twilight and speak to the gripes of our working class.
Wicomb, renowned South African singer and song-writer of last year’s “Voete van a Gemsbok’s” fame, will once again take the lead role while donning the cap of composer.
“The way he composes his music, it’s never just a simple ditty. There is such depth, study, research and musical development . . . and a harmony that speaks of understanding,” says Behrens of Wicomb. “See Sjibbolet to see what transpires between him and the choir.”
The Maranatha Choir are just as enthusiastic about the play and as a multi-denominational choral group are particularly heartfelt about the play’s central theme as it opens doors to some issues of religion. Choreographer, Haymich Olivier, though decidedly mum at the launch held in Windhoek last week, was full of smiles and one can only imagine what “Happy Beat’s” show-stealing meerkat is so excited about. “Deep in my heart I know from the ancestral spirit and what the sangoma speaks of . . . I know we will surpass the local success of “Voete van n Gemsbok,” says Behrens laughingly.
Laugh we may and cheer we may not but one thing is for sure, that with Happy Beating whetting local appetite for local stories sung with local flavour in local dialects one sincerely hopes that we will be able to “Say Sjibbolet” with pride come the 1st of September.
The show premiers on 1 September at the NTN and 8 September in Bank Windhoek NPS Kulturaula