(August 7, 2014, NEW YORK)—This fall, Carnegie Hall launches UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa, a month-long festival from October 8 to November 5, 2014, featuring an exciting array of events to be presented at Carnegie Hall and partner venues throughout New York City, inviting audiences to explore the incredibly dynamic and diverse culture of South Africa. Single tickets for all festival events at Carnegie Hall will go on sale to the general public on Monday, August 25 at 8:00 a.m.
With its UBUNTU festival, Carnegie Hall salutes South Africa, a country with its dizzying patchwork of cultures, eleven official languages, and a cultural life like none other. Roughly translated as “I am because you are,” ubuntu is a philosophy from Southern Africa that emphasizes the importance of community, a way of thinking that has influenced recent moves toward reconciliation and cultural inclusion in South Africa as fostered by South Africa’s former president, the late Nelson Mandela. The spirit of this philosophy is embodied in the festival’s programming, which features a varied lineup of artists representing the many threads that together make up the country’s musical culture.
“In creating the UBUNTU festival, we were inspired by the cultural life of this incredibly diverse country,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director. “It is a nation with a dynamic, often surprising culture like no other—the birthplace of larger-than-life musical presences like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, and now, a seemingly endless array of vocal talent from every corner of the country. Our festival also comes twenty years after the first free elections in South Africa, an anniversary made even more resonant by the recent passing of Nelson Mandela. The country’s landscape continues to evolve, and this makes for fascinating explorations through the arts.”
Dedicated to Mr. Mandela’s legacy, the UBUNTU festival features Carnegie Hall performances by artists representing different musical traditions, including performances paying tribute to notable South African icons and milestones. In addition to showcasing world-renowned South African musicians who are beloved the world over, festival programming will also provide a window for audiences into many kinds of South African music which may be less well-known: the powerful spirituality and dynamism of the maskandi music of the Zulu people, music from Cape region including a Cape Malay choir and folk musicians from remote regions of the Karoo desert, and two thrilling generations of South African jazz artists. In addition, two critically-acclaimed South African classical vocalists will make their New York recital debuts as part of the festival. Looking beyond performances at Carnegie Hall, the UBUNTU festival will extend citywide through performances and events at prestigious partner organizations, with programming showcasing visual art, film, and dance, as well as panel discussions featuring leading social and political voices on the significant cultural issues.
Carnegie Hall programming will include performances by legendary South African artists, beginning with a concert by two musical icons—trumpeter, vocalist, and composer Hugh Masekela and vocalist Vusi Mahlasela—joined by special guest artists for Twenty Years of Freedom, a program celebrating the anniversary of 20 years of democracy in South Africa (October 10). Additional festival highlights include renowned vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Voices of South Africa, exploring the central role the voice plays in South African music (October 18); Grammy Award-winning vocalist Angélique Kidjo celebrating the South African cultural icon Miriam Makeba in Mama Africa (November 5); acclaimed visual artist William Kentridge hosting an evening of his short films with live musical accompaniment by composer Philip Miller (October 27); and revered pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, a great champion of Cape jazz, in a solo concert coinciding with his 80th birthday (October 17). Mr. Ibrahim will also lead a master class for young jazz musicians (October 18) and perform in a Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert in Harlem (October 20), both presented by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
Violinist Daniel Hope curates and performs in a music theater evening entitled A Distant Drum, joining forces with his father, preeminent South African writer Christopher Hope, for the Carnegie Hall commissioned work which follows the life of Nat Nakasa, a brilliant, impassioned spirit of his generation who left behind South Africa’s apartheid of the 1960s for New York. Noted authority on South African music Andrew Tracey is musical supervisor (October 28).
A double bill performance showcasing two aspects of contemporary Zulu maskandi music (often dubbed the “Zulu blues”) features two masters from the KwaZulu-Natal province: Madala Kunene leading a quintet that draws on the spiritual aspects of the style, and Phuzekhemisi performing exuberant, high-energy music with singers and dancers in traditional attire (October 11).
A second double bill program in Zankel Hall features a performance by guitarist, singer-songwriter, and tireless champion of Cape music traditions David Kramer, joined by folk musicians from the remote regions of the Karoo desert; also performing are the Young Stars: Traditional Cape Malay Singers—a 15-voice male choir led by Moeniel Jacobs, performing a high-energy and often comic style of vocal music from Cape Town that combines Dutch folk songs with Afrikaans poetry and beautifully ornamented vocal traditions from as far afield as Malaysia, Arabia, and East Africa (October 25).
Kesivan Naidoo, a drummer, composer, and one of the leaders of the next wave of Cape jazz performers performs original compositions, standards and avant garde selections for his New York debut concert with his band Kesivan and the Lights (October 30). Dizu Plaatjies and his group Ibuyambo plays the music of the Xhosa people as well as other southern African traditions (November 1).
In addition, two young, critically-acclaimed South African sopranos will make their New York recital debuts in Weill Recital Hall as part of the festival—Pretty Yende (October 13) and Elza van den Heever (October 24).
Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute will present UBUNTU festival events at Carnegie Hall and in community venues throughout New York City, inviting families, young musicians, and the community at large to experience a wide range of music from South Africa. In addition to the master class led by Abdullah Ibrahim, events include a lively Carnegie Hall Family Concert featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo (October 19), a free Carnegie Kids performance by Sbongiseni Duma (October 12), and three free Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concerts in community venues, including performances by Phuzekhemisi (October 12), Abdullah Ibrahim and Friends (October 20), and Kesivan and the Lights (November 1).
Throughout the UBUNTU festival, an exhibition in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall lobby, entitled Johannesburg in Print, celebrates the expression of South Africa’s visual arts community through the medium of printmaking. The displayed works were created in the city of Johannesburg and highlight the vibrant David Krut Print Workshop, which has fostered a creative community of emerging and established artists in South Africa for more than a decade.
Festival programming at leading cultural institutions throughout New York City will include music, dance, film, visual arts, panel discussions, and more.
The Apollo Theater, in partnership with the World Music Institute, presents the third installment of its annual Africa Now! Festival, spotlighting today’s South African music scene and Harlem’s enduring cultural and social relationship with South Africa, The four day festival will include performances by Toya Delazy, The Muffinz, The Soil, Simphiwe Dana, and Tumi Molekane, as well as a number of panel discussions and family events (October 9–12).
The Juilliard School presents a concert of music by contemporary South African composers by the New Juilliard Ensemble directed by Joel Sachs, including world premieres by Robert Fokkens, Andile Khumalo, and Bongani Ndodana-Breen and U.S. premieres by Michael Blake, Clare Loveday, Paul Hammer, and Kevin Volans (November 3).
Jazz at Lincoln Center presents the Kuumba Collective, led by saxophonist TK Blue and vocalist Nicky Schrire at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (October 15-16), as well as a Listening Party at Irene Diamond Education Center, with Schrire sharing some of her favorite and most influential recordings (October 13).
The Ubuntu Education Fund presents a panel discussion titled Sounds of Freedom on the role of music as a tool for social activism with participants including Hugh Masekela and Dr. Frank Lipman (October 8).
The New Victory Theater presents Isango Ensemble, a theatrical group whose performers are drawn from townships around Cape Town, performing The Magic Flute: Impempe yomlingo, which features Mozart’s score arranged by Mandisi Dyantyis for an orchestra of marimbas. Originally co-produced by Eric Abraham and The Young Vic in London, this New York premiere runs at The New Victory Theater from November 1 to 9.
As part of the annual Fall for Dance Festival presented by New York City Center, Johannesburg-based Vuyani Dance Theatre performs Umnikelo (“offering”), a rapturous group work with choreography and direction by Luyanda Sidiya that blends African Dance and Western contemporary movement (October 14, 15).
African Film Festival Inc. in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture presents a pair of recent South African films: Felix (2013, dir. Roberta Durrant), a family-friendly film described as “Billy Elliot with Cape jazz,” and Miners Shot Down (2014, dir. Rehad Desai), a documentary about the brutal police suppression of a strike by South African mineworkers, the country’s first post-colonial massacre in which 34 people were killed (October 11).
Other film highlights of the festival include a screening of 28 Up South Africa (dir. Angus Gibson) by the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, which is the latest South African version of the acclaimed British Up documentary series that tracks a group of people every seven years (October 25). And The Paley Center for Media presents two days of screenings of programs from their collection, including concert performances by Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa from 1971 and Miriam Makeba from 1965, as well as Paul Simon’s Graceland: The African Concert from 1987 and an interview with writer Nadine Gordimer from 1985 (November 1, 2).
Keyes Art Projects highlights contemporary trends in visual arts in South Africa, coordinating a series of exhibitions, receptions, and lectures at leading galleries in New York City. Participating galleries include Anna Zorina Gallery, David Krut Projects, Marian Goodman Gallery, and Mark Borghi Fine Art. Featured artists include Sholto Ainslie, Shaun Ellison, Stephen Hobbs, William Kentridge, Senzo Shabangu, and Diane Victor.
In addition to the family programming by Carnegie Hall, festival partner The New York Public Library will present workshops on South African drumming for teens and puppet-making for kids at a number of branches throughout the UBUNTU festival.
In addition, throughout the 2014–2015 academic year, Queens College, City University of New York, turns its attention to South Africa. The Year of South Africa, a university-wide initiative, launches in October in conjunction with the UBUNTU festival and includes talks, film screenings, dance, musical performances, and more.
UBUNTU partners include: African Film Festival Inc.; Anna Zorina Gallery; Apollo Theater; David Krut Projects; Flushing Town Hall; Jazz at Lincoln Center; The Juilliard School; Keyes Art Projects; Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History; Marian Goodman Gallery; Mark Borghi Fine Art; The New Victory Theater; New York City Center; The New York Public Library; The Paley Center for Media; Queens College, City University of New York; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Ubuntu Education Fund; Weeksville Heritage Center; and the World Music Institute.
Carnegie Hall has launched a special UBUNTU festival web site, carnegiehall.org/SouthAfrica, which will feature information on festival events, interviews with artists, videos introducing the music being performed, and other content designed to illuminate festival offerings.
For a video overview of the festival, please click here.
Click Here for a Complete List of Events and Festival Press Kit