Truth and beauty of our diverse humanity
Naledi – An African Journey is a breathtaking tale of courage, adventure, and magic, inspired by traditional South African storytelling. The work incorporates thrilling multimedia, a dazzling flourish of costumes and light with Franco Prinsloo's awe-inspiring choral music.
We follow the journey of Naledi, the morning star, in her quest to find the great baobab tree that is guarding an ancient secret of light and truth.
Through collaboration, composer Franco Prinsloo generated an accessible multilingual musical work that examines collective themes such as truth and forgiveness.
NALEDI AN AFRICAN JOURNEY FRANCO PRINSLOO
NALEDI - An African Journey is a choral work composed and written by Franco Prinsloo. In this tale of courage, adventure and magic we follow Naledi, the morning star, in her quest to find the Great Baobab tree that is guarding an ancient secret of light and truth. Naledi is an unique South African musical that applies the universality of South African folklore in a contemporary manner. Composer and Writer, Franco Prinsloo, drew from South African mythology (including Khoisan, Ndebele, Tswana, Venda, Swati, Xhosa, Tsonga, Sotho and Zulu stories) and collaborated with writers: Bonisile Nxumalo, Ingrid Hltaswayo and Hulisani Ndou, to generate an accessible multilingual musical work that examines collective themes such as truth and renewal.
Stylistically embedded in African story-telling tradition, it depicts the journey of Naledi (the morning and evening star) who falls to earth to reveal the divine spark of truth buried under the baobab tree.
In 2014 composer, Franco Prinsloo, was commissioned by the SAY MAD Foundation with the exceptional task of writing a choral-music based work that would be representative of a culture unique to South Africa. With a population of 56 million people, around twenty cultural groups and eleven official languages, he knew that rising to the challenge would be a difficult task. Knowing that his subjective interpretation of South African culture would not be enough to transcend his own cultural inhibitions, Naledi became a project of collaboration and exchange. Finding an universal storyline that would resonate with such a diverse audience while evoking a sense of pride and unity, was a rewarding challenge which sent Prinsloo on his own journey of discovery. In a time where the South African political climate is being fraught by entities that aim to polarise and divide our nation, the time for such an endeavour was right.
His research on uniquely South African mythologies, with a specific focus on the [Khoisan, Ndebele, Tswana, Venda, Swati, Xhosa, Tsonga, Sotho and Zulu stories], helped him shape and create the characters that would become the protagonists, and antagonist in the case of the shape-shifting Imbulu, for Naledi’s narrative.
South Africa celebrates eleven official languages which generates a rich and diverse cultural and linguistic landscape. Instead of grounding the tale of Naledi in a single cultural context, universality is considered in a manner that honors multilingualism. An example of this is the song "Naming of the stars" which uses the word "star" in nine of the official languages. Core narrative text in English is complimented by code-switching, or the seamless switching between various languages, which is a habitual mode of expression in South Africa’s multilingual context. This was masterfully contributed by dramatist: Ingrid Hlatshwayo. Codes in all official languages are applied to denote solidarity and emotive expression in a manner that renders true to these unique and complex linguistic patterns, yet sustains accessibility.
Through constant research, engagement and persistence, he came into contact with remarkable people that would help bring the concept of Naledi’s African journey to realization. Bonisile nXumalo, a Swati poet specializing in African story-telling tradition and fluent in Swati, English and all the Nguni languages, wrote poetry and collaborated with Prinsloo in the early stages of development of the work. Carla du Preez, a notable South African script writer, collaborated with Prinsloo in the creation of a suitable stage script which was later again revised during rehearsals by Prinsloo and director of the initial production: Elizma Badenhorst. With the concert version being performed in March 2019, Dr. Karina Lemmer went even further with Prinsloo's original story to contribute their unique interpretation.
This constant collaborative work-shopping of the text, even at times by members of the cast and choir, proved to even further streamline and integrate the story and script. Translating and composing lyrics in a vast number of South African languages proved an exciting venture. Again collaboration with other experts in the field of Drama and multi-linguistics was needed to create authentic, natural verse and translations for the story.
Hulusani Ndou translated Prinsloo and nXumalo’s poetry to Venda in the pieces: “Vhona” and “Rine ri Zwelombe”. More poetry by Prinsloo and nXumalo was translated and coded by Ingrid Hlatshwayo, who speaks a remarkable seven languages.
A unique fusion of South African musical styles influenced the work. Kwêla in "Lefatse Le Monate", isiCathamiya in "Vukani", the Jive in "nKanyezi", African praise poetry in "Thsilo's Prelude" and "Gogo’s Poem", traditional Ndebele lullabies in "Susuzela", traditional Swati harvest songs in "Tigcwele", protest inspired chants like "Qapela Imbulu", the call-and-response of African choral tradition in "O Amohetswe", the Afrikaans ballad or "luisterliedjie"-style inspired "Luister Na Die Nag", contemporary choral and musical theatre styles in "Pula, Pula!" and "Letsobana Laka". The songs are infused in a fresh hybrid manner, but yet maintains its integral essence.
The composer hopes that the audience can identify with the songs and that this work inspires and facilitates South African youth, as well as singers from around the world to connect with our fascinating and inspirational South African heritage and creativity. The resolution of the storyline carries a very strong and universal message: We are blinded by foolishness and greed, and need to search for the light or internal spark in order to see the truth and beauty of our diverse humanity.