22 May 2013
Every Night another Celebration
A spontaneous act of joy and celebration at the town hall: the Panafrican male choir Umoya Munye on concert tour in Heidelberg.
By Magdalena Schüssler
As if someone had turned on the light. As soon as the ensemble Umoye Munye starts to sing, there is a little more light in Heidelberg’s town hall. City employees come out of their offices with a smile on their faces, a wedding company stands still, and some children start to dance. Even the sun appears behind the clouds. The Panafrican male choir Umoye Munye with singers from South Africa and Ghana is on concert tour in the Heidelberg area for the whole month of May. Last Tuesday, Mayor Joachim Gerner welcomed the ensemble.
“Wherever they perform, people are enthousiastic”, says Eva Buckman, transverse flute teacher and director of the African choirs at the Heidelberg music school. In co-operation with the conductors of the African choirs Thabang Mokoena and Francis Baffoe, Eva Buckman is bringing African cultures together and to Germany. And thanks to this 14 young men are on their concert tour through Southwest Germany since the beginning of May. “Nearly every night we are celebrating another party”, says Eva Buckman full of joy. Even the sampling demonstration at the town hall is like a spontaneous act of joy and celebration. The singers clap their hands, they dance, and challenge each other to give their best.
It all started seven years ago, remembers Eva Buckman. In those days the transverse flute teacher got to know Thabang Mokoena and his choir. A few years later Francis Baffoe and his men joined in the musical venture. Baffoe explains: “Normally choirs from different African countries don’t sing together, they rather take part in competitions to show who’s the best. We want to end this and start uniting African cultures. We want to help building a united Africa.” Baffoe admits that this is not always easy. “But we just try. And it’s fantastic to see how the guys react to their fellows and respect each other. It’s an incredible experience to learn each other’s songs and traditions.”
Umoya Munye does not only unite people across country boarders, but also across continents. It was music that brought the German and the South African cities of Heidelberg together in 2006, and in the same year a carta of friendship was signed. Mayor Gerner states: “Although 10 000 kilometers separate the two cities, this friendship has remained vital because of people like you.”
Through this friendship Germany gets its share of the richness of African culture. And it’s to the benefit of both countries, emphasizes Mokoena. “It’s a lifetime experience. We have not only come here to teach other people sing our songs, but also to learn ourselves.” Let it be a Whit brass music event or the German song “Der Mond ist aufgegangen” (Rising Moon) at a joint rehearsal for a German choir festival, in every concert the own horizon broadens a little more, explains the South African conductor.
And this is not all yet. Some days ago they visited the city’s pedestrian area singing and dancing. “People followed us and danced with us. And every time this gives new motivation and inspiration.”
The vision of Umoya Munye is to bring four different African nations on stage together. And to let other European countries and the whole world experience the beauty of African music.