Barcelona cultura

Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Música & Gregory Maqoma

Broken Chord

Palau de la Música Catalana 18/07 - 19/07

The story of the first Black South African Choir which, towards the end of the 19th century, performed in Great Britain and North America, and inspired a choreography that talks of African identity, migrations and closed borders.

Between 1891 and 1893, shortly after the end of the first Boer war, a South African choir made up of young black singers of both sexes embarked on a long tour of Great Britain, Canada and the United States with the aim of raising proceeds to create a technical school in Kimberley, in today’s Cape province. The tour started in the colonial metropolis and was a great success. They performed before Queen Victoria and for a large number of her subjects in Great Britain, who were keen to see and hear them, and did the same for the citizens of Canada and the United States a few months later. That journey, in fact, enabled them to establish ties with North America which would be key to the subsequent development of South Africa's intelligentsia. The choir’s performances never got to be recorded, although photos of its members taken during that long journey were found a few years ago. This is the material used by the South African musicians Thuthuka Sibisi and Philip Miller to create a photographic and sound installation (The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined) that was exhibited in London and at Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum, where Gregory Maqoma became fascinated with the story.

On discovering the story behind that tour, the choreographer imagined the show we now see, which mixes references to colonial policies with the personal stories of the choir's members. What must they have thought on leaving their home for an uncertain destination without even knowing when they would return? How would they imagine the world of white people that had been colonising the land of their birth? Traditional dances typical of the Xhosa people and contemporary dance combine with especially thought-provoking atmospheric soundscapes and give rise to a story that is danced to music which talks, among other things, of the role that the West has played in shaping and recounting South African history. Borders, migrations and identity are also notable features of a production that adopts the form of a type of opera which renounces the human voice and questions, from the stage, the dialectic that appears to divide the world between West and the rest of humanity. The cast of Broken Chord is usually accompanied by a local choir in each of the cities it performs in. The choir in Barcelona’s case will be the Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Música Catalana.

The production is directed by one of the best known and respected African choreographers, who began his training in dance in 1990 and created his own company, the Vuyani Dance Theatre, in 1999. He has received international awards of every kind, both in South Africa and the United States, and France (where he was appointed Chevalier d l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2017). Maqoma had already taken part in the 2014 edition of the Barcelona Grec Festival, where he presented Lonely Together with choreography from Tortosa Roberto Olivan, whom he came to know when both were studying at Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's School of Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (PARTS).

Gregory Maqoma and his group were able to perform here thanks to AFRICA 2020 and the Institut Français.

Heartfelt thanks to Cité internationale des arts and Théâtre de la Ville - Paris, as well as the IFAS in Johannesburg.

A Grec 2021 Festival de Barcelona, Manchester International Festival, Theatre de la Ville - Paris, Weimar Arts Festival (National Theater, St Pölten Festpielhaus, Torinodanza Festival / Teatro Stabile di Torino - Teatro Nazionale, Festival Aperto / Fondazione I Teatri – Reggio Emilia, Stanford University and Vuyani Dance Theatre co-production.

Artistic card

Conceived and performed by: Gregory Maqoma Music director: Thuthuka Sibisi Singers: Xolisile Bongwana. Zandile Hlatshwayo, Siphiwe Nkabinde, Tshegofatso Khunwane With: Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Música Catalana Costume design: Laduma Ngxokolo Technical: Oliver Hauser Sound: Ntuthuko Mbuyazi Tour Manager: Siyandiswa Dokoda Photography: Moeletsi Mabe

Multimedia gallery


Discipline Music

Dates and schedules Sunday 18/7 - 20:00 H Monday 19/7 - 20:00 H

Space Palau de la Música Catalana

Duration 60 min

Price 25 €

Other criteria Coproduction International


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