Mkhumbane - the Musical

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Mkhumbane is a three-act musical with lyrics written by Alan Paton and the music by Todd Tozama Matshikiza.

In 1959 Matshikiza wrote the successful musical King Kong, based on the life of a heavyweight boxer Ezekiel Dlamini. Paton had previously published his successful novel, Cry the Beloved Country in 1948.

The musical opened in Durban on 29 March 1960 at the Durban City Hall, a little more than a week after the Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March and a day before the government declared a state of emergency on 30 March.

Mkhumbane is the traditional name for Cato Manor, just 7 km outside Durban, and is named after the Mkhumbane River which ran through the area.

The musical tells the story of a day in the life of the inhabitants of Mkhumbane. The cast was made up almost entirely on Cato Manor residents.

The story focuses on a father who was robbed by tsotsis of his savings which was meant to pay for his son, John’s, education. He sends his son to the city to look for work. Meanwhile, the son's girlfriend back home persuades the shebeen queen to organise a charity concert to raise money to pay for John's education.

As the concert reaches full swing everyone is terrified as John, returning from the city, is being carried in by his father after being attacked by tsotsis. The perpetrator of the violence is identified and brought to justice. The musical ends with a feeling of hope as the residents of Mkhumbane return to their homes.


References:
• flatinternational.org, 'Mkhumbane' from flatinternational.org [online] Available at www.flatinternational.org [Accessed: 19 September 2013]    

Last updated : 28-Jan-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 19-Sep-2013