The 2023 Smith Concert Series featured the a cappella quartet, Nobuntu, on Saturday, November 4th. The concert began with the four members walking out on stage and standing at four evenly spaced microphones. They were all donned in different forms of traditional dress from four different regional tribes, creating a wonderful cultural atmosphere that embraced the diversity within Zimbabwe. The group sings a cappella, using only small wooden blocks, their hands and feet, and their voices as instruments. Each movement was purposeful, a key element to the whole performance.
Going into the show, I anticipated about an hour of satisfying harmonies and fun music. What I got was a fully engaging and culturally immersive experience. The singers spoke to the audience like we were friends, almost like we were a part of the performance. They interacted with us whenever they could, telling us the meaning behind certain words and certain songs and explaining the significance of dances and sounds. They created an atmosphere in which the audience felt comfortable enough to allow themselves to learn. They encouraged us to sing along to songs we knew, and they taught us how to click (or at least tried to). I found myself feeling self-conscious at first, but after a few minutes of the exercise, I began to relax. This was not a place of judgment.
Music can be incredibly powerful, bringing communities together and reaching beyond. Nobuntu beautifully embodied their culture and eagerly welcomed the Transy community with open arms. They spoke so fondly and so proudly of Zimbabwe. Despite the fact that women have faced intense inequality throughout Africa, these women approached the issue with grace and determination to achieve change. It was difficult to feel anything but inspired.
The experience was so much more than I expected it to be. I left with a feeling of warmth and contentment. The way Nobuntu seamlessly strung together culture, politics, feminism, love, and music was refreshing and galvanizing. I look forward to the art they will continue to share with the world.