At a time when issues of social justice and the role of artists in calling attention to relevant social issues are more prescient than ever, the production of The Repertory Theater of St. Louis Dreaming Zenzile is both edifying and relevant.
Based on the life of South African singer and activist Zenzile Miriam Makeba, (whose name translates to “you made it to yourself”) tits world premiere production was in technical rehearsal when the pandemic lockdown began, forcing production to continue this season.
Better late than never, Dreaming Zenzile is a stunning presentation filled with music and messages. This is a Labor of love from Grammy-nominated international music sensation Somi Kakoma who plays the role of Makeba in a tour de force that spans the singer’s life and career.
Set during Zenzile’s last concert in 2008, a tired Makeba is doing everything to raise the consciousness and the conscience of her people. Before taking the stage, Makeba feels the presence of her ancestors transporting her through memories of her past on an emotional and spiritual journey of reconciliation filled with domestic violence, incarceration and tragic loss.
As seen here, Zenzile (also known as “Mama Africa”) was a spirited performer who captivated audiences with her powerful voice. Her prestigious career and fearless activism led to her appointment as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, further solidifying her reputation as an uncompromising performer in her art and dedication to social justice.
On stage, Kakoma’s transformation into Zenzile is amazing. Imitating her manners, her inflections and her voice to perfection, she lives the role of her idol to perfection. As the two become one, it’s clear that Kakoma uses Zenzile’s toil and triumphs to solve the contemporary issues she has faced as a modern performer and advocate.
Dreaming Zenzile also discusses the singer’s involvement in both the American civil rights movement and the fight against apartheid. He also covers his marriage to Black Panther Stokely Carmichael which led to his ban from American radio. Despite these setbacks, Makeba continued to live a life filled with song and social conscience that continue to inspire to this day.
Realized by Lileana Blain-Cruz and featuring exhilarating performances from an ensemble that features Phindi Wilson, Phumzile Sojola, Naledi Masilo and Aaron Marcellus as Sangoma Chorus, Dreaming Zenzile is a formidable play brought to life by the phenomenal embodiment of Makeba by Kakoma.
Dreaming Zenzile play at Virginia Jackson Browning Theater until October 3. For timetables and more information, visit http://www.repstl.org