As I drove home from this gig (or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a show) I looked at people walking the pavement, hopping a bus, collecting a take-away and I pitied them. Why? Because they’d not experienced what I had just experienced. At only 90 minutes or so Inala packs in enough magnificent dancing and beautiful music, and in particular singing to last the senses a lifetime. As I walked across the Millennium Bridge to where I’d parked the car I couldn’t help but hold out my hand as if to hold the hand of an imaginary partner because this is the sort of experience you want to share, so that you can relive it through shared memory. Indeed, I wish you’d all been there with me.
I barely took any photos. I didn’t take notes. It would have been a crime to do so. So I am not going to give you chapter and verse on each and every move or delicious sound. Suffice it to say that the backing music – cello, violin, piano and percussion was beautifully crafted and played. The dancing, performed by members of the Ballet Rambert and The Royal Ballet was unbelievably beautiful, mesmerising, impressive whilst the voices of the nine members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo were like chocolate melting in your ears.
Inala is a Zulu word meaning ‘an abundance of goodwill’. I think you could forget bombing Iraq and Syria; simply post a video of this performance to ISIS and they’ll put down their arms and embrace world peace.
The ballet seems to be a celebration involving dancing birds and even a loving skeleton couple. The constituent parts – music and dance – are wonderfully joined. The dancing could almost be the moving pictures you imagine if you close your eyes and let the music transport your imagination to a mythical landscape.
The famous singing troupe indulge us with up tempo toe tappers, backed by that unmistakeable tribal beat, and also the quiet moving harmonies that they have become renowned for. The singing is utterly charming and occasionally gut-wrenchingly beautiful.
I don’t speak the Zulu language but the penultimate song, where Ladysmith Black Mambazo stand front of stage under starlight, waving seems to carry the refrain ‘So long, sorrow’ and there could not be a more suitable description of what this show does – it sends unhappiness packing and ushers in hope, joy and a feeling of being alive.
Reviewer and photographer : Russell Poad