I am ready to fly - be the wind beneath my wings, breathe life into me, imbue me with your spirit - “Ndiredi ukundiza, ndiph’ uMOYA.” The resounding screams and applause die a precipitous death after the first "Ndiredi" is belted out by the remarkable conjurer of catharsis. It is a different encounter altogether with one of Simphiwe Dana's most popular songs, released in 2004. “The minute she says ‘Ndiredi’ you actually see why she wrote it… the importance of the lyrics,” attests the production’s musical director, the talented Titi Luzipo.
Following its 2022 success, MOYA made a return to the Mandela Stage at the Joburg Theatre, running from the 3rd to the 5th of March, 2023. Pioneered by Dana in collaboration with artistic director and choreographer Gregory Maqoma, and enhanced by the musical direction of Luzipo, MOYA was a satiating serving for souls long athirst. “We’ve all been through quite a lot in the past few years, we’ve just come to take a breather and take it all in,” Simphiwe Dana said as she unravelled the heart of the production. Evidently crafted with unmistakable intentionality, MOYA was threaded by strands of grief, hope, gratitude and variant interweavings of the three. These themes recurred throughout the production; an impeccable sonic and visual offering through which Maqoma’s undoubtable dexterity flashes itself across the stage as the dancers morph song into motion — a life-giving sight.
Intertwining themes of collective grief and hope, the aiding vocalists render a soul-stirring mash-up of Nkosi Sikelela and Thina Sizwe, with the latter masterfully rearranged. This acapella rendition is, of course, conducted by the incomparable Titi Luzipo, who has worked with Dana for years. The selection and curation of songs is as thoughtful and intentional as the choreography; every piece a lungful exhalation ushering out the heaviness of grief, an inhalation drawing in hope — ukuvuswa ngoMoya; a resurrection through breath/ukuvuselwa koMoya; a quickening of the spirit, a revival of the soul, a whirling up of winds.
True to her less popular name - Sinethemba (we have hope) - Dana has been a beaming beacon of hope; inkwenkwezi that beckons light where darkness abounds. Nineteen years into her undertaken devoir, MOYA comes as a gift of hope. Even in renditions that express immense grief, the weight suddenly wanes as the celestial voices and instruments ring, each one as though masterfully handpicked for divine duty. This includes her breathtaking duet with the otherworldly Kekelingo.
Speaking about being on stage Simphiwe Dana shares: “It’s the closest I will get to God.”
As the production unfolds, the audience is also marshaled to this throne room through the magnificent lighting, visuals and spirituals. African hymnology emerges recurrently as a shimmering embellishment to the melodic offering of prayers and pleas such as Tarhu Bawo/ Masibulele, Umthandazo wase Afrika, Ndimemeza as well as Dana’s heartrending tribute to her late mother, uMaMjoli. The tribute is a baring of the heart that evidently resonates with the crowd, whose applause is a lot tamer after the songstress hits the last note. And that is the heart of MOYA; to leave room for breathing, to purge.
A Psalmic Purgation (adapted from MOYA)
Sikulalele ngoMOYA wethu sonke
“Masiwele sinyulu ngeentliziyo neengqondo ezivulekileyo Sikhokhelwa nguMOYA”
“I love you so much — and thank you for holding me these past 19 years.” - Simphiwe Dana
Endless applause and a standing ovation follow the unforgettable performance of fans’ favourite anthem, Mayine. At the drop of the curtain, the audience continues in applause before reluctantly walking out, carrying the prayer for cleansing rain heavy with blessings.