The Legend of Konga Mato
The second opera by Peter Langmead
Not all is quiet in a small fishing village on the banks of the Jiunda Swamp: kongamato have been stealing cattle, and the chief calls headman Phiri to a meeting to decide what they are going to do about stopping them. Earlier in the day, the headman’s son, Peri, released a strange young and beautiful woman dressed in black, Belita, who he found with his friends tied to a tree in the swamp shortly before kongamato attack the village again, as the sun goes down, severely wounding headman Phiri.
His father, not being able to travel to the chief’s palace, delegates the responsibility to his young son, much to the chagrin of the elders. Their view changes however when a young and beautiful woman dressed in back strides majestically into the village and walks straight to Peri, giving him a bundle wrapped in canvas, telling him to be careful.
The group leave to march to the chief’s palace overnight: first they meet a hunting leopard, then they meet another mysterious Lady in Black, but older. As they near the palace, they are attacked by kongamato, which wound one of their number but they are somehow rescued by the strange Belita. After the battle for the road, they meet Konga Mato himself, the fiery king.
Not expecting to be further disturbed that night, the chief holds a welcoming dinner for his guests, only to be interrupted later by kongamato attacking the court house. Peri and his friends battle all night with the kongamato without much support from the chief or his indunas. It becomes clear that the attack and the fighting is about Konga Mato reaping his chief.
Just in time, Belita, the chief’s adoptive daughter, who was meant to have been sacrificed in the Jiunda Swamp to Konga Mato by the chief’s indunas, arrives with an army of women from the West. Observers there were surprised that the kongamato just disappeared and it appears that Belita is in fact Princess Mato of legend, the fiery princess and long-lost daughter of Konga Mato.
Peri is delighted to find Belita in the midst of the battle and declares his love for her, shortly before a final confrontation with Konga Mato as he comes to collect his chief. Neither Peri nor Belita can prevent this from happening but, in the kerfuffle, Konga Mato claims Belita as his princess and that Peri is a prince from distant place, declaring they are the new king and queen of the chiefdom.
After that, life for the narrator becomes rather boring.
FIRST NIGHT AT THE PLAYHOUSE
STAGE REHEARSAL WITH SOLOISTS AND CHORUS, APRIL 1
|The Chief phones the police - nobody is there!||Jazz Banda is wounded by a kongamato.||The Chief attacks Peri Phiri, saved by Blue Jeans.|
DIGITAL HOARDING BOARD AT LONGACRES
PADDY MUKANDO: THE SHY OPERA STAR, DJ AND TV COMMERCIAL ACTOR
The self-proclaimed shy media personality plays the villain in only the second Zambian produced opera.
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Paddy Mukando is a 46-year- old opera star, radio DJ and TV commercial actor. He is tall, well-built, shaves all his hair off, has a round face, a manly voice and is a basso profundo. Paddy is the kind of man who walks into a room and has everyone look at him at least twice. He also claims to be shy.
From April 9 to 11 Paddy will have to “box” his shyness when he stars as the Kongamato in the opera The Legend of Konga Mato.
“Believe it or not I am a shy person at heart.” Paddy says. “I don’t think I have stopped being shy [since becoming a media personality], I have just learned how to contain it in order to achieve certain things: I MC functions, I sing in public.”
The Legend of Konga Mato is only the second opera to be written, produced and staged in Zambia. It was composed by long-time Zambia resident Dr Peter Langmead and has a large cast of trained Zambian musicians.
The operais a story of love, war and intrigue. It tells the tale of a village fisher boy who saves his chiefdom from a marauding kongamato and wins the heart of a King’s daughter. The opera is based on eyewitness accounts of the kongamato, a pterodactyl-like creature said to have been seen by the people of and explorers in the Mwinilunga district's Jiunda swamps. Eyewitnesses have variously described the kongamato as a modern-day Jurassic dinosaur; an enormous bird – perhaps the shoebill; or a giant bat. No photographs of the beast exist and no bones of the Kongamato have been discovered.
In the opera the Konga Mato is in charge of “harvesting ‘his’ chiefs. The role is proving challenging for Paddy to play. He says he finds “playing mean” hard. “Usually actors say they can relate a character to something or someone and therefore find it easier to relate and apply [people they know to the role they are playing]. In my case, in this particular, I have never thought about playing anything like this and that has been a challenge.”
Paddy Mukando started singing in a cover-band with his siblings while living in Mansa in the 1970s. At the time there was no television signal in Mansa and as a form of entertainment the Mukando kids “grabbed pots and brooms – brooms would be guitars and the pots would be drums and sang Archies songs and Jackson Five songs for their parents.
Other than performing with his siblings, Paddy has almost exclusively sung in church until April last year when Dr Langmead asked him to perform in the first Zambian opera, Damyna Damyna, which was produced by OperaZ. Paddy accepted and begun his opera career. He has since performed in a opera review.
Paddy finds performing in operas different from what he is accustomed to.“Opera, first of all, is solo for the most part. Although I have sung solo quite a bit, most of my singing life I have sung in choirs and quartets. But to have a full performance solo is challenging.”
“Zambians should expect the music and the singing [to be] very different,” Paddy says. “The singing is combined with acting. That combination is very new and not very familiar. And of course they should learn a lot about the kongamato and some of the things that have happen even in Zambian societies because it is really a story about the village and the families that live in that village.”
Catch Paddy in The Legend of Konga Mato at the Lusaka Playhouse at 19hrs on Thursday, April 9, Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11. Tickets are K200 and are available from Computicket at Shoprite stores countrywide.
|Paddy Mukando, broadcaster, actor, MC and opera singer.||Playing Ms Bwalya's drunken husband in Damyna Damyna, the opera, last year.||Playing the whimsical witch doctor in Damyna Damyna, the opera, last year.|
Successful rehearsal of Act 2
Tremendous orchestra rehearsal of Act 2 of 'The Legend of Konga Mato' this evening, March 28, 2015. Hoping to play Acts 1 and 2 together tomorrow for the first time. Getting there!
The Legend of Konga Mato poster and programme cover
Our Digital Hoarding Board
Running between March 30 and 18:00hrs on April 11, the performance of 'The Legend of Konga Mato' will be promoted on three digital hoarding boards on main roads in Lusaka. The 15 second advertisement will be on between 05:00hrs and 01:00hrs, 400 times per day, every three minutes.
Stage Rehearsal, 23/3/15
Emmanuel singing Peri Phiri, the leading tenor part.
Libanda is singing Peri's friend, Jazz Banda, also a tenor.
Tom the old man with Obrian, as part of the chorus.
The First Stage Rehearsal
The headman is wounded by a kongamato and comforted by his son and friend.
Journeying party travelling at the dead of night through a forest, with a known leopard.
Great group picture of the dancers
Young Maestro brings Opera Premiere to life
The Legend of Konga Mato’s musical director, Joseph Muyunda, on who inspired him and what it takes to be a good musical director
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – At just 19-years-old Joseph Muyunda can play nearly every instrument in an orchestra, and has landed himself a plum position as music director of Zambia’s only opera company.
It’s a high-pressure job that sees him co-ordinating more than 20 classically trained soloists and choral singers – some more than twice his age – and using all his musical and organisational skills to bring together a spectacular two-hour performance.
The Legend of Konga Mato is only the second Zambian Opera to be staged in the country. More than 50 classically trained Zambian musicians, singers and dancers will perform in the opera at the Lusaka Playhouse on April 9-11. Nineteen-year-old Joseph Muyunda’s task as musical director includes ensuring the cast know and interpret the music well. This is a really tough ask for anyone, especially for someone who has only started to learn to play his first instrument five years ago at 14.
Growing up Joseph would have been expected to start playing music earlier than fourteen, “my family is very musical,” Joseph says. “My mother studied music and my father is the musical director in my church.”
Both his parents tried to “force” Joseph to learn an instrument. He was not interested. Then in 2010 Joseph accidentally tuned to a channel showing America musician, John Roderick, playing the piano. Mesmerised by what he heard, Joseph watched Roderick “for hours and hours and got inspired to play music”.
He immediately begun to teach himself the piano and practised for up to four hours a day. In 2012, while studying at Kamulanga Secondary School, he was among ten students selected to attend the Ngoma Dolce Music Academy. That same year, Joseph won the Roos prize for xxx? and was chosen as Zambia’s best pianist.
Since then Joseph has learned to play more instruments besides the piano. He can play the entire string section but is still working on the instruments in the wind section because they are “really hard for him to blow.”
These skills are why Dr Peter Langmead, the librettist and composer of The Legend of Konga Mato, chose Joseph as musical director only a month after Joseph had joined Opera Z, the group producing the opera.
“Joseph has a key role to play in producing the opera,” explained Dr Langmead. “His musical talents are impressive, and his dedication and hard work are enthusing the soloists and chorus with a real sense of excitement and energy, which are vital to creating a huge work such as an opera. It’s a big responsibility.”
Joseph remains humble about his appointment especially after being part of OperaZ for such a short time, “It’s a really big appointment I never expected to have,” said Joseph. “You can’t even imagine the feeling I had [when he was appointed], and it was like going from grass to grace.”
The main challenge Joseph faces as musical director is people. “It is really hard to put people together administratively. You call people for practice at 11:00 hours and the person ends up turning up at 12:00 hours. We have little time on our hands and have a lot of work to do.”
On advice he has for aspiring musical directors: “Being a musical director takes a lot of practice. You really need to study music and need to be up-to-date with music because you will handle people who know music better than you do. So you need to practise really hard on whatever instrument you are playing. I advise that you start playing the piano as well because that is the best way to practise with a soloist and a choir and because one of the prominent roles of a musical director is to be able to teach and accompany soloist, choirs and even orchestras. So a musical director needs to know which instruments are in an orchestra, which parts they play, you practically have to know almost everything that is happening around the music sector or around the music you are playing.”
The Legend of Konga Mato will be staged at the Lusaka Playhouse at 19hrs on Thursday, April 9, Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11. Tickets are K200 and can be reserved by calling 0976 750044 or emailing OperaZ@langmead.com.
With the chorus
The Legend of Konga Mato
Peter Langmead's latest opera, his second, is The Legend of Konga Mato, which will be performed by OperaZ with support from Langmead & Baker Ltd on April 9-11 at Lusaka Playhouse. See the press release here. For more information, see here.
Not so long ago, near the misty Jiunda swamp, a young fisherman and a mysterious and beautiful young woman dressed in black battled with the terrifying Konga Mato for tomorrow and the future. This is the legend.
Peri Phiri (Periphery) is a young fisherman who unknowingly rescues Princess Mato from the Jiunda swamp and develops through the opera to become the main hero. Peri Phiri may be played by Chrispin Lindunda, seen here in Damyna, Damyna.
Paddy Mukando plays Konga Mato, who is the fiery king of ancient times whose business is to keep his errant chiefs in order, and reaping them when necessary. Actually, he is passed his sell by date and is confronted and defeated by Belita, his own estranged daughter, and Peri Phiri, a fisherman from the Jiunda swamp. Paddy's interview on youtube. Here, Paddy is playing the 'Drunken Bum' in Damyna, Damyna.
Jerry Mudenda is the Chief, Belita’s adoptive father. He is a mildly tyrannical man, proud and loving of his adopted daughter and aggressive and irrational towards his subjects and indunas. He gets reaped by Konga Mato in the end.
Nalukena Lubosi plays Belita, who finds she is the Princess Mato of legend and becomes a great leader. She is brought up by the chief and defends the chiefdom with fisherman Peri Phiri from the marauding Konga Mato, who turns out to be her father. Nalu's interview on youtube.
Daniel Siisii is the conductor. Daniel's interview on youtube
Joseph Muyunda is OperaZ's music director, presently responsible for soloist and chorus rehearsals. Joseph's interview on youtube.
OperaZ promotes contemporary opera, dance and theatre by providing performance capability, even if, or particularly if, it is your first creation, at no cost. The rationale behind this is the dilemma for would-be composers, librettists and authors of not being able to find an agent without having first performed the work. The only barrier to entry is that you must 'know what you are doing', which means you may have studied at a recognised institution and/or otherwise competent at the necessary level.
OperaZ will then produce the show with substantial in-house PR support and publicity. Your contribution and obligation is to direct it and be here to do it, and here is Zambia. The usual production time is six weeks, which can be longer due to seasonal lulls. You will received 10 per cent of receipts from performances, which will normally be six week nights plus a Sunday matinee, up to a maximum of six weeks, depending on demand and performance space availability.
We have a standing chorus of 16 singers and six contemporary jazz dancers, lighting, sound and the use of rehearsal space, with mirrors, performance space and audio and video recording facilities. OperaZ has a small orchestra of common instruments. We are presently supporting the production of The Legend of Konga Mato by Peter Langmead.
We are supported by Langmead & Baker Ltd.