Peter Langmead

Operas from Zambia

The Legend of Konga Mato

Paddy Mukando plays The Konga Mato in The Legend of Konga MatoThe Konga Mato, performed by Paddy Mukando, confronts Peri Phiri and friends in the forest

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.

The headman is wounded by a kongamato The village headman, played by Paddy Mukando, is wounded by a kongamato.

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.

The Konga Mato, played by Paddy Mukando, meets the ChiefThe Konga Mato, performed by Paddy Mukando, enters the palace to take away the Chief.

Best regards,

Peter Langmead

Notes

Langmead & Baker Ltd is the producer company based in Lusaka, Zambia. I have to say, there is just nothing that compares with putting on a performance of an opera, nothing at all. I prefer to use Final Draft for writing scripts, but you can also use Celtx.

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