Thatha Assembly George Square

Thatha Assembly George Square This was my final show of the 2013 Fringe and what a cracking way to finish up. I had been feeling just a wee bit jaded after three weeks of Fringe going but this energetic band of singers, dancers and musicians from Zimbabwe proved to be a wonderful pick-me-up. The initially reserved Edinburgh audience were all on their feet by the end, joining in the dancing and carried along by the infectious good humour and sheer exuberance of the performers.

“In times of happiness we dance, and in times of sadness…we dance as well!” says one of the troupe. This statement pretty much sums up the ethos of SIYAYA (On the Move) the company who have brought us this celebration of traditional and contemporary African music and dance. They have been together for ten years and have appeared at, among others, WOMAD and Glastonbury Festivals as well as a previous visit to Edinburgh in 2007. “Thatha” means “Please Take” and there is certainly plenty to choose from in the selection offered to us.

From the minute the drummers hit the first beat and the dancers bounded onto the stage in their brightly coloured costumes and wide smiles, we could feel the positive energy flowing out to us. The children in the audience, whilst initially taken aback by the noise and strangeness of it all, soon became captivated and joined in the dancing and clapping right from the start. The rest of us took a bit longer, much to the consternation of the dancers, to get in the mood but we got there eventually – joining in with the response chorus of their African reggae song got everyone’s vocal chords warmed up and then there was no stopping us.

The stage of the Palazzo tent in Assembly George Square wasn’t really big enough to hold them all, but it added to the intimate feel where they could build up a good rapport with the audience. The drummers were excellent, providing a pulsating beat to which the dancers performed their routines and occasionally taking centre stage themselves. The dancers were amazing – the men so energetic and athletic and the two girls furiously shaking their booties while balancing pots on their heads was a treat – Beyonce eat your heart out girl!

A real treat for all ages but be prepared to shake off your inhibitions and join in the fun!

Irene Brownlee