The West

The infectious beat of Zulu drums filled the Burswood Theatre last night as the South African music and dance show Africa Umoja returned to Perth for the first time in a decade.

The troupe of more than 30 singers, dancers and percussionists hail mainly from poor shanty towns such as Soweto and celebrate South African culture from the dark days of apartheid to the optimism of the Rainbow Nation.

Former dancer Thembi Nyandeni, who created the show with her old Soweto school friend Todd Twala, said Umoja, which translates as "unity", was an apt name.

"South Africans have been isolated for so many years so getting together with other countries and performing and sharing our ideas in other countries is the spirit of togetherness," Nyandeni said.

Perth is the only Australian stop for the show after a tour of Europe.

"There are so many South Africans here and we just want to remind them of home sweet home," Nyandeni said.

She shrugged off a long-running court case in South Africa about the disputed copyright of songs that originated in the illicit bars and dance halls during the apartheid era and have featured in various Umoja shows.

Nyandeni said it was an attempt to privatise traditional music of unknown origins.

"These songs are traditional songs so how can these individuals claim them as if they had written them as their songs? These are South African songs that belong to everyone," she said. Africa Umoja runs until Sunday.

The West Australian

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