Amazing trailer for Nzinga here! @justfe

Amazing trailer for Nzinga here! @justfestival @edfringe http://ow.ly/zw61n
Tix here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/nzinga-warrior-queen
http://ow.ly/i/6kpTJ

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Thanks @AiMfilmfest and @thelistmagazine

Thanks @AiMfilmfest and @thelistmagazine for #nzinga show feature. We’ll make you proud!!! http://ow.ly/z9DTU

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A powerful exploration of one of the wor

A powerful exploration of one of the world’s most intriguing yet little known female rulers. Check out our 2 for 1 day. Tickets here. http://ow.ly/z6Og3 http://ow.ly/i/6dxtS

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Life after ‘Tyi Wara’……

‘Tyi Wara – The Earth Hero’

Success at Storytelling Centre!!!!!


Well, it’s not quite over yet!!! Putting on any show is stressful. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gone through the ups and downs while creating a production/performance art for ‘public consumption who hasn’t broken down whether 3 weeks or 3 minutes before the curtain lifts.

Ours was certainly an adventure. January was the first major panic when we didn’t have a musician for a piece and it opened in 7 weeks. Then the wonderful Gameli stepped in 4 weeks before the show.  4 rehearsals later and desperately in need of our 5th and final one, both Gameli and Gaoussou (producer) fell ill and were on deaths door. Anyone else experience this? The tears came 3 days before the show. Luckily, I am of a fairly optimistic and cheery disposition so half an hour later, it was fine and it became less ‘aaargh! we only have 3 days’ to a more ‘cool! we still have 3 days’ attitude. 3 hours before show and the panic returned with things not quite working in dress rehearsal.

Still photos taken (thank you Claire), techy sorted, props in place, exhibition up outside and people arriving and it was all go.

Marvellous!!! 90+ folk in a 100 capacity theatre. Woohoo!!! Really gives energy to the space. It was great to see so many familiar faces, willing us on in the audience and new ones too, not sure what they would get from a Toto Tales production.

It went swimmingly! Erick’s entry as Mousso Koroni / Nyeleni was nothing short of spectacular. Even  my old dad gushed ‘such a graceful dancer!’, praise indeed!

Gameli showed no sign of his illness and wowed the crowds, his white locks glistening in the light. The audience were into the story from the word go. Such a pleasure to have them! They responded as if they had rehearsed with us. They danced round the room celebrating the happy return to the healer, Donald ignoring me and heading onto the stage jiggling away! Perfect!

Fin Wycherley of Supersize Blogging had proof of the power of social media in the form of 2 representatives of @Afriversal who we met on twitter had come down from Aberdeen to see the show. Such a pleasure to see it in action and they loved the show too. Wahey!

What now???? Well, plans are underway to take it round Scotland to a few high schools and some community centres. We are definitely visiting Lockerbie and Northfield (Aberdeen) schools who are unbelievably forward thinking and proactive and it will be an enormous pleasure taking the show to them and working with their teachers and students.

We have had great feedback from Donald at the Storytelling Centre so long live Tyi Wara and here’s to many more performances. We will be posting up a video soon, so keep an eye out.

Toto x

By the way……Check out the new website http://www.tototales.co.uk and tell us what you think. Thank you!

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Black people don’t DO theatre!

When I first started Toto Tales I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that I was in fact a genuine bona fide ‘ethnic’. But yup! That is just what I am and will be positioned for quite some time too I imagine. There are not many ‘ethnics’ working in the arts in Scotland for a number of reasons but those that do, are utterly passionate about it and sacrifice earning a reasonable wage, potential peace of mind and a real job in the pursuit of creating something incredible.

This afternoon, there was a meeting at Creative Scotland with some of the companies in Scotland that work with minority groups. Some of us were ‘ethnic companies’ and others worked with disabled people. Nevertheless we were all there to share our experiences.

Christine Hamilton (no…another one) was leading the discussion and was genuinely charming and interested. There was plenty of discussion around the issues faced by us companies in our endeavours – funding, touring, audiences, expectations, etc – and hope that in future, Creative Scotland will further support a hugely valuable part of Scottish culture.

Those represented were Wave Theatre, Solar BearAnkur ProductionsLung HaBirds of Paradise and of course us Toto Tales.

Plenty of questions raised – One of these was audiences and actually our audience is mainstream. Infact, it’s great when there is someone of African descent in the audience. Something we discussed that I felt was important is the issue of Role Models: There are too few positive role models of African heritage working in the Scottish art scene today. So what do we do? Bring them up from down South? Develop them up here? If we do train then what jobs are available? Hmmmm! None! So actually, it is difficult to see how this can be resolved before we’re all deid and it’s our children’s turn.

Still on role models…while I acknowledge the wonderful work that Ankur do, it is a shame that the first leading role for an African woman, created in Scotland in absolutely ages, is one where she is brutalised both physically and sexually. I honestly feel we need to provide better, stronger role models for our young people. Not just people of African heritage but for everyone else too. I want my daughter to know her worth, to know there are things worth fighting for. I want her to hear stories of Tyi Wara, Queen Nzinga, Julius Nyerere, Prof Wangari Maathai and she will, whether she wants to or not.

Storytelling and theatre are such powerful ways of absorbing information, challenging your own perception, generating discussion, meeting ridiculously interesting people, etc, that for me, it is a real shame that there are so few black faces both in the audience and on the stage. Of course its not just black people who don’t do theatre and of course there are many reasons why people don’t/can’t go but it would be great for us to begin to ask those questions and then DO something to change this, because there are lots of amazing things happening and there are lots of people who are missing out.

In the meantime Toto Tales will continue to do what we do, which  is to find and create these wonderful stories then explore ways of sharing them. My hope is that people from every sphere will see them, take something from them, enjoy them, start talking about them and be inspired by them.

I have been to schools around Scotland where not one kid can tell me the name of a great, inspiring, powerful individual from Africa. Not 1!!! That’s a real tragedy.

That’s your challenge too. How many names can we come up with right here and now?

Toto love x

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Incredible Storytelling/Musical Fusion at Celtic Connections

BREAKING NEWS!!!!

A first in Scottish Arts for years!!!!! And we are part of it!!!

That renowned Scottish festival Celtic Connections is back again and their 2012 program is just phenomenal. The forward thinking programmers have sourced fantastic performers from around the world and they agreed to put on two incredible performances where powerful storytelling is accompanied by a live orchestra. Of course these are among the not to be missed shows this year so….put these dates in the diary (My performance is on the Friday):

February 3rd and 4th, 8pm at the Glasgow Art Rooms, Tix:£10

The production ‘Voices in Scotland’ has been a work in progress of storyteller/musician Marion Kenny for the last 5 years.

Essentially she has pulled together a fantastically tight team of talented storytellers, singers and musicians. High calibre storytellers such as the late Stanley Robertson, Japanese teller Mio Shapley, moi Mara Menzies of Toto Tales, Claire McNicol, Marion Kenny and Chuck Warren are united with astounding musicians (hold your breath)… Mairi Campbell (her version of Auld Lang Syne featured in the last Sex and the City film, Dougie Hudson of Salsa Celtica, Eilidh Shaw, Jamie Kenny, Joel Sanderson, Sandy Wright, Andy Cooke, Stuart Dinwoodie, and Pete Vilk, Mary Macmaster, Donald Hay, Leo McCann, Eddie McGuire, Teresa Brookes {formerly Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers} and Lucy Searle, {Isho Taiko Drummers} Phew!!!!

For all ages, but the 8pm start prob means the tiddlers will be in lala land, we head off to the world of legend and myth. Imagine….a rumbling of thunder as crack, crack, crack, the sky parts and an enormous Baobab, the Tree of Life descends to provide shade to the people of the world. The law forbids man from making any connection with heaven but what happens when one young man’s insane curiosity forces him to disobey? With the ngoni, marimba, water drums, electric guitar, thumb piano, shekere, endingidi, djembe and inanga all playing a role, it will be an event to remember.

It promises an incredible evening of stories, music and ballads from Scotland and around the World so really hope you can make it!! Spread the word!

Toto love x

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Creating a show (part 2)

So, it has been a while since the first blog was posted and things have been happening. We have our premiere booked:

It is part of the Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace Festival (MESP) 2012. Our venue is the wonderful, beautiful, intimate Scottish Storytelling Centre on the 29th February at 19:00.

What we have been up to: Well, the script is almost done. Just a few tweakings and also the cast has gone up one person. Because the production is pulling together two different Tyi wara related stories from the ancient past and a more modern interpretation, I felt it was best to have the traditional call and response style storytelling. I had thought of bouncing off the musician but he is a musician and not a storyteller and also as English is not his first or even second language, that was a consideration too. In fact, we aim to capitalise on his wealth of West African language Wolof and Bambara, by incorporating it into the story. So, the musician shall play, the dancer shall dance and storyteller number 2 shall be incorporated. Wonderful.

We have applied for a small grant from Awards for All but like most things, we never know whether we shall be successful. Fingers crossed the answer is yes, but as with all other Toto Tales productions, the show must go on. If there is zero budget then of course, we shall have to be extremely imaginative with the set design to ensure, the overdraft doesn’t get out of control. We have one show booked and we are trying to get others once we hear from the funding body we shall have a better idea of where next to proceed. Please, please send good thoughts this way as we can reach so many more people with this show, if it is done properly. There is also the chance of taking it to the Fringe Festival in the summer too. Again something to look forward to.

In the meantime, what we are working on is: ideas for the set design. Finding interesting ways of seaming the scenes together. I have no idea about timing just yet but we’ll work that out later, once we know which bits work best. First rehearsal beginning of January 🙂

We’ll keep you posted. Anything you think we should incorporate into the piece. Do let us know. Also, we intend to travel around Scotland if we are lucky enough to get the grant so if you think the show would suit where you are, do drop us a quick line.

Toto love

x

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