After attending the Utah Arts Festival for the third consecutive year, I saw a lot of the same vendors from years past. While the pottery and paintings were beautiful, I yearned for new visual stimulation. But as I scoured the length of the festival, I heard new and interesting sounds the entire time. The art of sound was never lacking, as musicians banged their instruments, shoppers gossiped and children laughed. The sounds of the Utah Arts Festival are an important aspect that keeps me coming back every year, even if the shopping becomes stale.
The African Showboyz were no exception to the beautiful array of sounds that filled the festival Friday night. The Round constantly wins as my favorite stage; it's intimate and comfortable enough to enjoy the show, and houses a variety of acts from dance to magic to music. Yearning for something out of the norm, I figured the African Showboyz could give me something I hadn’t seen before.
My desires were fulfilled even before the Showboyz started playing their native instruments. Colorfully dressed in red, yellow and green with native jewelry and body paint, the four boyz looked different from every other act I had seen that day. The visual art of their costumes was almost enough to leave me satisfied, but then the boyz began playing. Two drums, a form of guitar and a shaker accompanied the boyz as they sang hymns in an African dialect. Beautiful and energizing, the boyz sang and danced as the crowd settled in for the show.
After their opening song, the African Showboyz played a Bob Marley favorite, reminding the audience to not “worry about a t'ing” as they sat and were entertained by the musicians.
Listening to their music, I found it hard to imagine these boyz in T-shirts and shorts. Their rhythmic tunes transported the audience to another place. Engrossed in the sounds surrounding me, I couldn’t help but imagine myself dancing around a fire in a faraway land. My daily stresses of school and work floated away, and I found myself sitting in the middle of a celebration.
Although I couldn’t understand the words, there was a story playing out in front of me, one of humor, prayer and magic. The audience watched in amazement as the main vocalist asked for help from the collective, saying, “I’m going to do this magic here with the help of everybody.” Then, he performed a trick that made water appear and disappear from between the folds of a newspaper as they sang, prayed and danced for an unseen god.
The show was exciting and heartwarming, filled with a fire fueled by the musicians' love and respect for their culture. The African Showboyz made the audience feel like a unified family, asking, “How do you feel it my brothers and sisters?”
While my eyes enjoyed the Utah Arts Festival, as they always do, my ears were truly entertained this year by the performances. To sign off here as the Showboyz did, “God bless you. Give you long life and prosperity.”
Photos by Savannah Turk