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The Manhattan Brothers tribute a smash hit

The “Manhattan Brothers (and their sister)” brought the house down at the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani.

It is such a pity that this tribute of the legendary 1940s and 1950s jazz ensemble ended on Sunday December 18.

Were the show to continue for another two weeks, it would be the best way to ring in the New Year. Every night from Thursday December 8, Mmatema Moremi (the sister) and her “four brothers” who form Complete, the local acapella group, did justice in their tribute to the Manhattan Brothers, the chart-topping legendary group that took the United States by storm in the 1940s and 1950s. Their music still resonates.

On Wednesday night, Moremi, the 2015 SA Idols runner-up, portrayed Miriam Makeba so beautifully that Mama Africa would approve. Mluleki Chuma, Bubele Mgele and the Motha brothers Bonginkosi and Happy were in their element, churning hit after hit for a solid hour to an appreciative audience.

In a performance that started just after 8pm, the performers delivered more than 16 songs in isiZulu, isiXhosa and English, among other languages. And from their performance it was clear they actually adored their idols. They delivered the music with charm and enthusiasm from start to finish, inviting the audience to sing a long throughout.

Together for 15 years, Complete members are well-travelled and have collaborated with some of this country’s top musicians, including Bra Hugh Masekela. According to Bonginkosi Motha, a chance meeting in 2009 with the only surviving member of The Manhattan Brothers, Sanza Luwathe, inspired them to pay tribute to the group.

“He invited us to his home where he showed us pictures of The Manhattan Brothers in the 1940s and 1950s. He played us their original music and we were just blown away. That’s why we decided to honour them,” he said to applause.

The Manhattan Brothers endeared themselves with American jazz lovers with a US Billboard hit Lovely Lies. They were also trend-setters who paved the way for the legendary Masekela and Makeba. Johan Mthetwa on keyboard, Thembinkosi Mathebula on double bass and Thekiso Tabane on drums complete the lineup of this diverse group of performers.

The black tuxedos, complete with two-tone shoes, hats and bow-ties, completed the look for the four singers who were ably supported by a three-piece band as they belted out the all-time favourites.

The Manhattan Brothers Tribute show was choreographed by the flamboyant Somizi Mhlongo. On Thursday December 16, the group brought some Christmas cheer to patients across the road at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital.