Originating in Mombassa, Kenya........ they have performed in over
25 countries in the last ten years, including Australia,
China, Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. They have
only been performing in America since February of 1999 and
have received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Their show can be upto one hour in length and blends what
we have come to call "circus" acrobatics with
popular dance moves set to live and taped African music.
The result is an electrifying experience which is sure to
move even the most jaded audience member. What we have here
essentially is a re-evaluation of the variety arts which
is as radical as that which happened to popular music in
the late 1950's: the culture of youth, with all its energy,
vitality and rhythm, has now taken over the circus.
It is already a well-established cliche in our minds what
a circus looks like: it is above all filled with white people
and animals. There is an old fashioned style to the whole
proceedings, whether it is the trumpeting of the big-band
or the top-hat and tails of the aging ringmaster. Even when
examples break the mold like the excitement which surrounded
the Chinese-based circuses in the 1980's or Cirque du Soleil
in the 1990's, the paradigm was still the same: the music
and over-all performance style was out-of-step with the
culture that our youth, and indeed what we ourselves, grew
up with. As a result the circus has effectively died as
a vital American cultural phenomenon.
ZuZu African Acrobats from Capitol International Production on Vimeo.
Circuses, even the most avant-garde like Cirque du Soleil
work on the European concept of "spectacle". Even
at its most glorious it is akin to watching a symphony.
Let's face it, opera, the symphony and much of "higher"
culture is an acquired taste most people can't relate to.
It is one of the reasons why American culture with its egalitarianism
has displaced its European counterpart in the hearts and
minds of people around the globe. People want immediacy,
they want in-your-face excitement. The reason that young
people can't relate to slow-pace of the traditional circus
performance is that they live in the same world that we
do, which is fast-paced, rhythm driven environment of the
MTV-generation. From Elvis Presley to Janet Jackson, the
American culture that has so effectively transpanted itself
around the world has been that of a "rhythm nation"
which vanquishes all competitors.
As a result the success of the first Mapapa tour has been
both immediate and irreversable. These first six African
acrobats came like thieves in the night into the American
cultural scene and took it by storm. Within three months
they had went from one NBA half-time show booking to a schedule
which saw them perform for almost every NBA team once, and
some twice and more. As soon as the word got out of these
evangelists of the "afro-batic" arts, the authorities
took notice. They were being called to open the tours for
major recording stars like Monica, 98 Degrees and Blackstreet,
and getting rave reviews in the process. David Letterman
took notice, and called for them to come on his show which
they did on July 21, 1999. Their calendar booked up fast
and soon they were able to reach millions with their message.
The revolution is continuing with every new booking, with
every new audience which witnesses the magic of a Mapapa
performance. In order to spread the word more completely
a second group was added to fill the demand on July 17,
1999. As a result there were two touring Mapapa shows in
America, with twice as much exposure for the "afro-batic"
concept to the world. The idea that first came to America
on the shores of Lake Ontario on that cold February morning
was developing into a social phenomenon. The "rhythm
circus" was threatening to destabilize the traditional
faith that circus' had no place in the new millenium. Authorities
take note: Mapapa has arrived!
Because they are an experienced professional performing
group they can and have adapted their full performance to
suit the needs of their clients. From young to old their
reception by audiences has been "univer-soul".
There can be an educational component, with a multicultural
study guide for young audiences. In Europe, they worked
almost exclusively for corporate sales meetings and world
cultural festivals. In America they are used to open tours
of recording stars and televised award ceremonies. Everyone,
it seems, raves about these 6 guys from Kenya.
What's the secret to their success? No one has ever seen
traditional variety arts and circus skills done African-style.
The show is like a high energy dance act, part Cirque du
Soleil, part Harlem Globetrotters, which is, above all,
fast paced and full of energy. People marvel at the teamwork
displayed, the co-operation which exemplifies the rewards
of working together. They also have an uncanny ability to
get people involved in their show, with conga lines, skipping,
acrobatics, limbo and even hand-clapping and laughter.
When Matano Ismael, the leader of the group, put this circus
show together 10 years ago he had no idea that it would
lead to the success that they are presently experiencing
in America. "We came off the plane thinking it was
a gamble," says Matano. "In my country we have
an expression, 'you only live once but you will die many
more times second guessing yourself'. So we paid for our
visas and our airfares and have hustled with our manager
just to get the ball rolling, because when you tell people
you are an African circus show, they say 'Oh you said you
are a bunch of dancers'. So I would say 'No, we are an African
circus show with dancing,' and again they would say 'Oh,
you are singers.' And on and on it would go. It was very
difficult to explain that we do everything and we do it
very, very well."
Given the universal appeal of the show it is important to
keep in mind how we adapt the presentation for each audience
that we play for: here are a few of our standard show formats:
In Europe, we were voted best corporate participatory variety
show. In America, we are starting to work with major associations,
sales meetings, conventions and product
launches, to liven up stiff audiences and energize the most
boring meetings. No one has ever seen anything like what
we do before! We get people energized, with lively dance
music, unbelievable feats of acrobatics that never seems
to stop. We are especially well suited for young "hip"
companies like those in the computer, electronic, entertainment
or information technology industries. This exciting half
hour of thrills will motivate, invigorate and participate
in the most memorable night they have had in quite some
Because of the energetic style of our show, it was natural
that we would work with almost every NBA basketball team
as one of their favourite half time entertainment shows.
Since then we have also started doing shows for NFL, NHL,
MLB and WNBA teams as well as opening for the 1999World
Cup of Soccer and the Pan-Am Games. There is no better 6
- 10 minutes in show business. This is why we are doing
so many television shows and concert tour openings. If you
want to attract attention to your product with a high energy,
pumping show you simply have to call for the Mapapas!
This is our bread and butter. We are obviously a cultural
phenomenon which has elements of traditional African dance
and music, both taped and live. It has a never-before-seen-in-America
quality which is sure to be a hot with audiences everywhere.
It is very accessible, so that you can watch the show entirely
for its entertainment value and forget that it is representative
of a foreign culture. It speaks in the universal language
of the imagination. As a background for the education of
younger audiences, we have a ready-made study guide and
I would be remissed if I claimed that I made it; it was
made for us by Maranne Welch of the Pittsburgh International
Children's Theatre Festival. This is only one of many North
American presenters we have worked with which include: Brooklyn
Centre, Chitauqua Arts Festival, Tribeca Centre, as well
as several international festival in New York, Toronto,
Adelaide, Perth, Hong Kong, Seattle, Chicage, Vancouver,
Calgary, Ottawa and more.
The show can work on any surface and is best performed as
a twenty or thirty minute,
musical circus. The Mapapas can do live, taped or hybrid
music shows. There is no better or more memorable entertainment
extravaganza, that your audiences will ever
see! They have have performed at over 300 festivals world
wide, including the most recently Nickelodian's Summer Kickoff
, Central Park Summerstage, the Music Midtown Festival in
Atlanta and more.