“I have a lot of stories I want to tell you …” begins Sudanese singer Ajak Kwai, and it’s already clear to the audience that this evening will barely scratch the surface.
Kwai has a smile that fills a room and a voice that should be filling a stadium. Her journey from the Sudan to her current home in Melbourne – through war, loss and tragedy – is one that would leave many wrecked and lost, but instead she grew strong.
Through her songs, she shows us the courage of a woman who had lost her home and her family. Singing in her native tongue, Arabic, Kwai gives a voice to those who often have none. But instead of having the audience members at the Nexus Cabaret reaching for their tissues, it isn’t long before she instead has them on their feet, dancing.
Unable to bring her full band with her to the Adelaide Fringe, Kwai is accompanied by a three-piece group which suits the small venue well. Although I look forward to one day seeing the full set, the rhythms of Africa still left a lasting impression and a feeling that we had been given a glimpse of Ajak Kwai’s story – a story shared by too many.
Kwai’s music doesn’t ask for sympathy or pity, but begs those who hear it to not take our blessings for granted and to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. Her ability to lift the room is truly inspirational.
The intimacy of Nexus Cabaret is perfect for the show and I hope word spreads quickly to fill the venue for the remaining evenings.
Ajak Kwai: of Cows, Women and War is playing at Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre, until February 27.
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