The neck of my Guitar
Robbi Hall Kumalo and Bakithi Kumalo The Newton Bee

Robbi Hall Kumalo Enchants Hawley And Middle Gate Students.

By Susan Coney

For more than 20 years, Robbi Hall Kumalo has performed, produced, and directed shows for family entertainment. Ms Kumalo, a 2003 Parents' Choice Award Winner, is an enthusiastic entertainer with a range of exceptional talents.

A graduate of Lincoln Center Institute for Aesthetic Education, she began her career in New York City working as a secretary for singer Paul Simon. She took the job to be involved in the entertainment world. There she met her husband, South African recording artist Bakithi Kumalo, who was Paul Simon's Graceland bassist. The couple shares a busy life together, raising two young daughters and performing more than 200 shows a year.

Ms Kumalo, a superb singer, storyteller, actress, and puppeteer, has recorded with Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Jewel, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, and Harry Belafonte. She said that her background in theater helped her find her niche in performing for children. "Music and theater are an intrinsic part of my life." she said.

Ms Kumalo has 11 different programs designed to entertain and teach school children. Her programs adhere to national and state learning standards for content and performance geared toward students in grades K through 12.

Prior to performing at a school, Ms Kumalo sends a teacher's guide filled with materials for preteaching activities. The students are involved in pre- and postperformance discussions and activities designed to help them fully appreciate the performance.

Ms Kumalo's programs expand students' awareness of the arts and culture. Her multicultural programs introduce the audience to world music, folk songs, rhythmic movement, dance, and instrumental displays. She understands the need to involve her audience, allowing them to join her in moving, singing, and chanting. She moves about and constantly interacts with the students, captivating them as she acts out several different characters during the performance.

She speaks Zulu, French, Spanish, English, German, and Italian, and is able to incorporate various accents and dialects into her shows.

Joined by her husband Bakithi, Ms Kumalo gave two different performances Tuesday, March 22. The pair presented two sessions of a show entitled "Keep the Beat," to students at Hawley School at 9:45 and 10:45 in the morning. Then performed two afternoon sessions of a different program, "The Turtle's Shell," at Middle Gate School. The programs were selected and sponsored by The Cultural Arts Committee, which arranges for quality programs to be presented in Newtown schools.

"Keep the Beat," performed at Hawley School gave students a multilingual journey of music from all regions of the world. Audiences enjoyed Zulu lullabies and folk songs as well as outstanding musicians performing on various instruments. "Keep the Beat" was a high energy, fun-filled show in which Ms Kumalo emphasized the importance of realizing that people all over the world are connected by music, history, and daily interaction. The program encourage love, tolerance, understanding, and appreciation of other cultures from around the world.

Ms Kumalo presented the African folktale "How the Turtle Got It's Shell" to Middle Gate students. It is based on the traditional Ashanti tale of the persistent turtle who outwits the leopard and is rewarded with a shell. The Djembe drum, made of goat skin and a hollowed out tree trunk, provides the energizing, background rhythm for the storytelling. Bakithi Kumalo performs on the Djembe drum as Ms Kumalo tells the children the humorous and enchanting tale. African chants and the steady drumming draw the audience into the performance and the children soon join in, singing, clapping, and repeating African words.

Ms Kumalo feels fortunate that she is able to make a living doing the things she loves most. She carries a commitment to providing quality, family entertainment while at the same time presenting students with strong, positive messages.

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