MUSIC: Naftali and the Royal Family
Review by ARNO CORNELISSEN
“Music takes you to places that you haven’t known before,” says Naftali Kholofelo Mphago, “You just travel. I’m taken to that space—immediately, I am gone. I can’t think, it just flows, and the people’s energy connects and creates a moment.”
If you are exhausted from a long day of emotionally taxing theatre, Naftali and the Royal Family will rejuvenate your soul. Led by vocalist Naftali Kholofelo Mphago, the four-person ensemble selflessly shares something sacred with their audience that transcends the boundaries of logic.
With a sound that transverses genre boundaries, the band uses various instruments ranging from the flute to the kora. The vocals, primarily written in Sepedi, are rounded and warm as if stemming from an otherworldly source. The bass walks then jumps with plucks and slaps. Naftali then brings in his harmonica to take us along for the musical story. They playfully tease us and the instruments, giving us just enough to froth, not boil.
It feels like everyone in the room is a part of the creative process, as if on a journey, with the band guiding our souls. Naftali’s passion on stage is contagious, at times as if about to lose himself entirely in the ecstasy of the moment. The guitarist and bassist reach similar pinnacles before suddenly bringing it back down — both exchanging glances and smiling wryly, knowing they have it, and we want it.
As the musical experience carries us along, the audience begins to smile in that sly manner, sharing an inside secret everyone is naturally in on. Where is the place that music comes from? I can’t tell you, but believe me, if you spend the evening with Naftali and the Royal Family, you will feel it – somewhere far away, out of time and space. The journey is gentle and filled with boundless love.