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Peace Train hits Peninsula

Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2005


  Namsa Majola-Smith, dancer with Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, performs at Kenai Central High School on Friday. Many area kids attended the rousing show. Photo by Layton Ehmke

Namsa Majola-Smith, dancer with Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, performs at Kenai Central High School on Friday. Many area kids attended the rousing show.

Photo by Layton Ehmke

The beats of South African music were contagiously dance-inducing to students who attended the Sharon Katz and The Peace Train concert for students Friday morning at the Kenai Central High School Renee C. Henderson Auditorium.

The light-hearted tunes carried the heavy message of peace shared by the band as it dealt with apartheid and its aftermath in this and the last decade.

By bringing people together through music, Katz promotes the messages of peace, tolerance and respect in humanity.

"This is a sensitive time to engage in proper dialogue. People need to know they are not alone in wanting to spread the peace. We have so much to gain by working together," Katz said.

Katz and the band have fought in the name of former South African President, Nelson Mandela to stomp out racism and oppression. They do this with fortitude but are all the while promoting a positive and refreshing mentality.

"We all have aspects of unique opportunities at the cusp of change. We were lucky to be there. The core ideal is to drop racism and rather accept one another," Katz said. "We cannot afford to be divided."

Much has changed in South Africa since the end of apartheid rule. Marilyn Cohen, band manager, said the success of the new South Africa government is truly amazing.

"Just the spirit to forgive and the conviction to work together is there. People now have bigger hearts," Cohen said. "America could learn a lot."

Namsa Majola-Smith, singer and dancer, said South Africa now is remarkable because of how the people have learned from the past.

"There is a lot to be said for people learning to live as one. People want to move on because they have learned. They do it for the benefit of the country," she said.

Katz added that it is important to not be bitter.

"How can a whole nation emerge and be able to put aside everything that went wrong? It is tangible. You can see it," Katz said.

Though there has been a change for the better that seems to have happened rather quickly, Majola-Smith said it is a gradual process to change people's minds about how they perceive the world.

"We have a saying in Zulu that goes: ugotshwa usemanzi." Majola-Smith translated it as the idea of shaping beliefs while young. "You can only bend a tree whilst it is still wet, supple or young," she said.

Their music conveys the struggle to survive, Majola-Smith said.

"We are able to capture things that have never been visited. People were always very much alive and living through the music during difficult times.

Katz and the band tour the globe promoting positive messages, but that is not to say they aren't having their fun.

"Of course, it has to be fun. It's part of who we are. Playing music and touring feeds my soul. It gives me more strength and makes the world a smaller place," Katz said.

Majola-Smith added, "I get to share my culture and language. I get to teach about my people."

Sharon Katz and the Peace Train will perform Friday at the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage. Friday is the 15th anniversary of Mandela's release from prison.


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