The South African songstress is the vocal star of the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘La Nouba.’
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Attending the circus is a familiar part of American culture and arguably a childhood must. But a new trend under the big top exists with the innovation of Cirque Du Soleil’s “La Nouba” at Walt Disney World Resort.
The extraordinary, Quebec-based experience defies tradition and will mesmerize every generation with sunbursts of colorful imagination and a multicultural cast including its star vocalist who hails from Welkom, South Africa. Namely, she is, Selloane Nkhela, known internationally simply as Selloane.
For 10 shows per week exclusively at the Downtown Disney theater, Selloane can be heard as a lyrical offering of breathtaking arias whose voice literally bridges anticipation with applause for La Nouba’s high wire and flying trapeze performances during the one and a half-hour show comprised of 65 international artists.
The latter may sound unorthodox for a circus, but integrating vocals and live acoustic music as a complementary layer to dangerous acts that usually encourage audience silence is all a part of what makes La Nouba “memorable, individual and universal.”
“It used to be very difficult for me because I come from a very different world, the theater world where everything is almost the same every day,” Selloane told the Florida Courier during a pre-show interview on Sept. 18.
“It’s very rare when someone would fall and actually hurt themselves, but here it happens a lot.
Someone misses a cue or net or they fly all the way over there. If you’re singing and someone misses a net, your voice takes you there with them. I used to just shut down. Now I am able to incorporate riff, but it’s really a scream,’’ she quipped.
Singing since age 3
Selloane’s ability to improvise and adapt is embedded in artistic experience that emerged at the age of three when she began singing in church.
The soulful songstress was gifted with gospel chops that almost immediately led to accolades and acclaim and while she is petite in stature, her artistic reputation on African soil is anything, but small.
She was previously awarded the best soloist of the year at South Africa’s “Shell Road to Fame,” which catapulted her to recording artist success through a contract with Gallo Music Group South Africa.
On the Gallo label, she released “Thel’u Moya,” a gospel CD that remains one of the country’s most popular and lauded recordings. Industry giant Sony Music also recognized the vocal greatness of Selloane and invited her to record as a guest artist on the CD’s “Joyous Celebration Volumes 2 and 8.
‘The Lion King’
The breadth of Selloane’s burgeoning achievements have advanced her performing arts life to reach over 15 countries, but the hallmark of her American presence began with the magic of Disney when she was cast in the Los Angeles production of “The Lion King.”
She later joined the national tour and performed in Toronto, London, as well as U.S. tours where she played the roles of Cheetah and Gazelle. All of the aforementioned culminated into the Broadway leading role of “Rafiki.”
In 2013, Selloane was cast as the sole, female vocalist outfitted in white who is perched high above the rafters most of the show where she enjoys an aerial view.
The “fairy tale” focused show’s title originates from the French phrase “faire la Nouba,” which means to party, to live it up, but for most cast members that partying is dedicated to their stage life – with a few exceptions.
“The show is demanding, but I don’t have to be here as much as the others,” said Selloane, whose 19-year-old daughter is also a part of the La Nouba Family. “I do yoga for fun, but come in, put on make up, warm up and do the show. My daughter was married in May so some of us went down for her wedding and that was awesome,” she added.
South Africa’s pride
La Nouba is further described as an “encounter born in fear and ecstasy where two types of families or groups take a theatrical ride amidst magic and fantasy where the colorful Cirques (circus people) clash with the monochromatic world of the Urbains (urbanites).”
For Selloane, it is a befitting pinnacle for a stateside performing arts career that may have begun in South Africa but has since afforded her opportunities to appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,’’ the “Today’’ show, “The View’’ and the 2008 Tony Awards along with serving as a featured artist at the 2008 Lunas Awards in Mexico City.
Her angelic voice and presence have given color to the White House for President and Mrs. Bush along with honoring Ghana’s President John Kufuor and Mrs. Theresa Kufuor. All of her achievements are befitting a woman whose roots are South African strong and vocal talent that personifies what happens when dreams come true.