Radio Play | 2010

Sebenza e-mine

Sebenza e-mine is a project about the South African mines, focusing especially on the underground acoustic landscape. The architecture of the mines, the verticality they develop underground and the specialised human activity generate a very complex and interesting sound scenario that our dramaturgical composition will try to analyse, reproduce and elaborate.
Because of the South African political situation, the Gauteng gold mines have always been the most symbolic and representative foci of the exploitation of black people before and during the escalation of the apartheid period.
Elevators descending, passing through different environments (related to different kinds of work), machinery analysing the earth and refining the material, dynamite exploding during the night to blast open new spaces for exploration, occasional explosions of underground water due to dangerously imprecise rock perforation (causing violent and loud invasions of water and the apocalyptic collapse of internal structures and external buildings), all produce sounds which are superimposed on the workers' rhythmic drilling, the sounds of black people working and singing in order to keep their spirits up and keep going in this inhuman and crushing atmosphere. The miners tend to group themselves according to tribal origin, so as to be able to sing their own traditional music.
Through the use of reconstruction, our own observations and documentation from the early 20th century and all the way up to the present day, we hope to create a dramaturgical structure that evokes the reality of life in the mines by means of a fictional situation of dramatic tension underground, expressed in an abstract theatre of sound.
We invite our night-time radio audience to follow our exploration of a dark subterranean labyrinth inhabited by a variety of male voices that emerge from the infernal noise within the earth. They are the voices of miners, poor people whom indigence has forced to live an inhuman life, but also visionary people with rich memories and enlightened hopes and plans. 
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composed by Philip Miller and Lucia Ronchetti
Radio Play for speaking voices, vocal ensemble and recorded sounds 
Ephraim Mashego, John Thandato, Alberto Vilankulu,
Mafeke Hlalele, speaking voices
Zulu Isicathamiya Choir Ntuba Thulisa Brothers
Robert Ndima (choral arrangements and conducting)
Commission: Deutschlandradio Kultur
Production: Goethe on Main Center, Johannesburg
Gavan Eckhart (recording, editing)
Elektronisches Studio der TU Berlin
Folkmar Hein (audio design, editing and mixing)
Marcus Gammel (production)
First broadcast:  Deutschlandradio Kultur, 2 July 2010
First live performance: Frannz Club Berlin, 3 September 2010
Duration: 54 m 52 s