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About Abiyoyo

Musical Synopsis

Part 1


We open on a bustling Bantu village, where we see people bartering, carrying baskets and pushing carts, and the foreman searching for Azizi. Azizi enters and sits beneath a lone tree to tune his Engoni (an early African predecessor to the banjo.)


A narrator enters and introduces the story, and they then inform the audience that our characters are about to endeavor on “a journey of love, loss, family, and Giants.” The narrator then remarks that Azizi is meant to be working instead of practicing, and this is bound to land him in “Trouble.”  The foreman enters and takes Azizi by the collar and drags him through town back to work.


As they pass, other villagers comment and jeer that the boy is exactly like his father, no good and always in trouble.


The scene transitions and several large tables covered with baskets and piles of fish are revealed, children are seen working to clean and sort the fish. Azizi trying to escape the foreman's grip is placed behind one of the tables to join the others working.


As the foreman leaves, the others immediately begin to tease and mock Azizi. The action freezes for a moment, and we see the frustration of his circumstances take hold, things come back to life, and the other workers continue to make fun of Azizi as he has an aside and reveals his heart's desire – to play music. After continued teasing and a game of keep away, we learn not only that the fellow villagers won't let Azizi play the Engoni, but also that the instrument was a gift from his mother.


One of the boys throws the Engoni, Azizi goes to catch it, but in the process knocks over a large table of fish on the ground. The foreman, furious, fires Azizi, breaking his Engoni in a fit of rage. Azizi left distraught in the street, collects the pieces of his instrument and goes home.


We discover a well-kept shack in the quieter part of the village. Azizi arrives home distraught, broken Engoni in hand. We are introduced to Auntie Ouafa who is in the garden preparing muthi (traditional medicines), and we are informed that Azizi's father has not been home in two days. This conversation quickly changes as Ouafa notices Azizi's mood. Azizi, while trying to fix his Engoni, relays the events of the day and his frustration with feeling like an outsider and comparisons to his father. Azizi inquires, "When will I be great?" Ouafa comforts Azizi and reassures him that his time will come (“The Light in You"). 


Feeling inspired by his Aunt’s words, Azizi asks to practice before dinner. Ouafa approves and requests he plays his mother's song (“Part of Your Story"). As Azizi plays the song a ballet unfolds revealing vignettes of the life of Zilla (Azizi's mother) including her final moment on her deathbed. This evokes a wave of doubt and fear in Azizi and prompts Ouafa to produce a charm for him to wear. She informs him this was a trick taught to her by his mother to provide courage and protection, and this immediately comforts and encourages Azizi to make the story his own. The two exit arm in arm into the shack.


The Narrator emerges as the scene changes to show another street in the village where a man, Pel, is seen doing woodwork. The Narrator reflects on the past scene, and goes on to introduce us to Sam (Azizi's father) a magician, who as he says "with his magic wand, there's no telling what kind of trouble he could find himself."


Sam enters the scene inebriated, rifling through his magic bag and looking for a bottle. Pel, an old acquaintance of Sam's, notices him and calls out his sorry state. Sam turns without hesitation and with a flick of his wand makes the man's saw disappear. Pel demands Sam bring back the saw, Sam makes a feeble attempt to get the saw back, reaches into his bag and finds the bottle he was looking for, takes a long sip. Turns, and leaves. Pel hollers after him, saying, "You'll pay for this, Sam!"


Later that evening near sunset, we see Sam sitting on a stoop completely drunk now contemplating his situation.


Pel looms from the shadows, this time he is not alone, he presents an ultimatum asking for Sam to leave. Sam refuses and attempts to defend himself but is apprehended ("Sam's Capture). The mob continues to grow as Sam is paraded through town.


The Narrator emerges from the crowd and informs us that the villagers have called upon the Induna, who not only oversees several villages in the kingdom but is Sam's father-in-law, which also makes him Azizi's Grandfather ("The Induna"). All are now gathered in the center of town Sam at the center, hands bound, the crowd parts, and the Induna makes his way toward Sam, after identifying him by the name "Samuel Nuxmalo Luthili.” The Induna commences detailing his transgressions against the town, admitting once he thought Sam's intentions were good. But, after learning of his use of dark magic and drinking declares that Sam has not merely shamed himself but his beloved daughter Zilla, Sam's now deceased wife. This sends Sam into a fury as he retorts, "It is she in my life who has bore me the fruits of labor, love, and now pain."


The exchange escalates as the Induna does not take kindly to these words, the men argue fiercely and, in turn, reveal the first part of the punishment. The Induna plans to assume guardianship of Azizi and provide him "a home of stability.” Sam asserts that Azizi should have some say in the decision. The Induna accepts and calls for someone to go fetch Azizi. Moments later he arrives pushing through the crowd, Ouafa is close by, all present. The Induna divulges his judgment. Sam will be ostracized, made to live in the wild far from the village, and reiterates that Azizi will come live with him. Azizi and Ouafa object, but the Induna continues, criticizing Ouafa's care for Azizi and particularly his distaste for her support of his music. In defiance, Azizi cries out that he will not go and defends his position, saying "If you will not allow me to be myself, how can I trust you to truly care for me?" He goes on to say he will leave with his father. Sam gently pushes back against his son, but both soon concede that they made similar promises to Zilla to never leave one another's side.


Sam and Azizi are now settled on leaving together, the Induna voices his distaste for the outcome of the events but states he must stay resolute in his decision-making. He turns and begins to declaim for all to hear that the pair are now banished. All the village, sadly even Ouafa, turn their backs to Sam and Azizi, The Induna returns Sam's wand saying “Take your wand and your magic and you and your son go!!"


Left alone together for the first time in our tale, the two take the moment before Sam breaks the silence, thanking his son for standing by him (“Come On, Let's Go!"). We travel along with Sam and Azizi as they make their way far out of town, as they journey we see the two start to bond with each expressing how they will be better off leaving the village, despite their hope for things to come, it is clear there is still a large hole in the pair's relationship, we see both characters slip momentarily into waves of shared grief as they long for their missing link. The two seem to snap themselves off it and continue their journey. Lights fade.


Part 2


The curtain rises to reveal a beautiful Starry Night in the South African wild. Sitting beside a large rustic shack, we find Azizi and Sam around a fire finishing dinner. The Narrator enters, and they inform us that we are now later in the story and that Azizi and Sam have found themselves settled "far from town and steps away from the forest." The Narrator goes on to tell us that Sam will now share a story, one that is thought to just be a fairy tale.


Our focus shifts to Sam, who stands, wand in hand, producing images in the fire and smoke as he tells his son the story. ("The Story of Abiyoyo") Sam elucidates to his son that when he was his age the elders in the town used to tell a story about a giant who lived named Abiyoyo they would describe the beast as being "tall as a tree with eyes that sparkled with glee, and they spoke of his favorite meal children who did not listen well"


The lights change, and we see Azizi's reaction, he seems unfazed by the story intended to scare him. As the two settle in for bed, staring at the sky, they take in the beautiful evening. The moment stirs fond memories of Zilla. Azizi abruptly asks if Sam could have saved her life. Sam explains that there are limits to magic and that it can quickly leave you worse off. Azizi again pushes and the tension in the conversation escalates, leading Sam to reveal Zilla's cause of death, cancer. Sam tries to explain, but all Azizi can hear are excuses, in his dismay and frustration, takes his Engoni and runs into the woods. Sam, heartbroken and distraught, chases after his son.


We discover Azizi further in the woods, now tired from running he comes to a clearing and rests, in his despair, he tries to comfort himself by playing his mother's melody but becomes overwhelmed at that moment. The charm around his neck begins to glow, a voice is heard calling his name, a figure emerges from the darkness as it comes closer it is revealed to be that of Zilla, Her ghost approaches and comforts Azizi ("The Visit"). The two, enamored by each other's presence, begin to reconnect, and Zilla asks Azizi where his father is. Azizi goes on to explain their situation.  Sam at the same time is desperately searching in the woods for Azizi, when a familiar feeling washes over him, he can sense Zilla's presence, thinking it is a trick of the Woods. Sam expresses torment, and Zilla reveals that she can also sense Sam's presence. She reaches out a hand and a path magically appears directing Sam to their location.


Zilla eases Azizi's concern that little was done to save her life, she reminds him to "cherish what you already know could be gone too soon." Azizi says he will try as Sam enters the scene. Sam enters, astonished by what he sees, and runs to his wife to embrace her. Zilla goes on to explain that Auntie Ouafa has used a charm to protect them, and that she was drawn by Sam's call. Sam confesses that he and Azizi have been banished from the village. Sam ruminates on the fact that he has let their dreams become a campsite. Zilla begins to chide the two when she is interrupted and gripped by a powerful vision. She portents a beast with a "bottomless appetite and a heart of stone"  before collapsing. Sam and Azizi worried and confused collect themselves, Zilla now sapped, begins to fade. Sam and Azizi try to hold on. She informs them that she can't stay, and they must move on "together.”  Before Zilla disappears, she reinforces the bond between the two, reminding them of what they are living for. As Sam and Azizi become lost in their renewed connection, they are unaware that Zilla has vanished. The two collect themselves and exit the wilderness.


Back in the village things are pleasant, The Narrator enters and announces that one day, the sun rose, blood-red, high above the mountains. We see the townspeople waking, and life seems content ("Blood Red Sunrise”). Suddenly a shadow overtakes the stage, and the action becomes slow and fragmented. We are shown vignettes. The first is Pel's reaction, he reveals his fear and disbelief.  Next, Kiano recounts the ground shaking him to the core. Other townspeople begin to layer in revealing their experience “I heard women shrieking... I saw strong men faint… I ran!"


The ensemble comes together and informs us that it is Abiyoyo. As more details of the giant's destruction are revealed, we are left with the message to "Grab your most precious possessions and run!"


Meanwhile, the stage changes to show Sam and Azizi asleep in bed. The ground-shaking Azizi is the first to wake; he immediately notices the shaking and looks out the window. When he sees the beast, he persistently calls for his father to wake. Oblivious, Sam tries to continue to sleep, irritated he finally wakes up, alarmed and amazed he exclaims "Son... It's Abiyoyo!"


A dispute ensues between the two as Azizi urges his father that this is what Mama had cautioned them off, and they must help, Sam insists that if the roles were reversed, the townspeople would let them be ground to dust. Azizi retorts, "that they are family too..." Sam, with his wife's words in mind, admits that even if he wanted to help, he's never made anything that large disappear. They begin to ponder possible solutions when Sam turns to Azizi and contends it could work if they could get the giant to lie down, a plan forms for Azizi, He takes his father's hand, and they exit towards the town.


As they make their way through the village, now in shambles, Townspeople can be heard jeering the pair. Pel stepping forward proclaims "You'll get us killed"

Azizi pushes past the men, excoriating them for being cowards, saying "Running is not the answer!"


The Narrator steps forward as Azizi and Sam make their way to where the giant stands. He goes on to describe what the pair sees. Razor-sharp fingernails, gnarly teeth, be-dragged feet, eyes full of hate and hunger. As our heroes take in this sight in amazement the giant raises his arm to strike, at that moment Azizi steps forward ("Abiyoyo"). Before the giant can strike, Azizi raises his arm and begins to play what sounds like a lullaby. This song startles and surprises the Giant. As the song continues, Azizi grows in tempo, and as he starts to dance about the Giant's feet, Sam warns his son to come back. We also hear several townspeople and children, hiding, question his sanity. Sam is the first to notice something is changing in the Giant, Sam exclaims "The Giant understands... look at his eyes"


Our narrator appears and explains "The giant did understand, he had never heard a song about himself, and it pleased him so much that he began to dance.” This encourages Azizi to play faster and faster, the Giant caught off guard, staggers, everything seems to move in slow motion as the Giant falls.  Sam steps forward “Zoop, zoop, zoop.” The Giant disappears.


The crowd begins to cheer, but they are quickly silenced by the entrance of the Induna (“The Resolve”). They part as he passes through the crowd with his men, and sternly, the Induna points out that they should not be there. Sam fearing more trouble agrees and says they should go. The indefatigable Azizi puts himself between the men and insists the pair has to help; it's what his mother would have wanted. He informs the Induna that they were visited by her and that she reminded them of something that he knows very well. "We are family; stronger, together, we grow." The Induna, flabbergasted by his grandson's courage and wisdom, reflects on these words and praises Azizi for these qualities. The Induna turns to the gathering and announces that for "their bravery and quickness of hand," they shall be welcomed back into the community. The crowd erupts into celebration, gathering around Sam and Azizi, thanking them.


The Narrator appears and describes the scene in detail. A village of elated people running, shouting, celebrating. They say things like, “come back to town; bring the Engoni, we don't care.” As the commotion clears, and festivities to celebrate the defeat of the Giant commence, we see Sam and Azizi together, alone for a moment. They talk and reflect on the journey that they've been on, the growth and the strength they have found in one another.


Azizi ponders the possible return of the Giant, though worried Sam assures his son that together, they can do it again. Sneaking up behind them, Ouafa surprises the two mid-conversation, embracing Azizi and doting on him. She expresses her joy at being reconnected, and Sam shares in the pride. Ouafa interrupts telling the pair to listen, as we hear in the distance the village begins to sing Azizi's song, The three grow in excitement and relish their renewed connection to their community, legacy, and family. The ensemble fills the stage and makes their way through the town parading and celebrating singing “Abiyoyo,” lifting Azizi and Sam high above their heads. They continue to celebrate as they fade into the distance. The lights begin to lower, and a small Iscathamiya group sweeping the streets can be seen as the curtain closes.

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