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Juwon Ogungbe presents King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
Acclaimed composer and singer Juwon Ogungbe’s thrilling new music-theatre piece, brings to life the Ethiopian legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Influenced by African musical genres and Opera – from the continent and its Diaspora – the legend of the first Emperor of the Solomonic Dynasty is told by two female Rastafari devotees, traveling to the Shashamane commune in Ethiopia that the last reigning Emperor, Haile Selassie, donated to the Rastafari faith.
Juwon Ogungbe said: “On a visit to Ethiopia several years ago, I visited their National Gallery. I became really inspired by the exhibit of the Queen of Sheba’s compound. After hearing her story, the seduction by King Solomon and the birth of their son, I wanted to retell this legend that has so much importance and symbolic value in African history. I’m really excited to share this story with audiences in the Uk and abroad.”
The first performance of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba was at Theatre Peckham with an ensemble of classical singers from diverse heritages, and a youth chorus from Theatre Peckham, in a semi-staged presentation, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Juwon Ogungbe is a distinguished opera singer and composer, as well as a performer in a range of other genres. He has composed for the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. In 2018, his operatic works have been in various stages of development at Opera North, Grimeborn Opera Festival (Arcola Theatre) and at the Dhow Countries Music Academy, Zanzibar. More information about Ogungbe’s work can be found at www.juwonogungbe.com and www.afrocentriccreatives.com
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Contact: Juwon Ogungbe
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Notes to Editors:
- The performance is to be semi staged
- The ensemble will comprise of classical singers of diverse heritages, a youth chorus and a piano accompanist.
- The piece is inspired by the Ethiopian legend about the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem. As a result of the time they spent together, the Queen gave birth to Menelik I – the first Ethiopian Emperor of the Solomonic Dynasty. Haile Selassie was the last reigning Emperor to come from this lineage.
- The story is also of significance to the Rastafari Movement, because of Haile Selassie’s divine status within the faith.
- The piece features a subplot about two female Rastafari devotees who meet in the airport at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are both on their way to Shashamane – the Rastafari commune that lives on land that was donated to the faith’s devotees by Haile Selassie.
- These devotees discuss the marginalisation of women in Rastafari ceremonies, known as Groundings. Eventually they draw inspiration from the assertive and adventurous spirit that motivated the Queen of Sheba to travel to Jerusalem to visit Solomon. Without the Queen of Sheba, the Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopian Emperors would never have existed. They decide to keep on negotiating with the men for reform in the practice of their rituals.