From the news desk

VOC unveils Tuan Guru drama

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After months of hard work behind the scenes, VOC has finally launched its radio drama detailing the life and history of Tuan Guru, one of the great icons of Islam in the Cape. The story was researched, written and compiled by the late Moulana Yusuf Karaan, originally in the format of a play. Prior to the scholar’s unfortunate passing, he handed five plays to VOC in the hopes that they could be adapted for radio.

Imam Abdullah ibn Abdus Salaam – known better as Tuan Guru – is praised as one Cape Town’s most revered Islamic scholars and much of the Cape’s Islamic heritage stems from his influence.

A noble prince from the Trimate islands, Tuan Guru was banished to Robben Island, where he wrote a book on Islamic Jurisprudence as well as several copies of the Holy Qur’an from memory. His books became the reference work of the Cape Muslims in the 19th century and much of what we as Muslims practice today has been carried over from these books.

Tuan Guru made various significant contributions to the Islamic faith such as fight for a venue for the community to perform Friday prayers and establishing an Islamic madrasah. The Kramat of Tuan Guru is located in the Bo Kaap Muslim cemetery.

With the help of famed radio drama director, Nigel Vermaas, who rewrote the play for radio, the station has been able to bring fruit to Karaan’s vision. Three prominent local voice actors have also come on board to bring the story to life.

Building on the concept that “radio drama is a theatre of the mind”, Vermaas said the drama would afford listeners to evoke and establish their own images of what the life of Tuan Guru would have been like.

“You make up your own pictures. When you hear the play Tuan Guru you will each imagine a different person. It is not like a movie where what you see is what you get. On radio everyone is having an individual experience,” he explained.

Nigel Vermaas briefs the actors
Nigel Vermaas briefs the actors

The lead role of Tuan Guru is to be played by prominent theatre and TV actor Faruq Vally-Omar, who expressed pride at being granted the opportunity to take up the prestigious role.

“Years ago, Munier Parker [XCon productions] did a short film on Tuan Guru and I played the part in that. So when Nigel approached me I grabbed it with both hands, because I have worked with him before,” he said.

Recording in session at the SABC studios
Recording in session at the SABC studios

Omar’s voice will be accompanied by that of fellow voice actors Roysten Stoffels, who is to play the role of a father narrating the story, and Jill Levenberg who will take up the role of Tuan Guru’s wife, Khadija van de Kaap.

VOC programming manager, Mishka Daries, who served as cultural adviser for the drama, went into the process of production.

“I didn’t expect it to take so quickly. I think it took Nigel one week to rewrite and adapt the script for radio, and the next week we had our actors confirmed. Two weeks later we recorded and that was done over a single day,” she explained.

The actors go over their lines
The actors go over their lines

The first episode of the Tuan Guru drama officially aired on Tuesday morning at 8:20am, with a repeat set to be aired at 6pm tonight. The second and third episodes will follow on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. If you are miss any of the episodes, a complete airing of the drama in its entirety will be broadcast on Friday from 7:20pm onwards. VOC

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