Kenyan-British children’s animation classic ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ is headed to Broadway

Tinga Tinga Tales, Kenya’s popular children’s musical which is based on African folk tales from the animal kingdom, will debut in New York for two weeks from 13 – 20 October.

The musical consists of African folklore, storytelling, and live music, written and directed by British producer and multi-Bafta award winner Claudia Lloyd, and Kenyan celebrity pop singer/songwriter Eric Wainaina (Mo Faya, New York Theatre Festival).

Animal characters are strong features of the African storytelling tradition, and the cartoon taps into this age-old tradition by using Kenyan children’s fables to explain questions from the animal kingdom, such as why the giraffe’s neck is long and how the chameleon got its colours. 

First produced in April 2016, Tinga Tinga Tales – the Musical has billed itself as an interactive show suitable for children and adults, with a stellar cast that includes Eddie Kimani, Alvan Gatitu, Ray Kibet, Miriam Macharia, Kendi Nkonge and Karimi Wamae Rimbui. The band includes Benjamin Kabaseke, Victor Kimetto, Marvin Maveke, Ted Mwangi, Tetu Shani and Chris Adwar.

Cast members of the popular children’s show Tinga Tinga Tales perform at Kenya’s National Theatre in Nairobi, Kenya, 28 September, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The production is named after Tinga Tinga, an art movement from Tanzania that originated in the 1970s from the art style of the late Edward Saidi Tingatinga. Today, hundreds of artists produce work inspired by his vividly coloured paintings of animals, cultural narratives and elaborate designs against flat colour backgrounds. The show, inspired by the book and television series of the same name by Llyod, will play at the New Victory Theatre in New York City, the only full-time Broadway theatre for children and families. The cartoon show has about 50 episodes.

“I’m thrilled to be able to give back to an audience that I’ve borrowed so much from,” said Wainaina, who also plays the lead character Monkey. “We all borrow from each other and I’m really happy to go and show this African manifestation of all this music that I’ve been listening to.”

Lloyd excited to bring East African children’s tales, visual arts and music tradition to the United States said to Reuters, “There’s no reason why this couldn’t tour around the world. I would love it to go to pan-African capital cities and spread the Tinga-love a bit.”

Tinga Tinga Tales was staged to audiences at the Kenya National Theatre for a month in September. According to the director, the show has the potential to reach a much broader audience than the one it has so far entertained.