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Jun 06

so the story unfolds… to music….

To bridge from the last little rant of passion, I want just set the scene… It was a dark night in Harare. The stars are shining brightly in the sky as the cold descends to greet the people below. Warmth would protect them soon though familiar African means. A rhythm started. A djembe and a marimba set the tone. The eagerly anticipating audience start to slowly move on their seats in sync with the rhythm. Brendon, Samson and Tapuwa takes the stage. Normally Brendon wears a Brazil jersey when in his unfamiliar environment. Today he is in his familiar environment. Today he is the lead singer of the majestic afro-fusion Zimbabwean band called Gwarimba. Today he is home and he has invited his friends to share this moment. Today its HIFA.. This was the day. As the first intense beats ring out, I make my way to the front of the stage. The only mzungu white man dancing to the beats alone in front of many. I dont care. Its what you feel and not what others make you feel like. I am soon joined by one and many as this is the way it is here. Music is life. Dance is life. Its the heartbeat and when you feel it, you know you are there. This was the day and maybe even the moment. Harare was the city and Zimbabwe was the country. Its now.

Its HIFA.

The Harare international Festival of Arts has been going on for 14 years. Like many random festivals, I heard about it through word of mouth. People who have been here and have told me that it is a must. I have been culturally depraved from all the travel and the apparent lack of diversity of arts and music in Lusaka. Having, thus, the opportunity to spend a week in a city where there would be music, dance, theatre and a vibe familiar to what us Europeans know was one I had to embrace.

Zimbabwean music was a genre as such that I was unfamiliar with. Kenyan and Ethiopian music, I knew before. In addition my love of Malian and Senegalese music, but Zimbabwean… I didn’t know what to expect. Well… pffffff… Lets just say I got a wonderful slap in the face with my first artist, a gentleman by the name of Jah Prayzah. Jasussss… Billed as contemporary reggae, this man and his team of army uniform clad dancers and singers proceeded to throw out song after song that sent the crowd, that I was under the control of, wild with frenzied dancing. “Eeeewway… Welcome to Zimbabwe” one gentleman said with a broad honest smile on his face. Yup.. it was a welcome and a half and set the tone for what was to a festival of constant surprise.

From the music side, Jah Prayzah started the fun on Tuesday. Baba Maal finished it for me on Saturday joining the continent in music. There were just so many wonderful bands like the aforementioned Gwarimba who brought the crowd to its feet with captivating Zimbabwean traditional songs.

Club Shenga rocked and enchanted during an early afternoon session afro-beat style.

The mesmerising Prudence during a spoken word performance sung every word with honesty and beauty.

Netsayi and the Black Pressure showed how African music can be modern, engaging, thought provoking while maintaining the traditional dynamic at the same time.

Tariro Negitare and the Djembe Monks, hailing from the musically vibrant Bolawayo fused house tunes with crazy djembe beats that added warmth to a cooling Zimbabwean day.

There was an international feel too with us Irish being represented in stomping Celtic fashion by Teada, a bunch of gobeens from Sligo, Kerry and Tyrone. When the main character, Paul Finn, shouted out for the people from West Kerry, a mad roar from the crowd came out. West Kerry on Tour in Zimbabwe.. would you have guessed it. Well we are everywhere then.

A funky folk band from Portugal called Anaquim showed their true Portuguese colours, with full confident attitude and catchy tunes throughout, though brought the crowd to a mesmerising silence with a powerful cover from their hero Zeca Alfonso.

This festival was quality from end to end, with only one exception which doesn’t deserve to be mentioned. Ah ok.. maybe they do.. they are called the Magnets.. avoid at all cost!!!!

After a week of dancing, I have to say I am getting familiar with the ways and means of getting down with it East African style. I don’t get laughed at as much and well more I think that the locals find it amusing that a beardy Jesus looking white man can (try) grove the same as them.

Music was one part.. theatre, dance and spoken word were the others.. that is another story my friend.

They will get their own place… because for now… the story is about that day.. that moment and that beat.. and it was truly the music that brought me there.

Though, it is selfish to even say that it was just music or this festival that captivated me. Behind all this the festival could only exist with a city to support it and people to make it happen. And this is where this story finds balance. Every day, every step you took, every person you met, you were greeted with a smile. And not just a smile, a greeting, a few words, maybe even more than that. This festival was a festival of people. Some had a story to tell through words, music and dance. Others just were there to show that part of their story was this festival and they were there to either help and volunteer or just partake. It was impossible not to make friends, not to listen to their stories as they just wanted to share and not to feel that they wanted to know yours too. So to my new friends, Zimbabwean and Worldly, you know who you are, thank you for this week and for making it so special.

2 comments

  1. Hannah

    Looks incredible! The music, the dancing, the rhythm… ah, I’d like to say it was my favourite thing about Africa but that would be a lie as I have far too many other ‘favourites’.

  2. samson gohwa

    Hie its Gwarimba,thanx for the preview God BlessYou.

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