Potpourri of arts at Hifa

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Dobet Gnahoré

Mthandazo Dube
In three weeks and one day, Zimbabwe’s premier arts event, the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa), roars into life.The Sunday Mail Leisure can exclusively reveal top international and local artistes taking part in the six-day arts fiesta that runs from April 29 to May 4.

The internationally acclaimed festival will offer a potpourri of arts from its main genres of music, craft and design, spoken word, theatre, fashion and dance.

More than two dozen nationalities will be represented at this year’s Hifa with more than 150 performances being staged during the festival.

Leading the music line-up and rightly being accorded the honour of closing the show aptly themed, Switch On, is multi-award-winning South African Afro-fusion group Freshlyground.

Freshlyground, which has carved out a massive global following, plays a fusion of rock, jazz and Afro-pop. The band draws fans from young and old alike.

The group returns to Harare after taking the world by storm with its collaboration with Colombian pop star Shakira on Waka Waka, which was the official song of the 2010 Fifa World Cup held in South Africa.

Freshlyground’s numerous awards include four South African Music Awards, four Metro FM Awards and an MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act— a first for any South African musician.

But it is the return to the Telecel Main Stage by award-winning singer, dancer and percussionist, Dobet Gnahoré from Côte d’Ivoire, that will see festival-goers spoilt for choice.

If Gnahore’s 2008 performance on the same stage and same day, a Thursday, is anything to go by, music lovers should brace themselves for an energetic act from the talented musician.

Gnahore’s act will be flanked by a performance by Cape Verdian guitarist, Tcheka, who performs in the afternoon and pop group Chef’Special from the Netherlands, the group that will round off the May Day performances.

But the aforementioned are not the only top acts on the Telecel Main Stage at this year’s festival.

First off will be the ever-popular Hifa Opening Show on BancABC day, Tuesday April 29, which is entitled Light Up the Darkness.

According to the organisers, this year’s Opening Show “draws inspiration from our theme this year, from the resilience of Zimbabwe’s artistic community, from our communal search for enlightenment, and from Doris Lessing’s story, ‘‘The Sun Between Their Feet’’ which tells of the repeated determined attempts of two dung beetles to scale the heights of a rock with their precarious cargo. . .”

Hifa’s head of media and community liaison, Tafadzwa Simba, said as has become the norm, this year’s opening act will still involve the largest contingent of Zimbabwean performers in a single show.

“A large part of the opening show’s popularity resides in the fact that it is designed to involve as many of the different acts that would have already arrived by the festival’s opening as possible. This is also the show that takes the longest to prepare from scratch and involves the largest contingent of Zimbabwean performers in a single show, an average of about 120 Zimbabwean artistes per Opening Show,” said Simba.

The musical anchor for the show will be provided by a team of accomplished South African and Zimbabwean jazz musicians. Zimbabwe’s Tumbuka Dance Company and Barefeet Theatre Zambia are amongst those to keep an eye out for during the opening show.

As per tradition, Wednesday will see Opera under the stars in the CABS Opera Gala. The Zimspiration Choir trained by Kundisai Mtero will join soloists from the United States and South Africa in a night of high-calibre musical feats.

Soon after the Opera on the same night will be a country band from the USA by the name Blended 328.

“Again, against stereotype, this band, though highly experienced in terms of gigs and tours, is comprised of highly accomplished academic professors of music,” said Simba.

One of the most popular days, Friday — the Golden Pilsener Day — will see a set of three shows taking place at the Telecel Main Stage.

Netsayi Chingwendere and Black Pressure will serenade festival-goers with her “Afro-folk” sounds. Fresh off a successful performance stint in New York, Netsayi will be introducing audiences to her latest material.

The early evening on Friday will usher to the stage Irish group Dervish. The highly experienced group’s authentic and distinctive Irish sound has been recognised by artistes such as James Brown, The Buena Vista Social Club, Oasis, Sting and REM who have all performed with Dervish at concerts throughout the world.

From Congo via Paris comes Rhumba outfit Black Bazar to round off Friday’s Main Stage Programme. Black Bazar’s music is deeply rooted in the genre’s cultural and instrumental traditions, while also opening up a distinctive new dimension, described by the German Press as “Dancehall Rumba”.

Coca-Cola Day, Saturday 3 May, starts off with German outfit Jamaram, the reggae group that last performed at Hifa in 2012 in collaboration with highly rated Zimbabwean reggae singer Mic Inity aka Mike Madamombe.

This time around, they present a “Reggae, Rock ’n Roll Circus”, drawing from the experience they have gained from having performed well over 1 000 live shows across the world.

One of South Africa’s hottest musical revelations at the moment, Toya Delazy, has the early evening slot.

Zimbabwean audiences will easily recognise the Pump it On hit-maker and fashionista who comes to Harare with her full band having garnered much airplay on radio and television.

The DJ party makes a return to the Main Stage with a yet-to-be revealed line-up of table turners closing off day five of Hifa.

To get things rolling on the final Hifa day, Sunday May 4, which is Old Mutual Day, will be multi-National Arts Merit Awards winning Zimbabwean superstar, Jah Prayzah, who makes his Hifa Main Stage debut this year.

Jah Prayzah will take the family show slot from 12 pm to 1 pm, where Alick Macheso, Suluman Chimbetu and Winky D have previously taken their acts to.

Simba said, “The afternoon slots are designed to allow families, especially those with younger children, who otherwise cannot see their local superstars perform in night clubs or at late-night shows.”

Away from music, other highlights include a high-octane theatre programme with shows such as the Australian production, A Simple Space, Blessing Hungwe’s Lovers in Time and the award-winning South African production based on a novel by Zakes Mda, Madona of Excelsior.

Another stand-out element of this year’s programme is the fashion component. The inaugural edition of HIFAshion, presented at Hifa 2013, was a runaway success. No less than three fashion programmes will be on offer with the marquee fashion show bringing in designers from around Zimbabwe as well as abroad. Co-ordinated by fashion guru Shamiso Ruzvidzo, the fashion component this year is set to take a permanent place within the Hifa structures.

Started in 1999, Hifa’s main aim, according to the executive director Maria Wilson, has been “to present a platform that contributes to the long-term cultural development of Zimbabwean arts by providing a showcase for the promotion of Zimbabwean artistes and a forum for the discussion, exchange of ideas and skills with artistes from other countries and cultures. This will be achieved primarily through organising and staging a multi-national festival that is comprised of performers from within Zimbabwe and from abroad.”

 

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