The Sunday Mail
Takudzwa Chihambakwe and Zandile Zaza Ndlovu
MANY festivals, including the country’s flagship arts fete, the Harare International Festival of the Arts, may have failed to take place this year, but many others still managed to happen despite the economic hardships.
Our correspondents attended three events that took place over the past few weeks and below are their reports.
Jacaranda Fest exposes Zim acts
Growth is critical in anything that the human being sets his or her mind on. Therefore, it is worrying when one remains at the same level.
Unfortunately, some performances by Zimbabwean acts at the recently held Jacaranda Music Festival showed stagnancy. The perfomances showed that most bands are not aggressively rehearsing to improve their performances.
The same progressions that audiences have been exposed to for years have been maintained. Nothing has changed at all, thereby making the delivery monotonous.
On the flipside, rehearsal space has become very expensive in the capital. While this is the excuse given by many artistes, it is unacceptable for a performer worthy of a slot at Jacaranda.
Away from the rehearsal factor, some acts are yet to understand their own capabilities. While bad days in the office might occur as was the case with Mokoomba at this festival, it should not be the case on such big platforms. Mokoomba failed to come alive at Jacaranda.
Artistes need to abide by basic things like knowing their vocal ranges. An artiste with a cracked voice, like Roki, should not attempt very high notes – it just messes up everything.
In 2016, as Roki launched his album, the “Number 1” singer had already damaged his larynx as he failed to hit the high notes on the hit tune “Chidzoka”.
Three years later, knowing his situation very well, Roki attempted to hit the high notes again and boom, it was a disaster. Come on Roki.
Another aspect which needs to be engrained in the artistes’ minds, particularly the budding ones, is that they should not take the stage for granted. Please respect the craft.
Watching some of the lads performing explained why they were not part of the line-up last year.
But, not everything was bad at the festival, Mbeu really shined.
Having seen him in action last year on the same stage, it was obvious that the artiste has grown and is working hard in his craft. His new guitarist, bassist and drummer have given him the ability to create good rhythms that move the heart.
Kudos to the organisers for not getting tempted to bring the so-called crowd pullers and compromising their vision. They even managed to pull in more numbers than last year on the Saturday of the festival without having to put up a single poster in town. Keeping the city clean.
Noble Stylez, Airforce Band in Shoko Fest magic
An unlikely combination between the Airforce of Zimbabwe Band and award-winning hip-hop act, Prince “Noble Stylez” Butawo, took the Shoko Festival stage by storm.
At the closing event held in Chitungwiza, a predominantly Zim dancehall fan base was treated to a masterfully crafted performance.
The arrival was epic.
Playing Iyasa’s “S’jaiva Sibancane”, the band, fully clad in their military fatigues, marched towards the stage, much to the delight of the audience.
What came next was a moment of sheer brilliance. With acoustic guitarist Elliot in tow, came Noble Stylez in typical hip-hop regalia – sweat pants, t-shirt, cap, boots and the bling to seal the look.
With high energy from start to end, he had the audience both mesmerised and curious as to what lay ahead for this mix of sounds.
The Sunday Mail Society caught up with Noble Styles, who had not performed for a while.
“I’ve been known for what’s termed ‘ghosting’, a situation where you show up where and when you deem fit, then disappear till the next time you desire. Shoko Festival is an institution I have worked with for six years now and they keep reinventing themselves, and bringing in new challenges, hence when the call came I had no second thoughts,” said Noble Styles.
He spoke about the inspiration behind the collaboration.
“The good folks at Shoko Festival introduced the mash-up concept in 2018 and this time around we decided to go across genres to assemble two worlds that have never been in the same artistic realm to create something epic.
“The Zimbabwe Airforce Band was so welcoming to the fusion and working with them was such a vibe. We bounced ideas on how we were going to approach this set and agreed on mashing-up as many sounds, genres and art forms. We are glad we pulled it off.”
Indeed, the performance was an interesting mixture of sounds – starting off on an acoustic tip fused with traditional rhymes and a bit of Katekwe. In the end, Noble Stylez just stepped into the Zim dancehall turf and left the audience begging for more.
Said Noble Stylez about the performance: “The biggest lesson from that set was that limitations only exist in the mind. In practice, the amount of potential is limitless. Currently, we have seen what I would like to call ‘the top three songs of the year’. They have been made by artistes of different genres collaborating. From the Winky D and Gemma, to Ishan and Ti-gonzi and recently Freeman and (Alick) Macheso. Those musical pieces are what mash-ups are about and we hope to see that continue as this music landscape progresses to become an industry.”
Local bands headline Gwanda Gospel Fest
The annual Gwanda Gospel Festival, hosted by Justice Maphosa of Big Time Strategic Group, saw this year’s edition being dominated by local bands.
Traditionally, the festival is headlined by South African gospel music heavyweights.
However, in what was hailed as a welcome move to promote local musicians and give them access to wider audiences, the festival deliberately chose to focus on local gospel bands that have steadily been making their mark on the local scene.
Harvest House Choir pulled the biggest surprise performance with the instant runaway success of its lead vocalist, Siphosenkosi Ncube, who had the whole stadium calling for more.
With a golden voice and electrifying dance moves that would put Michael Jackson’s signature Moonwalk to shame, Ncube, also known as Snowie, had the audience eating out of his hands.
In an interview, Ncube said, “Our choir is only two years old, and I feel it is such a blessing to have the Holy Spirit use me like it did today to perform in front of so many people. I thank God for this. I do not rehearse my dance moves. I feed off the energy of the audience. It comes naturally to me.”
The Harvest House Choir is also known for having worked with gospel superstar, Gwanda-born Takesure Zamar Ncube. Ncube was a favourite from the audience.
Joyful Praise, another youthful band known for their hit song “Ngoro Yeminana”, also put up a spirited performance. Other local bands that were given their moment in the spotlight were Vocal X, Hybrid Psalmz and Indosakusa.
Mathias Mhere, Mkhululi Bhebhe and Takesure Zamar closed the festival with high-octane performances.