The Sunday Mail
THE SHOKO Festival runs from September 28 to 30 with three venues taking turns to host the fete: Reps Theatre, Harare City Library and Chitungwiza Community Hall Grounds. The Sunday Mail Society’s Andrew Moyo caught up with festival founder Sam Munro aka Comrade Fatso, who explained the event’s change in strategy.
Q: It appears this year’s edition of Shoko Festival has a new format . . .
A: Indeed. We are re-imagining it. We will have the Hub Unconference, which is happening on Friday September 28 at the Harare City Library. There is also Shoko Comedy Night, that same Friday at Reps Theatre. This will be a big comedy extravaganza with stand-up comedy, improvised comedy and comedy interviews.
On Saturday we will have the “Zim Hip-Hop Summit” happening at the Harare City Library. During the night we will use the City Library grounds for the mashup night where we are putting together a lot of really cool collaborations from hip-hop and house to traditional music.
Sunday will be the main event, Peace in the Hood, happening in Chitungwiza at the Unit L Community Hall grounds.
Q: Is there a particular reason why you had to restructure the event?
A: We did this because we don’t want to take our audience for granted. As people get used to the same format each year it can become a bit stale so we wanted to flip it up and focus on some of the things that we are passionate about and that our audience loves.
So we have made Peace in the Hood the main event this year because it has grown to become the biggest event at Shoko over the years with over 5 000 young people coming through every year, so we wanted to give it the props it deserves.
We are taking the comedy night to Reps because it has also become such a popular part of the programme and we want to present a really different comedy event that’s not just stand-up comedy but a themed event with many surprises and game shows.
With the Mashups Night, we want to take Shoko back to the original founding ideas where we present cool mashups and collaborations between Zimbabwean artistes and international acts from different genres that helps to grow the urban culture and urban music scene in Zimbabwe.
We will have everything from Tamy, a rising star in Zimbabwe, doing a collaboration with a hip-hop group from Norway. We have some cool collaborations which will see hip-hop fusing with vapostori music and so on.
Q: Is this new format not a step back for the festival?
A: It is still a three-day festival as it was last year but we have just changed the focus somewhat, making the Saturday night a bit smaller and the Sunday bigger.
Based on what the strengths of Shoko have been over the years, I think we really needed to give the focus this year to the Peace in the Hood event, which is so unique because it brings top international and local acts into the hood, in Chitungwiza.
Q: What can you say will be some of the highlights at this year’s festival?
A: I think the comedy night will be a lot of fun because we are going to be pushing a lot of boundaries with that and Fahan Esat is a really great comedian to be headlining that.
He has been nominated several times at the Comic Choice Awards in South Africa, he is building a great name for himself that side.
Besides headline acts there are several other artistes that people should look forward including Tulk Munny, T Shock and Maforty-40, who is a rising comedy star from Bulawayo.
Q: This festival has hosted such megastars like Tony Rebel, AKA, Cassper Nyovest and HHP. Why bring little known Moonchild Sanelly this time around?
A: We decided to rope in Moonchild because we did not want to be predictable. Sometimes you want to bring in major acts that everyone knows and other times you also want to bring in the next big thing and an act that is going to challenge people’s perceptions.
I think that is what Moonchild is about. She is defining urban music in South Africa. She is defining street fashion and she has such a dynamic stage performance and I think that’s something that can also be a great inspiration to young alternative urban artistes in Zimbabwe.
It is important for us to have a female headline act.
Q: What can you say about Shoko from the days of its infancy to date?
A: The festival has definitely been evolving, this being our eighth edition. It’s been a great journey and we learn as we go and I think what we are about is staying true to urban culture, supporting cutting edge new hip-hop acts, spoken word artistes dancehall acts and giving them a platform that supports free expression.
We are definitely the longest running urban cultural festival in the country and we have managed to put a show every year since 2011. It is very demanding to put a festival together but we thank our determined and committed team that makes it happen.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have come across over the years?
A: The economic situation to difficulty in finding sponsorships, all the way through to artistes cancelling last minute and having to find replacements.
Q: What does the future hold for Shoko Fest?
A: We want to carry on innovating and experimenting while supporting urban culture and free expression. Helping to grow the amazing urban arts scene that we have in Zimbabwe and to keep finding ways to make it the best festival where people feel it is really something dope.
Q: What do you think needs to be done to improve the country’s festival circuit?
A: We are such a creative country, which has so many amazing artistes and I am sure if the economic situation improves, we can have more space for more festivals to emerge because we already have a few that really work.