The Sunday Mail
Tinashe Kusema Unplugged
This has been the never-ending story of the Harare International Festival of the Arts in its fight for legitimacy – both locally and internationally- and most importantly in its quest for innovation and creativity. However, from an artistic point of view, let us give the devil its due, Hifa has grown in leaps and bounds, their plays are ground-breaking and most of their shows are always on point.
The idea to give Zim dancehall’s poster chanter Winky D a permanent slot on Saturdays is a stroke of genius for “the Ninja President” commands a following second to no other in the genre and the lunch-time slot on Saturday guarantees that they will milk that cow dry. The fact that it is in the Coca- Cola Green and free speaks volumes for the minds behind this stellar brand.
Last year’s closing ceremony featuring the face of Zimbabwean music himself, pulled a record audience.
So now the question beckons: Why, oh, why, are they bringing back Freshly Ground? Whose brain dead idea was it to bring this washed-out afro pop group whose last performance was hardly anything to talk about and who later went on to spit on the faces of this great nation we call home?
Freshly Ground, the South African band featuring South African, Zimbabwean and Mozambican artistes, is set to be the closing act on May 2 on the Old Mutual Day at the Telecel Main Stage.
Tickets are pegged at $25 per person. At first glance, there are so many things wrong with the above statement. First, you have a washed-out group whose claim to fame happened about a decade ago when they released their second album “Nomvula” and the song “Doo Be Doo”.
Jump two albums “Ma’Cheri 2007” and “Radio Africa 2010” and vocals on the 2010 FIFA World Cup theme song and you have basically narrated the story of Freshly Ground, from most Zimbabweans’ stand points. Now with an average story like that, it boggles the mind why Hifa has chosen Freshly Ground as their main act and pegged such a ridiculous amount on the show.
This is when you have better drawcards locally like Jah Prayzah, an ever-growing genre in dancehall and most importantly Judgment Yard having a free show running concurrently at the Coca-Cola Green. My biggest gripe with this idiotic move is Freshly Ground’s recent track record with this fair nation. Shortly after their flirtation with Hifa, last time around, they went on to release the controversial song “Chicken Song”, and I only use the word “controversial” because the ones I had in mind are not fit for a family paper.
In the song, which was a collaboration with South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, the group takes satirical swipes at our leader, President Mugabe, spitting in the face of his legacy, sacrifices and fight for the nation. Not only was the song, and its accompanying video, in bad taste, but their return (Freshly Ground) is ill-timed given the country just celebrated its independence recently.
What has changed since the release of that song and they subsequently failed to perform in Harare because of that, and now? Will Freshly Ground address the song and give this great country the much-needed and belated apology? What was the rationale behind bringing Freshly Ground back and what does Hifa stand to benefit or prove by even inviting them?