FANS were milling in from about 6pm at the Bulawayo Theatre this past Saturday night.
Billed Africa Day concert, the line up artistes had Jeys Marabini (Afro-pop), Willis Wataffi Afrika (Afro-pop), The Outfit (Afro-jazz), Bozoe (folk), XMile (Afro-soul), Eve Kawadza (Afro jazz) and Djembe Monks (tribal house).
Upstarts Alana (of Juice Box fame), jazz chanteuse Thandi Dhlana and one DeLuks completed the bill alongside some contemporary dancers from Studio 13 in Bradfield called Cory and Trish.
The glamorous Mbo Mahocs
Local fashionista and celebrity Mbo Mahocs decked in an animal skin ensemble, jeans and sky high stilettos emceed the event with young Tawanda.
The audience was multi-coloured with folks from the coloured, white and black communities perched in their seats as the show began with a drumming group that was later followed by Drummers for Jesus artistes Obey Mudiwa and Erastus Nleya.
Opening for singers was Alaina, an eighteen-year-old singer straight out of MTV Base. Yes she began her set with the famous Miriam Makeba standard Igqika. It was a brave attempt for someone whose first language is English. The crowd loved it. Her second song came with a dress change that included jean shorts and black shirt giving her the funky street look youngsters rock on our streets these days.
Thus began Juice Box, her ZiFM hit song and I can tell you that she is a cross between Nicky Minaj and Rihanna.
She raps and sings. Somehow though, this kind of groove doesn’t fly without the props. She needs to add the dancers to her set so they can help enhance the visual.
She represents obviously, a generation of our over sexualised youth who seem addicted to the repetitive drone of what they call popular music these days.
Maybe I am just an old guy who has become a tad too jaded to appreciate music that is computer generated.
Maybe I love the sound of the live guitar a little too much. But Alaina is the real deal in terms of her singing ability. No doubt.
Thandi Dhlana, a serious talent came on afterward and she transported the audience with her Afro-jazz stylising. Was she born in the wrong country? Oh, but the audience loved her as she delivered a very polished awe inspiring set. The young woman was formerly produced by DJ Face (aka Thulani Nyashanu) who moved to South Africa.
She is now being handled by young producer Percy. Other stand out performers were Outfit, Bozoe and Eve Kawadza from Harare with her commanding stage presence who did covers of Prudence Katomeni’s BP while being backed by former Jazz Invitation keyboardist Filbert Marova, Reason Mpofu on bass and Erastus Nleya on drums further entrenching the idea of collaborations that the event organiser Butshilo Nleya is pushing these days.
Kings and Princes
If Jeys Marabini is king of local music then X-Mile is crown prince.
Young X-Mile is just a very gifted singer songwriter. His is a talent without many peers and on Africa Day he literally gave the master class with his prodigious vocal technique.
The thing with his music is that it has substance and it does embrace his Ndebele language in ways evocative of the likes of the late Miriam Makeba at their height. Take his crowd pleaser Bangaxabani for instance.
The song is full of clicks that can twist the tongue of a lesser talented singer.
More importantly, it is a self penned song which given enough exposure on MTV Base and Channel O can generate a lot of revenue for the young man. So the boy has all the definitional elements of musical greatness. But what’s begging right now? Management.
Afterward Jeys, who is poised to export his work to Austria next week on a tour, did his set as Dumisani a singer dancer who has graced many local stages acted as his side kick and percussionist. The acoustic guitar was the dominant instrument throughout all the performances together with the congas/ngoma/African drum.
I saw some stand up during Jeys’s performances to dance. Later, Willis Wataffi came on and offered his catalogue of hits including Wanga and Anochengeta. With facial paint and an androgynous dress code Wataffi was in his element as he played his acoustic guitar while being backed by two back vocalists and full band that ably produced the perfect foil for his show.
The contemporary dancers Cory and Trish came on in the midst of Wataffi’s set and helped to add a welcome break to the visual of musicians singing right through.
Ultimately, Djembe Monks came on and their performance was abruptly ended due to time.
The concert marked an important event for all of Africa as the African Union (formerly Organising African Unity) turns 51 years of age.
It was vital that our artists celebrate the day which is really about African self determination. as the concert unfolded, I marvelled how that the crowd was small.
Do the locals not care about the day?
Again, mainly artistes marked the occasion alone. Where were the crowds? “We didn’t even know this show was happening till someone called me. I think the organisers must improve on their marketing,” said one music fan from the audience during the question and answer section between performances.
One white woman, obviously tipsy shouted: “The marketing really sucks and you people only advertise to the blackies. You must also advertise to the whities as well and I can help you with marketing.”
Some in the crowd were not amused with girl’s rantings as she sat in the front pew with a middle-aged white guy. But they had “come to see Corey” performing nonetheless. So their presence was not about Africa Day commemorations? Whatever the case, Africa is polarised by racial, ethnic and tribal tensions.
Who is African if not the one who sees the mother continent’s multi-hued but blood-stained robe.
Audiences must be built from the ground up through social networks across the racial or ethnic divide otherwise shows like the one highlighted above will continue to garner less attention than they truly deserve.
We must clasp each other’s hands and ignore well fed politicians profiting from the largesse of power and access thereto.
Wednesday was World Hunger day and African children continue to suffer from the violence, looting, kidnapping and squandering of opportunities to deliver a better life. Africa is bleeding and the leaders continue to feast remorselessly.
As in the Titanic, the singers sing on. Heaven help us all !