It’s here! Right here in Zimbabwe! The Victoria Falls International Jazz Festival. All roads lead to the resort town next month.
with Fred Zindi
It seems astonishing now, but jazz has not always been taken seriously by the majority of Zimbabweans although the gatekeepers of the genre have kept it going for many years. Many Zimbabweans who listen to sungura, chimurenga, R ‘n’ B, reggae and dancehall have considered jazz to be music for the elite and snobs. That is, however, not true as jazz is for everyone who understands and likes that kind of music.
Every Sunday at Chez Zandi in Harare, there are jazz performances, which are attended mostly by people from foreign embassies, bankers, doctors and a few middle class Zimbabweans. The likes of Herbert Murerwa, Solomon Guramatunhu and Gibson Mandishona frequently patronise these jazz events. I am sure that is where the perception that jazz is elitist comes from. It shouldn’t be like that at all. Jazz should be open to people from all walks of life.
I am reliably informed that the Victoria Falls International Jazz Festival will be held at the Elephant Hills Resort in the Baobab Area and will be open to the general public. The festival runs over three days with various concerts taking place within the Victoria Falls.
The festival will kick off with a jazz tribute dinner in honour of three of the greatest Zimbabwean jazz artistes, namely Dorothy Masuku, the late Green Jangano (Harare Mambos) and the late August Musarurwa (composer of the popular song Skokiaan’ which was adapted worldwide by various artistes including Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong).
The organisers of the festival have also included an awards night to spice up the jazz tribute dinner as a way of showing appreciation to the recipients for their dedication, integrity and counsel that has enhanced the Zimbabwean jazz industry. Awards will be given to men and women who paved the way for all the other musicians living and past. These will be presented to Masuku, and representatives of the late Jangano and Musarurwa’s families. On top of that, the festival will also acknowledge all other yesteryear jazz artistes, including one jazz legend and promoter from South Africa who is still alive, Peter Tladi. South African songbird Yvonne Chaka Chaka will be the guest of honour.
Performing artistes will be coming from as far afield as the United States, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya and France.
Local, regional and international artistes will take part in the festival. The most important part of the Saturday night performance is the tribute act by Zimbabwean artistes who are going to do a special performance for our Zimbabwean jazz musicians from yesteryear. They will perform songs from legends such as Musarurwa, Masuku, Lina Mattaka, Victoria Chingate, The Epworth Theatrical Strutters, The De Black Evening Follies, The City Quads, Ruth Mupisaunga, Joyce Ndoro, Sylvia Sondo, Faith Dauti, Cool Crooners and Pat Travers (Arcadia Rhythm Lads)
The festival will also include a golf tournament and a free fashion show on the Saturday afternoon.
Before that, on Friday September 7, artistes who will be featured include:
Masuku, Mandebvu from Victoria Falls, Afro Red, featuring Scarlet Mwana O Kondwela from Zambia and a French artiste, Patrick Lupi.
The next day, September 8, a free family show will be held at Chinotimba Stadium from 3pm till 7pm. A robust backing band comprising of Mathew Ngorima and Adrian Muparutsa on guitar, Nick Nare on keyboards, Josh Meck on bass and Blessing Muparutsa on drums will support some of the artistes coming. The line-up of artistes for the Saturday show will include Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soweto String Quartet from South Africa, Dudu Manhenga, Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, Nicholas Mutowa, Tariro Ne Gitare, Jabavu Drive, Mbare Trio, Cool Crooners, Rute Mbangwa, Zexie Manatsa, Josh Meck and Joseph Chinouriri (all from Zimbabwe), Steve Dyer from South Africa, John Selolwane from Botswana, Moreira Chonguica (Mozambique), Kunle Ayo (Nigeria), Tsepo Tshola (Lesotho), The Three Monkeys and Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwean based in South Africa) featuring Andy Narell. Another US artiste coming is Oran Etkin, who will perform with the Chigamba Family.
On the main festival day (September 8) the Elephant Hills Resort, which has the capacity to provide excellent service and a wide variety of beverages and food, will provide food and refreshments to people attending the concert. There will also be a (Cuban) cigar bar and lunch! It is envisaged that to add icing to the cake, those not so familiar with roots jazz will also be treated to gospel artistes, Baba naMai Charamba, Zimdancehall artiste Killer T and Jah Prayzah on both Friday and Saturday programmes. Jah Prayzah will close the Friday night show at Ivuvu Rest Camp.
However, on the last day of the festival, which is September 9, everybody will be treated to jazz bands only at the A’Zambezi Hotel where full bar and catering facilities will be available.
A lot of Zimbabweans and people from across the border in Zambia have already taken an interest in this event as enquiries for tickets have already begun.
From the look of things, there is going to be overwhelming response to this festival, come September.
The festival’s production team comprises some of Zimbabwe’s most experienced arts managers, artistes and communication experts.
The organisers say that they would like to support the Victoria Falls mayor’s Cheer Fund as well as the Jairos Jiri Centre in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls Hospital, Rose Charity Children’s Home and Chinotimba Old People’s Home.
Jazz brings together musicians, communities, schools and other groups all over the world to celebrate and learn more about its roots and its impact and to highlight its important role as a means of communication that transcends differences. In short, it brings communities together.
The famous American jazz musician and producer Quincy Jones once said: “Jazz has the power to make men forget their differences and come together.
“Jazz is the personification of transforming overwhelmingly negative circumstances into freedom, friendship, hope, and dignity.”
Indeed, the Victoria Falls International Jazz Festival is going to do just that.
Masuku, who is probably Zimbabwe’s oldest female musician still alive and active, performance-wise, turns 83 in September this year. She is at the moment based in South Africa where she is still busy giving performances in clubs and at jazz festivals. If she was in an ordinary job, she would have long qualified for an old age pension.
Former ZiFM radio DJ and jazz fanatic Munya Simango tells me that Masuku’s turning 83 is an occasion worth celebrating. A special tribute for her among her contemporaries Jangano and Musarurwa, is well-deserved. Together with other jazz artistes, Masuku will be on stage to give a magnificent concert. Those of us who have seen her perform in the past, know that they are in for a treat. Her voice is so sweet and mellow that it could calm 10 or more deadly storms and even more violent hurricanes.
It’s a timely programming choice — ahead of the curve, if you will. The jazz festival is catching Moreira Chonguica from Mozambique on her way up, because she’s going to be big, possibly huge. She drew a huge crowd on her own in Maputo recently, as sure a sign as any of her vast potential.
It is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what sets her apart. She has got all that jazz. Grit, candour and street-savvy attitude get added to the list in short measure. And did I mention charisma?
Come to the Victoria Fall International Jazz Festival next month and you will see all this for yourself.
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