HIFA 2011: It’s Time to Give a Damn

The 2011 Harare Festival of the Arts is about roll into town and it looks like it will be an interesting affair. After last year when many felt the festival was a bit disconnected, and predictable, it needed a reaction and I think to a large extent the organisers have done their bit.

Soweto rock group Blk Jks Make HIFA 2011

My highlight of the programme is not even one of the main acts. It is a Soweto rock group called Blk Jks. If you watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup Opening Concert you would have seen them. They were the black guys playing rock.

Manuel Bagorro, the head honcho at HIFA at a press launch last week stressed that this year’s HIFA is about collaboration. The theme The Engagement Party goes a long way towards pushing that notion. We have Chiwoniso Maraire with Victor Kunonga. There is Winky D and Transit Crew. Chiwoniso will also perform with a Britpop-indie rock band by the name of Moke for the closing ceremony.

Bibi Tanga is the Main Act at HIFA 2011

And what is the main act? Well Bibi Tanga and the Selenites. The HIFA press release describes the sound in this manner.

Bibi’s music is marked by slinky, sinuous bass lines and a wicked falsetto that conjures up Prince and Curtis Mayfield, while producer Professeur Inlassable, ”The Tireless Professor” digs deep beneath the cobblestones of Paris to unearth the sound and spirit of another era.  With Bibi’s band The Selenites, the duo forges a stunningly original sound, creating a space where Afro-futurism meets steam punk, Fela Kuti jams with Sidney Bechet, and Marcel Duchamp gets down to Chic!  They’ve made a big stir in France, and have now teamed up with Nat Geo Music after a fortuitous spin on the Nat Geo Music TV Channel alerted the label to their sublime talent, to bring their fashion-forward funk vision to global audiences.

In the year that Esperanza Spalding won a Grammy for the Best New Artist it is refreshing to see real art on the main stage.

Josh Meck and Asali

Also included in the mix is the traditional Bira ceremony led by Mbira Dze Matupo and Hwevambira. My favourite bassist Josh Meck collaborates with Kenyan spoken word artist Asali in a project that fuses Zimbabwean Shona with Swahili cultures.

Mic Inity makes a debut appearance at HIFA

Reggae crooner Mic Inity makes a debut performance at HIFA with a show at 7 Arts. No stranger to festivals having graced the Allied Arts Festival in Johannesburg as well Bushfire in Swaziland it will provide him with a different experience altogether.

The legendary Busi Ncube is on the Green as well as Shower Power, Tuku Music’s Munya Mataruse, Mathias Julius among a whole host of acts.

As for the ZOL Theatre programme, expect the usual. Deep embedded performances. The controversial Rituals makes a performance after the farce with the police in Manicaland. Directeur extraordinaire, Zane Lucas guides a Theory X project while John Pfumojena appears alongside Melissa Everleigh in Diary of a Madman.

Lots of other bits and pieces of noise will be there. The Hivos Poetry Cafe, The Dance, the HIFA Direct, The Visual Arts are all thrown into the mix in what is expected to be an explosive 6 days.

In short, get ready to be engaged. Because it is time give a damn about the arts, about everything that is happening around you; in essence, get engaged with HIFA.