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AWESOME AFRICA (article first published : 2004-09-24)

Standard Bank’s Awesome Africa, currently running in various venues in Durban over the long weekend, September 24 to 26 in conjunction with Celebrate Durban, concentrates this year on the "Drums for Freedom" theme which includes diverse projects involving legends in the drum world. Also featured is an even broader microcosm of South African musical society from jazz, gospel, hip hop, reggae, maskanda, isicathamiya, mbaqanga, rock, rap, kwaito as well as many forms of indigenous Pan-African and "World" styles. Some 18 countries are represented by 250 musicians on three stages over three days.

In the line-up are Oliver Mtukudzi, the "Grand Master of Zimbabwean Traditional Pop", undoubtedly one of the greatest soulful voices of Africa, Joe (USA) whose extensive background in gospel music has allowed him to produce and sing his smooth and sultry R&B productions with hip-hop beats and reggae artist Lucky Dube who is one SA’s best selling artists and one of its most outspoken performers.

Affectionately known as The Voice”, Vusi Mahlasela started writing his own songs with lyrics of social significance and his albums “When You Come Back” in 1992 (a tribute to the political exiles of South Africa) and 1994’s “Wisdom of Forgiveness” summarized the political approach taken by SA’s new democratic government. Needing no introduction, Ladysmith Black Mambazo have become SA’s biggest musical export. One of the world’s leading guitar virtuosos, Thierry Robin’s (France) dynamic gypsy-influenced guitar work has included ventures into Mali’s Wassoulou style, North African, Rajisthani, Breton, Indian, Kurdistan, Yiddish and Turkish musical landscapes.

Born Fatuma Binti Baraka in the village of Mfagimaringo in colonial Zanzibar and now 93 years old, sBi Kidude (Zanzibar, Tanzania) is one of East Africa’s true living treasures. She will collaborate with the Chatsworth based Zanzibari Music & Cultural Academy and also witness the handing over of the Kings Rest land back to the original dispossessed persons and their families.

“Essence of the Bow” Collaboration is a unique exchange exploring ancient stories, myths and improvisations by tracing the bow’s origins from Angola through the slave routes. It includes inventive Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos (Brazil), renowned ethno-musicologist Victor Gama (Angola), leading exponent of the Ungo bow from the plains of the Kwanza river Kituxi (Angola) and Inocêncio Manuel Gonçalves (Angola) who is a descendant of the ancient drum tradition on the Island of Luanda. The collaboration is supported by Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland & the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation; Radio Angola; Ministerio da Cultura – Governo de Angola; Angola Arts & Culture; Ecotour Angola & The Brazilian Ministry of Culture.

Following in the footsteps of the hugely successful East Coast Radio Pop Princess competition, Fresh Prince of the East Coast gives the guys in KZN their turn under the spotlight.

Based in Calcutta and one of the world’s youngest and foremost exponents of the rare and emotive sarod, Avijit Ghosh (India) maintains the traditions inherent in this ancient instrument whilst adding modern jazz influences in his scintillating improvisations. Raw and rootsy traditional rhythms and afro-jazz from Maputo come with Ze Maria (founder of the popular Kinamatamikuluti Afro-Jazz Band) and his well traveled band - Jose Maria Daniel Mabota “Ze Maria” (sax, flute & voice), Maria Rahima Ezequiel Munjaga “Rahima” (voice), Adriano Enemias Lima De Castilho Cavele “Dino” (bass), Ilidio Nelson da Conceicao Ofinar “Pateta” (percussion), Albino Jorge Mbie “Bino” (guitar) & Flavio Augusto Magrimussa “Flavio” (drums).

Also on the programme are guitar maestros Nibs van der Spuy & Guy Buttery; the Ingeli Pan-African Band (Burundi/DRC/Kenya/Uganda/Rwanda); an incredible fusion of sega, waltz, quadrille, polka, Scottish reels from Cajun Pat’Jaune (La Reunion, Indian Ocean Islands) and special guest with the KwaZulu Vintage African Orchestra, Paolo Fresu (Italy) whose discography numbers an astonishing 130 titles from contemporary music to straight jazz and from dance to jazz/folk fusions.

The Italian Consul Dr Alessandro Prunas and Messina Shipping are funding the Umcebo Trust and the mentally handicapped pupils of Ningizimu and St Raphael’s schools with a workshop by Severa Rech Cassarino (Italy) titled “Music through the eyes of Children”.

With his wickedly funny lyrics and unconventional looks, Pitch Black Afro is a 27-year-old (born Thulani Ngcobo in Orlando, Soweto) rhyme starlet. From honing her songwriting, guitar playing and singing skills as a teenage busker on the streets of Melville in Jo’burg, Karen Zoid’s her first album Poles Apart fired the imagination of both critics and the public to such an extent that the press renamed the youth icon and her legion of fans the Zoid Generation. As lead vocalist and songwriter of the award-winning group Bongo Maffin, Thandiswa Mazwai has been an indelible part of the South African cultural landscape. Young and highly energetic, the group H’Sao (Chad) was created six years ago at D’jamena and draws its inspiration from the cultural diversity of their Toure’ Kunda lineage and have recently recorded their first self-titled album on the Québecois Mille Pattes label.

Mwake Utanje (Kenya) & Good News offers East African gospel at its most pure while Waverley is hot and melodic homegrown surf-rock with an activism and conscience for more local music content on our airwaves. Awesome Africa features a historic one-off reunion of Durban’s legendary trance-rock band THC. Hip hop and roots influences are held together by Portia Malunga’s unique and powerful vocals with the up and coming four-piece Lour Deluxe.

Illuminating Shadows is made up of four young and original hip hoppers with a highly poetic and distinctively Durban groove. Ghetto Prophecy Movement is the fresh new maverick sound of Durban DJ Toine finally appears at Awesome due to popular demand. Both cutting edge and quality driven, he continues to be an inspiration to the new kids on the block. Dan Patlansky & the Mississippi Muthers with The Batiste Brothers (New Orleans, USA) and jazz vocalist Xoliswa Dlamini, maskanda artists Shiyani Ngcobo and Savela with Saraswathie Shainaaz touching all bases of Indian culture add to the variety of this all-embracing music festival.

Hypnotic, energetic and intense, this star studded Rhythm Masala (Singapore) will attempt to break the new record of a mind boggling 50 continuous hours. Quiet Storm feature Philani Ngidi & Neil Goncalves, Kerry de Witt will be giving one of her last performances before she leave South African shores. Raphael Tetteh Okai includes African storytelling. Fronted by Nonhlanhla Wanda, Iva is Durban’s hardest working contemporary jazz group. Another popular local favourite is the Gordon Franks Ensemble and the Ed du Preez Boereorkes provides a taste of good old tikkiedraai and accordion driven boeremusiek. The Crocodile Gumboot Dancers perform classic hostel gumboot styles and Roly Struckmeyer, one of Durban’s great singer-songwriters reforms part of his Butternut team to resurrect old and new songs.

More information from the website at www.awesomeafricafestival.co.za or on e--Mail: awesomeafrica@cbusnet.com




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