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MUSICAL VOICES AT POETRY AFRICA (article first published : 2007-09-28)

The close relationship between music and poetry is made explicit through several of the participants in this year’s Poetry Africa, International poetry Festival which features twenty poets from 10 different countries in Durban for an exhilarating rollercoaster of words, rhythms, and ideas from October 1 to 6.

The music on show at this year’s festival includes maloya maestro Danyel Waro from Reunion on his first visit to South Africa, who will be accompanied by band members Laurent Dalleau, Damien Mandrin and Vincent Phileas playing traditional island percussion instruments. Living in the middle of sugarcane fields high up in Saint-Paul, Waro is probably the most famous maloya singer of Reunion Island.

Sega, a traditional Indian Ocean dance rhythm, is internationally known but few people outside the island of Reunion have heard of maloya. Maloya is a compound rhythm on which plantation workers have long been singing their joys and woes. Waro, who was imprisoned for refusing to do military service, sings of love, death or politics, using a popular, peasant creole vocabulary that his urban listeners have often forgotten, creating unexpected, beautiful and powerful imagery and, most importantly, articulating the convergence between words and music that makes great songs.

Waro will give a must-see featured performance on October 4 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 19h30. He will also present a workshop entitled Maloya Man on October 3 at the Centre for Jazz at 12h15.

The beautifully-voiced mbira player Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe), winner of the UNESCO Prize for Arts, KORA nominee, and front woman of the popular band Vibe Culture, released her first solo album, Ancient Voices, to global critical acclaim. In the years since, Chiwoniso's solo career has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. She has worked with the voices of Marie Boine, Kris Kristoffersen and Sinead O'Connor on a CD for world peace in honour of the Nobel Peace Prize Award's 100th commemoration and released her album Timeless in 2005. She is currently at work on her third solo album.

Chiwoniso will perform on October 2 at the Sneddon at 19h30, and will present a workshop titled Magic of the Mbira on October 2 at Howard College Campus at 14h10.

Durban legend Syd Kitchen and the prolific young Korean-American Ishle, both guitar-toting poets with startling lyrical bite, will give featured performances on October 5 at the Sneddon.

Afro-Saxon minstrel poet, guitarist and singer song-fighter Syd Kitchen has been a dynamic, innovative contributor to the South African musical landscape since the 1970’s. The Durban-based artist’s often biting lyrics and crafty guitar work have earned him a dedicated following at festivals and clubs throughout the country; be it as a solo performer, with the Aquarian Quartet, or with Madala Kunene in Bafo Bafo.

Ishle Yi Park is a Korean American world-travelling poet, singer, and the first woman to be named the Poet Laureate of Queens – the largest and most diverse borough in New York. Dubbed “the Queen of Queens” by her fans, Ishle’s poetry album Work is Love includes tracks with Korean traditional drums, Spanish guitar, beatboxing, and music produced by Japan's critically acclaimed DJ Honda. Ishle has opened for artists such as KRS-One, Ben Harper, and Saul Williams and has been featured at literary and music festivals performing her unique blend of poetry and song at over 300 venues around the world, including Cuba, Jamaica, Singapore, Korea, and New Zealand.

Other highlights include two musically-rich Poetry Africa showcases at respectively, Awesome Africa (September 30 at 15h00: Midmar Dam, Howick) and the Centre for Jazz (October 3 at 17h15: UKZN Centre for Jazz).

Durbanites can catch a short preview of Danyel Waro on September 29 at 20h00 at the Flavours of Durban Main Stage, outsidethe City Hall, Smith Street, where Madala Kunene will also perform. The opening Night of Poetry Africa on October 1 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, includes another musical treat with the highly popular OSCA Choir.

The full Poetry Africa programme is available on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za Enquiries to 031 260 2506.

Poetry Africa is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), Royal Netherlands Embassy, Stichting Doen, French Institute of South Africa, Ethekwini Municipality, and the City of Durban.




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