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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE AWESOME AFRICA EXPERIENCE (article first published : 2001-09-10)

Following the innovative and successful first two Awesome Africa Festivals - dubbed “Africa’s Greatest Music Festival”, this year’s event takes place on September 29 and 30 at the Shongweni Resources Reserve. The phenomenal line-up for the Standard Bank Awesome Africa Music Festival features gifted musicians from 20 different countries with the focus on the African continent.

As in previous years, one of the most exciting elements is the multi-cultural collaborations featuring musicians from different experiences and genres performing together. Irishtambul, a French-based hybrid comprising of Turkish and North African elements around a Celtic music core with a techno-rave edge, and guitarist Knut Reiersrud from Norway leading three outstanding Norwegian musicians collaborating with maskanda and Indian raga forms. Drummrs from Ghana, Senegal, Swaziland, Denmark and South Africa will all perform together.

Also from Senegal afro-pop superstar Ismael Lo’, kora wizard Lamine Konte and percussionist El Hajji. From Ghana come master drummers Nii Alabi Bortey and Nicholas Kokei Djanie. The highly acclaimed Canadian/Chinese world music ensemble ASZA feature multi-instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch and Chinese zheng virtuoso Mei Han. Bolivian folk musicians Los Kusis de Bolivia incorporate Roger Lucey as a special guest.

The strong SA contingent is headed by the indomitable Ray Phiri, back due to popular demand, and diva Busi Mhlongo who performs with ace guitarist Jimmy Dludlu. Blk Sonshine feature their acoustic hip hop. There’s also kwaito trendsetters Mandoza, Chiskop & Bongo Maffin, new young gospel sensation Deborah Fraser, local heros THC, Landscape Prayers (playing with members of the Modena City Ramblers from Italy), Meghan McCrae and David Birch performing a solo acoustic set, maskanda guitarists Madala Kunene and Mfiliseni Magubane and Phoenix bred bhangra fusion singer Ashok Ramchunder.

Phakami Africa get the opportunity to perform in the big league – and a special feature will be the mesmerising performances of the Amanazaretha Shembe group. Esteemed USA bluesman James Wheeler kicks off the festival’s link to its sister city Chicago and the blues with a collaborative performance with Will’s Blues Band with Jerry Kunene on sax.

Of special interest for clubbers and ravers this year is the incredible Sensurround Experience from Manchester in the UK. For the first time ever, on Saturday the festival will host the biggest outdoor trance, rave, house and techno dance party to take place in the African bush. Described as the future of clubbing, this is a unique live multimedia sound and image experience with 18 of the UK’s new generation of musicians. The Sensurround Experience has been made possible through funding from the British Council.

The Festival closes on Sunday with the Home To My Roots reggae component featuring a myriad of reggae artists including Azania with Dawit Menelik Tafari from Jamaica and Harley and The Rastafarians.

This year’s festival celebrates the spoken word with a focus on contemporary, hard-hitting and profound poetry. The stage is shared by local and international wordsmiths: Awesome Africa director Prof Pitika Ntuli with the beautiful Sarah Jones – a talented and confrontational Afro-Caribbean poet - as well as locals Zolani Mkiva and Sandile Dikeni.

The previous two festivals were a wonderful experience applauded by all participants and visitors. In the region of 7000 visitors in 1999 and 19 500 visitors last year came along to the Shongweni Resources Reserve to savour some of the most phenomenal boundary-breaking artists and musical collaborations ever to be seen in this country. The festivals have been characterised by its awesome music, relaxed atmosphere, harmonious interaction, magnificent surroundings, efficient infrastructure, integrity and supportive audiences.

There is also a mini Buskers festival as a lead up to the main Shongweni event, with Buskers from near and far being encouraged to come to Durban beachfront and secure their spot in the first ever SA international Buskers festival. The Festival site will incorporate the Traditional Healer’s village, the Environmental-village and the Crafters co-op on the Festival site. A major International Music Symposium is planned from October 1 which will focus on issues, challenges and opportunities facing the music industry.

Tickets R60 a day and R110 for both days. Booking through TicketWeb or by calling 0861 400 500. More details from Awesome Africa office on (031) 206-2494 and a full artist line up with performance times can be found on www.livingtreasures.co.za




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