Article by Ogova Ondego
Published October 24, 2008
A cultural festival aimed at positioning Mpumalanga as the leading cultural and heritage destination in Southern Africa and also to help bring about reconciliation and cohesion by healing the wounds inflicted on immigrants by xenophobic South Africans in May 2008 is set for November 2008. The two-day event, Mpumalanga Arts and Cultural Festival (MACfest), will be held at eMalahleni stadium in South Africa’s northern province of Mpumalanga on November 29-30, 2008. OGOVA ONDEGO reports.
While the highlight of MACfest is music, a media release distributed by the Cape Town-based by Thompson n Team says, the festival will have a village for craftspeople where a variety of art and crafts will be on display. A food court serving various dishes for sale will also be available at eMalahleni stadium. However, no alcohol, glass and picnic baskets will be allowed at the venue for the duration of MACfest.
The organisers of MACfest have split it between youthful sounds and soothing adult contemporary music. They also appear to have selected the performers carefully.
Among the musicians set to perform at MACfest and whose names were released to the media at the Cultural Main Hall, eMalahleni (Witbank) on October 22, 2008 are Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi, Mozambicans Jimmy Dludlu and 340ml, South Africans Madala Kunene and Take 6, and US group Spyro Gyra.
While Port Elizabeth-born vocalist MXO and the vocal-guitar-bass-drum quartet 340ml sit on the youthful side of MACfest, Mtukudzi, Spyro Gyro, Jimmy Dludlu and Simphiwe Dana and Lira will hold forte on the adult contemporary side.
“The choice in the lineup of musicians who originate from Mozambique such as Jimmy Dludlu and 340ml is not accidental. With them appearing in the town of eMalahleni and not far from their country of birth, we are definite that their fans from Mozambique will cross the boarder to join local ones. Equally with Oliver Mtukudzi having scaled down his public performances in Zimbabwe, we expect big crowds from the other side of the Limpopo”, says festival director Rashid Lombard. He adds that all the musicians lined up have one thing in common: “the ability to get audiences to move their bodies and get onto the dance floor.”
So who are these musicians?
Spyro Gyra, established in 1977, is known for its fusion of jazz with popular idioms like R&B, pop, funk and Latin music. Some of the group’s early hits ‘Morning Dance, Shaker Song’ established Spyro Gyra as forerunners of smooth jazz.
Jimmy Dludlu is said to have a unique way to arouse the audience through his melodic guitar lines and vocalising wizardry wherever he appears live.
Oliver Mtukudzi, too, uses his voice and guitar to great advantage as he brings together the Zambezi Valley polyrhythmic sounds such as jit, mbira, dandanda, mbukumba and katekwe. Mtukudzi laces these indigenous styles with his gravelly voice, brassy horns, electronic and chordal instruments that result in poignant and danceable Afro-music. Twende Twende, a song he collaborated on with Kenya’s Eric Wainaina in 2007, has been adopted by Orange mobile telephone and is beamed on TV and heard on radio in thousands of homes in Kenya as the company seeks out customers for its services.
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Take 6, an a cappella jazz group, are touted as being heirs to the rich tradition of the doo-wop and gospel groups of the 1950s. They are also taken as leaders in the second wave of jazz and pop vocal groups that emerged in the 1990s. These multiple Grammy Award winners continue to look and move in a forward direction as the first decade of the 21st century unfolds.
Madala Kunene, known simply as Bafo, has worked with artists such as Sipho Gumede and Moses Molelekwa. He has travelled extensively in Europe, particularly in the Scandanavian side. The music for the Oscar-nominated, Darrell James Roodt-written and directed feature film, Yesterday, was scored and composed by Kunene. His new album, Madamax, is a collaborative effort with Max Lasser.
The music of MXO and 340ml is featured in the South African comedy film, Bunny Chow by John Barker. Although they come from different backgrounds, both groups experiment with modern soundscapes and styles.
MXO, whose real name is Mxolisi Lokwe, may swear by bass n’ drum, but he fuses reggae, funk and jazz.
340ml is made up of four Mozambicans who now reside in South Africa. They have created a huge fan base with their fusion of reggae, dub, funk, world music, rock, tropical and jazz. The band’s two albums ‘Moving, Sorry for the Delay’ were warmly received.
After taking home four South African Music Awards (SAMA) for her 2006 The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street, Simphiwe Dana’s contemplative voice won her a BBC Radio 3 award for the Best Artist in the category World Music – Africa in 2008.
Lira’s song, Feel Good, is to appear on the soundtrack of US television series, Girlfriends. Her voice will be featured along those of nine Grammy nominated singers such as Mary J Blige, Chaka Khan, India Arie, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.
MACfest is sponsored by the Mpumalanga provincial government.