HIFA Diaries – day 6

6 05 2007

Well, it’s all over. For me it was a great HIFA. There were only a couple of shows that I would not see again, mainly because the content was lost on me, not that they were poor quality.

I have just got back from seeing Jeanette Micklem (piano Zimbabwe) and Jose Lopes (tenor Portugal). If the seats were not so uncomfortable I would have been asleep very quickly. The choice of songs was not great and I think Senor Lopes had lost the volume control. Antonio Forcione was on an altogether different volume scale. A bit on the loud side but entertaining as ever and a master performer. A pity that the content was so similar to last year, even the jokes were the same. Still, it was pleasant to sit out on a cool autumn evening, sip wine and get blown away by Hannah’s garlic chicken (I can still taste the garlic three hours later).

HIFA Diaries – day 5

6 05 2007

First off was the South African Ballet Company who did a repertoire of well, everything. Classical, jazz, even Bonny Tyler. Witty and stylish but I rather missed the full stage spectacle of dancers as everything, except the last piece, was just two at a time. They did rather slip up by not having an encore. Hey guys, when we give you a standing ovation, you give us an encore! Still, I did enjoy the perfect bodies (female) and I do admire how they move, something I will never do of course.

There was more dance in the evening with the Germany based Wee Dance Company. All contemporary this time and no, I did not understand it. Very clever using giant cardboard boxes as props and doing some pretty neat acrobatics on them. Maybe the goldfish that observed everything from its lit bowl stage front right had a better idea. I do admire the creative people who think of these things.

I then went on to the social centre of things in the centre of Harare to meet with Hannah and some of her friends. We were chatting in the Green Room that I mentioned earlier. Well, chatting was a bit of an under-exaggeration, it was closer to shouting. Crowds everywhere and an improvised rap group next to us who were very bad but equally entertaining. It is apparently a requirement to nod one’s head and left shoulder into the centre of the group whilst wringing one’s hands and reciting unrehearsed, unrhyming and just generally bad lyrics. They seemed to be enjoying it. We scored some tickets to a DJ something-or-other which I was pretty sure was not going to be my thing. Hannah insisted that we go along for half an hour or so. Loud, very loud even from 70m away and not what I’d call music, but there were plenty of youngsters who seemed to be enjoying it. It certainly was not art so how it came to be under the banner of HIFA I’m not sure – entertainment maybe? There is a hotel, the Monomotapa, which overlooks the main stage area and is where most of the artistes stay. I expect that the music is probably not too much of an irritant (the speakers are quite directional) but there were some VERY bright lights displaying on the front and I would defy anyone to have slept through that.

HIFA has a policy of using “street kids” as security guards on the car parks. I put that in quotes as I’m not sure that some are not school kids cashing in on rather lucrative week of hanging around and getting drunk. You are not obliged to give them anything and I have never had any hassles. However, one had made the error of leaving his jacket on Hannah’s vehicle. Hannah wanted to know why. She wasn’t cross, she just wanted a reason. Hannah, is tall (there are not many women that I don’t have to look down to and at 1.83m Hannah is one), German, and very attractive and like a number of Germans I know she can be very determined. She was going to get an answer, a reason and NOT an apology – that just did not cut the mustard and this kid was NOT getting off with an apology. Poor kid, I even started to feel a bit sorry for him but it is a familiar situation for me. You just want to know why something was/was not done and all you can get is a “sorry” or even just silence. In the end even Hannah had to admit defeat.

HIFA Diaries – day 4

5 05 2007

Well, we’re into the final straight with only two days left. Friday for me was relatively quiet with just 2 shows. The first was Imagining Einstein by a South African actor. It was not what I expected it to be and I did not learn much but it was well researched and presented though his German accent did lapse into an Afrikaans one! It was very educational and the kids loved it though I thought he could have emphasized more just how well Einstein’s theories have lasted.

I was going to see a circus act in the afternoon but decided it was more for kids entertainment (yes, I know I have not grown up but Jenni desperately needed some exercise) so just went in to Avondale for a Spanish music and dance show, El Macareno. I suppose it was good, at least the capacity crowd thought so, but it was rather lost on me. The guitarist was certainly virtuoso and it seems one can be very large and still dance to Spanish music!

There was a curious incident on Wednesday that I did not mention earlier. I was going into an earlier show and stopped to get diesel at a filling station. We have a curious system in Zimbabwe in that one does not pay the fuel attendant in cash. You go to the office, guess how much fuel you need and then buy a voucher for that amount. I am not sure why this method exists, it might be a hold over from when we had to use suitcases of money to pay, well it’s getting back to that. Anyway, I hopelessly miscalculated and had 50 litres left over on the voucher. I said I’d get my driver to bring the other work vehicle down in the afternoon. That afternoon as I was waiting for the driver to come down, the clerk at the filling station came over and said very sorry but the police have locked our pumps and we are not allowed to sell fuel. He had no idea why, maybe they wanted to know where the fuel was coming from.  I blew a fuse then remembered that it is illegal to criticize the police (honestly!) so shut up.  There was nothing I could do about it anyway except get my money back.

HIFA Diaries – day 3

4 05 2007

Absence and Presence is a part mime part spoken word play about the death of the artist’s father whose body lay for 10 days before being discovered. It’s not a happy piece of work but it was superbly presented. I am looking forward to the next work by the same artist which is a mime based on the Apollo 11 mission.Ludemann gets going Hans Ludemann of Trio Ivoire did his own solo piano gig which was great and I even bought the CD. True to jazz form he did all sorts of trick damping the piano strings to get interesting effects. Probably the highlight of the day though, was a “recital” by three French musicians, piano, flute and tenor. It started off sort of ordinary and quickly became excellent with just the right amount of fun and humour. We all had so much fun that they went on for three encores! In the evening I was sitting in the Green Room, an “exclusive” bar and cafe area for those of us who’d become HIFA amigas (i.e. bought a membership early on) and for the artistes. I had got chatting to the dancer who’d done the Echo in the Dark dance and at last begun to understand what she did when Kerry, who runs the coffee shop there asked me if I wanted a free ticket to Luva, the singer from the Cape Verde Islands who was up next. Hey, bonus! I’d never heard of her before this but it was a great concert; good band, good sound and lights. The music is a fusion of African, Brazilian and other European influences and as one would expect with all that Latin input – fun!

HIFA Diaries – day 2

3 05 2007

I bumped into Maria Wilson yesterday afternoon inbetween taking in shows. She’s the executive director and this is a seriously stressful week for her but she still had time for a chat. I mentioned the topless dancer in Echo in the Dark and she said – So she only went topless? That style of dance is supposed to be done nude, someone must have persuaded her to keep some clothes on.

Well, yesterday for me was another cracker – apart from nearly getting run over in the street for the second time! First off was a piano accordion recital by a Norwegian (Geir Draugsvoll) and a Scot (James Crabb). It was a bit of an experiment for me, never having heard classical music performed on what I’d normally call a folk music instrument. These were no ordinary accordions! They had buttons on the right hand instead of keys, more keys on the left hand, more buttons above the right keyboard and even buttons used by the chin! Incredible. They simulated a full church organ and the Mussorgsky “Pictures” was breathtaking. Next up was Trio IvoiretrioIvoirethree jazz musicians; a pianist, drummer and another instrument a bit like a marimba but with what looked like gourds for sound chambers. Great fun! I even bought an on site CD and still liked it (they don’t usually live up to memories of the live performance). Finally I scored a ticket to the opera from my friend Caro who is an art teacher at a local private school. I am not normally an opera fan – I find the sopranos a bit “screechy” but this was laid back stuff – popular arias and songs and easy to take. Just for fun they sprung an unknown piece on the performers for the encore. This was ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” which even the world’s highest trained sang badly (but with considerable gusto). I was supposed to have attended the Red Pennant Dance Group in the morning, a Chinese dance group, but I managed to confuse the ending time with the start time! They are on again today but most tickets have sold out long ago. C’est la vie.

HIFA Diaries – day 1

2 05 2007

Well HIFA is off to a great start! I saw 4 shows and they were all great which means if any of these comes your way, go and see it! First off was a Dutch folk/gypsy music group called Tsigane. Apparently it was founded in 1910 and consists of a large group of amateur musicians (mostly students) who play at various functions but this was their first real concert. Hey these guys are GOOD and what’s more they obviously love their music! When You Stand Alone is a Canadian production that won an award at the fringe of the San Francisco Art Festival in 2005. A one man show, the actor metamorphoses from geeky Beatles fan, to sad housewife to angry punk. The acting is extraordinary. He even got tears into his eyes on stage! O Duo are a couple of young British percussionists who are world class performers and witty to boot. This will be the highlight of HIFA for me – and I have still got 5 days to go! Echo In The Dark was another one person performance. An exquisitely executed performance by a female dancer it had an African theme, most of which I did not understand but I did appreciate the dancing. She was accompanied by another woman who made her own wind instruments. Slides of African scenes were projected on a screen behind the performer and yes, sometimes I could see the connection. Some of it was a bit unsettling. For the last 20 minutes of the performance she wore only a skin bikini bottom – quite risque for Zimbabwe arts but it was in context. The opening show, on the theme of It’s Showtime! was OK. Not quite on the standard of Las Vegas I guess but worth seeing. Oh, and only in Zimbabwe can the lead singer of a song appear in a tight dress 6 months pregnant!

There’s all sorts of arty things on offer around the place so today I’m taking my camera and will see what I can capture…