And on the positive side…

14 07 2018

Will McNicol, acclaimed guitarist, entertains.

We don’t have a lot to celebrate in Zimbabwe at the moment; the economy is barely existent, cash is a fond memory and the weather is unusually cold and dull. But we have just spent the afternoon listening to the top class acoustic guitarist Will McNicol in the gardens at Amanzi restaurant, thanks to Music Every Month  who brought him over from the UK. Oh, and the wine wasn’t bad too if rather pricey – but as my dear departed mother liked to say; money was designed to be spent! It was just what we needed. Thanks Will and to all those who made this possible.

And he even used his mouth – inspired by Jimi Hendrix perhaps?





HIFA 2014 – Day 2

1 05 2014

A busy day. Traditionally sponsored by CABS, a local banking group, and with it the traditional opera night. Best described as opera light for novices, a lot of small but well known pieces are sung. I am not much of an opera fan but there is no denying the skill of the singers. It’s a fairly casual affair – only the singers and musicians dress up, the rest of us bring food and wine and sit on the grass. Yes, it IS a spectacle but if you missed it this year you will just have to wait until next year.

My first assignment of the day was the National Ballet modelling bridal inspired fashion at the fashion dome. No supermodel strutting here – it was all en pointe. A bit brief the show lasted all of 15 minutes so if you are thinking of catching the second half be on time.

Vibe Culture are a local band that plays “afro-mbira rock fusion” (according to the programme. Not that I would know!). Accomplished musicians all (that’s from my friend Caro who knows about these things) the lead singer has a fantastic voice and the dancer is probably the most photogenic performer I’ve seen in a long time!

Stephen Prutsman looked visibly jet-lagged on stage but still produced great classical piano music with “Bach and Forth” a melange of Bach and other composers moving forward in time (alternating between Bach and the others). If you appreciate good classical music and can recognize great piano playing you should catch the second show on Friday evening at the NMB Recital Room.

aCadao Canto are a Spanish group and very easy listening. They play mainly Galician music and will be on again at Lays Global Stage Thursday evening. If you just want to chill at the end of a hectic day and take in something different, then get there.





An inspirational story – the Cold Fact

25 12 2013

I am not religious at all so this time of year is a bit lost on me. Actually I find it a bit tedious and find it a relief when it’s over – an excess of eating and false bonhomie and the original message of hope and inspiration long buried in commercialism. I heard the first Christmas Carols this year in a supermarket at the end of October. I do however like a truly inspirational story as much as anyone so last night made myself comfortable with a DVD “Searching for Sugar Man” – the story of the search for the artiste known just as Rodriguez who in my youth produced the iconic album Cold Fact that sank without trace in the USA but was a huge hit in this part of the world where it was seen as a touch provocative, anti-establishment, and a touchstone for anti-apartheid music in the Afrikaans language.

I suppose I was about 15 when I first heard Cold Fact. Tape cassettes were a new technology so it must have been what we called an LP (long playing vinyl record). We considered ourselves a bit rebellious just for listening to it with its shocking lyrics on I Wonder – “… I wonder how many times you’ve had sex and I wonder, do you know who’ll be next and I wonder…”. Well, shocking for that era. And the song about drugs – Sugar Man. I never owned the album, I wouldn’t have dared bring it home. I had already rocked the boat by being the first of my siblings to buy a pop album – the soundtrack to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Radical stuff man! I am not sure I would really have appreciated the lyrics anyway, often a gritty synopsis of Rodriguez’s Detroit.

The Searching for Sugar Man documentary follows two South African fans as they search for their hero about whom next to nothing is known where Rodriguez’s two albums were a massive hit. They don’t even know if he is still alive as rumours abound about an onstage suicide. I remember being told that the artiste was an ex-convict who wrote his songs in jail. Rodriguez is alive and well and  has absolutely no idea that he is a superstar in this part of the world and has spent the last 30 years as a blue collar laborer in construction and renovation in his native Detroit.

The opening scenes of the first sell-out concert in Cape Town in 1998 are incredibly touching; a lot of the fans cannot believe it’s really their hero. Then the opening notes of I Wonder start and the crowd goes berserk. That Rodriguez, who is expecting a couple of thousand fans at most, walks calmly onto the stage in front of some 20,000 after a near 30 year hiatus and handles the concert with aplomb, is a tribute to the extraordinary quality of the man who remains remarkably humble to this day, still living in the run-down house in Detroit where he has spent the last 40 years.

The “Making of” section at the end of the documentary (which won an award at the 2012 Sundance Festival and later and Academy Award) is well worth a look – in itself an inspirational story of persistence from a first-time director who nearly didn’t get the film made at all. And the music; well, it’s timeless. Rodriguez is favorably compared to Bob Dylan in the documentary. In my opinion he is much better. I have never been a fan of Dylan whose nasal whining I find tedious no matter how good the lyrics. Rodriguez has great lyrics AND a clear voice. Here’s hoping he has found the recognition that he has so long deserved in the wider world.





HIFA 2013 – day 5

4 05 2013

A day of dance – mainly. The National Ballet put on When They Are Gone. Lots of colour and fun with a serious message highlighting the plight of the desperately endangered rhino. A great performance from and amateur dance group and completely choreographed in-house. Encore! (This show will run again at REPS soon – a chance to see it if you missed it at HIFA)

Dance Foundation Course put on their first show after only 9 months training! Seriously energetic, they seemed to revel in the dancing. The second half of the show was some aerial ballet on a rope by Belgian artistes les Cliquets

Last show of the day was Acoustic Night Allstars, a show by a group of local musicians supported by the German Embassy in Harare.





HIFA 2013 – day 4

3 05 2013




HIFA 2012 – Day 5

6 05 2012

A busy day it started with the National Ballet show which despite its name included a huge variety of styles; ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and probably some others that I’ve forgotten. Visually very appealing and the capacity crowd loved it.

Then some very different contemporary dance works by Shi Pratt and Tawanda Chabikwa which I frankly didn’t get followed by local theatre When Angels Weep about child trafficking in Zimbabwe. At the end of the show the British director, whom I know a little, asked me what I thought. “Good theatre but very depressing” I replied and then added; “and for all one knows probably true”. “Well” he replied, “it probably is as I know the writer did his research well”.  I was quite taken aback at the time but now I realise that I was being very naive. This sort of thing is prevalent elsewhere in the 3rd world, did I honestly expect it not to be happening here?

Lorna Kelly and Friends was well, not exactly a rock show. For some reason the soprano chose a lot of lullaby songs which not too surprisingly were soporific. The last composition was quite fun but I must have slept through the air-guitar number (if indeed there was one)!

24583 Little Creepy Wonders was children’s theatre by Italian Scarletine Teatro who brought us Manolibera a couple of years ago. Featuring balloons as ugly children.  It was mostly in Italian but the kids in the audience loved it as did a few adults.

The final show of the day was The Armed Man – a Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins which was performed by a local choral group with guest artistes. A great way to end the day – well done guys!





HIFA – Day 4

5 05 2012

A very interesting day. A Handful of Keys with Ian von Memerty and Roelof Colyn was sheer entertainment; two pianos expertly played and homage paid and satired to the greats of piano from Fats Domino to Elton John. Very funny and quite risqué. A near capacity audience at the 7 Arts theatre loved it!

Maria de Barros and her band then entertained at the Global Stage in the main HIFA gardens complex. A Cape Verdian with a good band behind her she had the audience on its feet with a mixture of soul and a touch of reggae and well, all sorts! Not really my style of music but certainly fun.

My prize so far for sheer creativity goes to Leo put on by the German physical theatre company Circle of Eleven. Featuring just one actor in a 3 sided box which was then projected onto another screen rotate 90 degrees – just about anything becomes possible. It’s a bit difficult to see what’s going on in my photos as I was sitting on the right of the stage when it would have been better to sit in the middle. The show starts off funny, becomes a bit sad but in the end descends into a nightmare.

The next prize for shear difference goes to Dream Streets & Labyrinth performed by New York based Cornelius Dufallo. Even he failed to describe the music he plays. Mostly violin with his own backing instrumentals recorded on computer the music is played with some very different visuals projected onto a big screen behind him. I liked it enough to buy a CD but I suspect it will take some getting used to and am not sure how well it will work without the video. As one spectator said behind me at the end; “Not your average HIFA performance”. No, but it was great all the same! Bravo, it took some courage to put that on. See the next performance if you like exploring different music.