The New York based Slavic Soul Party! has described their experience in Zimbabwe as “direct, intense, unusual, and connected” after a week conducting workshops, street parades and spending time in a Zimbabwean prison.
“It was the perfect close to a powerful first experience in Africa: direct, intense, unusual, and connected,” says Matt Moran, spokesperson for the group. Moran and his group spent a week in Zimbabwe during which they performed at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).
The group conducted brass workshops with musicians from the Salvation Army band and, for the first time in the history of HIFA, collaborated with the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) band.
Says Moran, “the only surprise was asking them to play in scales they had never even imagined; they became infatuated with the American tune Liza Jane.”
The Americans were fascinated with the hoshos from the Airforce Band and invited AFZ member Tatadzei Chimanga to join them onstage for the last 10 minutes of their main act at HIFA on Sunday. (See a video of the rehearsal with the AFZ band at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2k9PH8Fnkg&feature=related )
“They (the hoshos) look and sound awesome with a brass band,” Moran stated. The group joined Chiedza Childcare Centre in Mbare and other children’s organizations in the high density township for a groundbreaking street parade, the first of its kind in Mbare, to raise awareness about child abuse.
“Most of the musicians who joined us were somehow not the musicians we had rehearsed with but we quickly found common ground, starting with When the Saints Go Marching In, and had a great event – the kids were amazing, engaged and super polite,” says Moran. (See the video of the march at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksMc8EjY8Sc&feature=related)
And another first for HIFA came on Monday when the musical group visited a Harare prison where they performed for nearly 1,000 inmates and prison services officials.
“The prison officers were serious but relaxed as they brought us in,” says Moran. He describes the situation. “They (prisoners) performed for us, we performed for them, and they performed for us again – a welcome from a community playing music like they had been practicing every day for years; unbelievable music, dance and expression transcending the stark reality of the situation.”
SSP! performed Sunday evening May 1 on HIFA’s Telecel main stage to a packed audience.
“The festival was incredibly inspiring in its diversity and commitment to humanity and artistry, and we were getting pumped to play. You won’t find a more carefully curated or thoughtfully run festival anywhere; the HIFA staff is among the best of any international festival we’ve seen.”- ZimPAS(c) May 2011