The Herald (Harare)

11 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Masike, Akua Naru Wow Fans

THE 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence ended at Book Café over the weekend with a thrilling show that brought together Zimbabwe's own mbira princess Hope Masike and acclaimed US hip-hop star Akua Naru.

Clad in a long black dress, red turban and shoulder-length earrings Masike, put up a sterling performance backed by Monoswezi.

Monoswezi is an acronym for Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe, countries from which the band members are drawn.

The group fuses traditional, jazz and modern music and released a self-titled album, "Monoswezi", in 2010 to critical acclaim in Norway and around the world.

Masike needs no introduction to Zimbabwean audiences. Although she has had the misfortune of living under the shadow of her more illustrious "elder sister", Chiwoniso Maraire, she is not only a talented mbira player and phenomenal vocalist but a dancer, activist, accomplished songwriter and percussionist as well.

These multiple talents were an ample display on Saturday night as Masike provided the backing vocals when Monoswezi wowed fans with their brand of Scandinavian jazz and Southern African rhythms.

Her lilting voice carried the day when she switched to her own tracks such as 'Ndadzungaira' and 'Ndire Ndire' and 'Kangai Mapfunde' which talks about childhood games encapsulated in mahumbwe (playing house) pada (hopscotch), chihwande-hwande (hide and seek).

At around 10 o'clock Hope Masike gave way to the deep, husky voiced Akua Naru.

The American-born but now Cologne-based artiste could have chosen the easy route by using backtracks. Instead, she employed the services of Chabvondoka.

Founded by spoken word artiste Comrade Fatso, Chabvondoka is a well-travelled band that blends sounds as diverse as rock, hip-hop, chimurenga, jiti, house and reggae, a feat acknowledged by Naru.

The American hip-hop star lavished praise on Chabvondoka for their exceptional skills as they had little over four days to rehearse for the show.

She singled out multi- talented bass guitarist and afro-jazz sensation Josh Meck, who sent patrons wild with his mastery control on the instrument.

The dreadlocked United States artiste dumped her yellow sneakers a few minutes into the show choosing to prance barefoot on stage.

The wordsmith, who was on her maiden tour to Zimbabwe, went about her job slow at first but gradually picked up the tempo as the show progressed.

In true hip-hop fashion, Akua Naru hyped up the crowd with tracks such as "Feeling Good" originally sung by Nina Simone before launching into her own compositions such as "Poetry: How Do You Feel", The World is Listening" "The Block", all taken from her acclaimed "The Journey ... Aflame" released in 2011.

In line with the gender and women rights theme of the concert held in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, most of Akua Naru's songs focused on issues to do with peace, love, justice and unity.

She also sampled tracks such as 'Back-Flip' and 'All Around the World', which talks about how everyone regardless of racial, cultural and geographical boundaries shares the same pain and struggles and highlighted the need for unity.

The female MC also paid homage to her predecessors, the likes of Nina Simone, Queen Latifah, Lauren Hill, Eve and Jean Grey.

She and Masike did a duet much to the delight of the full house and were later joined by fellow musicians Edith Katiji and DJ Naida, Synik and Upmost as the show rose to a resounding climax.

The Women's Right/Human Rights Concert was the climax of a two-week-long programme hosted by the Book Café in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.

The programme included film screenings, a gender discussion forum on 'Race Gender and Identity', poetry and performances by some of the who's who of Zimbabwe's music industry, notably Victor Kunonga, Amara Brown, BaShupi, Adiona Maboreke and Patience Musa.

Mbira queen Chiwoniso was also due to perform last Thursday but pulled out on account of illness.

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