The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 'Sistaz Open Mic' Comes of Age

"SISTAZ Open Mic", a talent search programme run by Pamberi Trust in collaboration with Dutch aid agency Hivos, turned six on Saturday, and the party held at the Book Cafe was characterised by poetry, music and dance.

And on hand to add spark to the celebrations were poets Momo, Breezy, Tanaka Dziva, Red Ruff Rider, Roots and award-winning Botswana poet Mandisa Mabuthoe as well as upcoming musicians Lorraine Gambiza, Interface, Chitsinde, Miriam Kunaka, Rudorwashe Chasi and red-hot hip-hopper Tammy.

Momo got the ball rolling with a sublime piece titled "Our Kiss" and wowed the audience with her cool delivery and simplicity. Breezy (Sound of Music), Tanaka Dziva, Red Ruff Rider (Fashion) and Roots (Ancient Age) also made it clear that they were not just there to make up the numbers.

But it was not until the multi-talented Mandisa - who is an acclaimed poet, playwright, and art teacher - took to the stage with her hard-hitting and sometimes sexually explicit rhymes that poetry section moved a gear up.

She performed four pieces - No More Free Sex", "Passive Indecision", "Love Story" and "Dragon Fly" - every one of them to ringing applause.

I have to say I do not remember a dull moment during her act. You need to have been there to experience the power of the spoken word.

Among the musicians special mention goes to Chitsinde, a two-woman band, whose guitar-playing skills provided a flashback to the Bhundu Boys heydays, Rudorwashe Chasi and Thamsanqa Moyo or simply Tammy.

Tammy literally brought the house down with a sizzling performance of "Party Time" taken off her two-track album, Party Time, Celebrate Yo Lyf," released in 2011.

At the tender age of 15, Tammy has already shared the stage with international artistes like Joe Thomas and rubbed shoulders with music icon Oliver Mtukudzi.

in addition, she has performed at high-profile events like the Harare International Festival of the Arts and the National Arts Merit Awards and, believe it or not, New York's Madison Square Garden.

Did I hear someone say: "Surely, Zimbabwe has its own Rihanna"? Well, that about sums up Tammy's performance on Saturday.

Guest artiste Clare Nyakudjara, a product of the Sistaz Open Mic, capped the celebrations with a virtuoso performance comprising plug tracks "Ndinogona", "Ndinotenda" and "Famba Neni" from her debut eight-track album "Haudi Nei".

Sistaz Open Mic is an innovative platform for talented performers to express themselves at an event created with the needs of women artistes in mind.

Although the Book Cafe hosts a monthly poetry slam open to both men and women, as well as a weekly Open Mic night every Tuesday, Sistaz Open Mic is a special event created and designed to support women artistes.

The first Sistaz Open Mic was held in 2007 under the FLAME (Female Literary Arts and Music Enterprise) programme which is administered by Pamberi Trust.

The growth of this popular event is a direct result of young artistes taking ownership of the project and, critically, mentoring by established women artistes such as Dudu Manhenga, who has been critical to the project, first as a co-ordinator, and now as staunch supporter and mentor to the young ladies who come and perform.

The audience often includes talent scouts who represent professional artistes, which has led to lucrative work and careers for some, including the phenomenal Edith weUtonga and talented young singer Tina Watyoka.

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