Music of Sunday, 19 March 2006
The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), which will run from 25 to 30 April, is set to maintain its standards as one of the best 10 festivals in the world with a cocktail of international stars gracing this year?s show.
Internationally-acclaimed African stars that will set the festival alight include Beninese sensation Angelique Kidjo, Ghana?s Rex Omar, Cameroon?s Jacques Greg Belobo, the Democratic Republic of Congo?s Lokua Kanza, Ivory Coast?s Tiken Fakoly and Reunion?s Davy Sicard.
All these artistes will be part of the proceedings through the festival programme dubbed La Voix. La Voix is a unique cultural and artistic collaboration between the embassy of France, the Association Fran?aise d?Action Artistique (AFAA) and HIFA.
Angelique Kidjo, born in Benin, has four Grammy Award nominations, the latest in 2005 for Best World Music Album. In 2004, Angelique performed at the 46664 Arctic Concert in Tromso, Norway, during one of Nelson Mandela?s concerts to raise AIDS awareness. During the concert she performed Afrika with Annie Lennox.
Her music is steeped in the indigenous and pop rhythms of her West African heritage, but she has crossed musical and national boundaries by blending a variety of styles, including funk, salsa, jazz, rumba, souk and makossa.
Kidjo is also a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Children?s Fund. She was chosen in 2002, because she is one of the most electrifying performers in today?s pop world, and also one of its most forward thinkers with a deep commitment to children and young people.
Born on the birthday of the legendary Bob Marley, 6 February, Rex Omar?s career appears destined to chart a path to worldwide stardom, such as the late reggae star attained. From humble beginnings in his birthplace, Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti of Ghana, Omar has gained wide recognition in West Africa and beyond. He has performed internationally at a variety of places including Benin, Britain, Burkina Faso, Cote d?Ivoire, France, South Africa and Togo.
A Kora Award nominee in 2004, Omar, originally called Rex Owusu Marfo, is firmly rooted in his native criss-cross rhythms and melodic inflections. With this heritage plus the pervasive influence of Western pop music and his personal love for jazz, Rex plays a unique blend of Afro-pop and jazz music. His singing style portrays influences from the praise singers of northern Ghana and the Ashanti.
Omar has pursued his own dream of a music career with single-minded devotion since he defied, at an early age, his father?s desire for him to become a lawyer. His recording career has spanned 18 years with a number of hits to his credit. His album Dangerous, which includes the hit song Abiba, has sold more than 300 000 units and is still attracting audiences beyond Ghana?s borders. Rex now has a 12-piece band, the nu-Ashanti, that provides exciting renditions and backing to his music.
Lokua Kanza was born in April 1958 in Bukavu in the province of Kivu, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kanza is a multi-talented musician, a singer, composer and arranger of his soft, melancholy accoustic music. His undeniable artistic feeling has attracted artistes from many different horizons, from Youssou n?Dour to Patrick Bruel. With the likes of Ismael Lo, Baaba Maal and Geoffrey Oryema, he has brilliantly ensured the renewal of African music.
One of his albums a few years ago featured contributions from a number of renowned American songwriters such as Lamont Dozier (of Motown fame) and Siedah Garrett (famous for the songs he has written for Michael Jackson). Kanza?s tours have included the United States and Europe and he is usually invited to sing at musical festivals around the world, such as the Festival of Todos os Sons (Festival of all Sounds) in Curitiba, Brazil.
In addition to his performance, Kanza, alongside Benat Achiary, will lead a voice workshop before HIFA hosted by Alliance Fran?aise. Participants will include singers from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Burundi, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Zambia.
Tiken ?Jah?? Fakoly has established himself as one of the figureheads of the new reggae scene in Ivory Coast. Fusing his infectious reggae beat with hard-hitting lyrics, Fakoly has become a spokesperson for an entire generation of music fans, speaking out on political and social issues through his songs. On 12 July 1998, the day of the World Cup final, the Ivorian star got football fans grooving to his infectious reggae beat at the Stade de France.
His album, Coup de Gueule, which hit record stores in September 2004, found Fakoly broadening his vision to tackle world problems like globalisation as well as hitting out against Africa-specific issues such as corruption. Fakoly had dreamt of launching his new album with a concert in Cote d?Ivoir, but there were fears for his own safety and that of his fans. The singer, who is currently living in exile in Mali, launched Coup de Gueule in Bamako instead, performing a concert for his 20 000 fans.
Author, composer and singer, Davy Sicard from the Reunion is considered one of the most beautiful voices of the Indian Ocean. His music reflects a long identity search, the need to find his roots. In French and Creole texts, Sicard puts together the cultures by mixing traditional instruments such as kayanm, rouler, piker or bob, with more modern instruments, such as guitar and bass.
For him, the musical heritage from slaves corresponds to a state of mind, and can open itself to all ?musics?? of the world.
Jacques Greg Belobo first started the study of music in his birth town Yaounde, Cameroon, where he obtained the First Prize for the Concours National de Chant Classique of Yaounde in 1996. From 1997 to 2003 he received several prizes and awards, the most prestigious being the BBC prize for Best Singer of the World in 2003.
Belobo gives master classes in lyrical singing and vocal performance in France and in Germany. He returns to Zimbabwe as an extremely welcome singing visitor, but in addition he will help the Alliance Francaise to identify upcoming local musicians and choirs.