Tuesday, 30 April 2013


The global financial crisis has affected many international arts events, but some are soldiering on despite funding cuts and other difficulties. The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is one of those that's determined to continue celebrating “the healing and constructive capacity of the arts”, as the organizers put it.

Hailed widely as one of the best-run festivals in Africa, HIFA takes place in the Zimbabwean capital from April 30 to May 5 and has its usual eclectic line-up this year. Performers from Africa and other regions are showcasing jazz, classical music and pop, among the different genres.

The artists include Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal, quirky London-based rock band The Noisettes, multi-lingual Zimbabwean singer Busi Ncube and the Irish traditional music group Téada, to name a few.

The meeting of cultures is perhaps personified in Japanese musician Sakaki Mango, who has taken the African "thumb piano", or mbira, and added elements of traditional and modern Japanese culture to "create an exciting musical fusion”, according to HIFA’s directors.

Japanese musician Sakaki Mango
Mango sings in Japanese, and he mixes rock, his country's traditional music, Colombian Cumbia music, and electronic effects to create a unique sound. He’ll perform on the same stage (though not at the same time) as the exuberant Portuguese band Anaquim and the Austrialian trumpeter and didgeridoo player Chris Williams.

HIFA spokesperson Tafadzwa Simba told SWAN that the programme extends to theatre, spoken word, craft and design, and contemporary dance. Simba added that between 50,000 and 70,000 spectators are expected over the six days of the event.

Reviewers have said that HIFA serves to unify disparate groups, especially at a time of “ideological conflict and political uncertainty”. Since its establishment in 1999, the annual festival has certainly spotlighted the talents of many performers who deserve a wider audience and brought people together to enjoy the gifts these artists have to offer.