Arts & Lifestyle Entertainment

The highs and lows of HIFA 2015

Fred Zindi Musicsho_01
The 15th edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts has come and gone. This year, the whole festival, which began on a high note was kind of lukewarm. Although I do not have figures to back me up, from my observation fewer people attended HIFA 2015 compared to previous years. The reasons for this are not clear to me. I know that the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) was also taking place at the same time in Bulawayo. Could this be one reason for the low turn0out? Could it be due to the kind of artistes hired to give performances this year? That leads to the question of criteria used by HIFA to determine how these artistes are selected. Are artistes hired on the basis of the number of CDs they have sold over the years? Are they hired because they are popular and are able to attract music fans of all ages? Or are they hired because there is sponsorship available from the artistes’ agents?

Let’s face it, this year’s HIFA did not include some of the popular artistes we were used to over the years. Artistes such as superstar Dr Oliver Mtukudzi, Bigman, the Ninja President, Winky D or Jah Prayzah were missing in action and I am sure if they had appeared at HIFA, the attendance figures would have gone up.

Unfortunately, the local artistes who were featured this year appeared like headliners, but we know that two weeks from now, most of them will fade into obscurity. Most of the names featured this year do not have the capacity to attract more than 200 people at the venues they perform in Harare.

I was confronted by one chap from Makumbe High School choir who demanded to know why I had only mentioned his group in passing in my previous article on HIFA and not given them wider coverage. I told him that he and his group were lucky to get a mention at all because I heard never heard of them before HIFA brought them into the limelight. He seemed disappointed.

Working out a line-up that is appropriate for particular music fans is always an important step which should be followed by any organiser of a music festival. It seems HIFA organisers faced a lot of challenges this year.


The first hiccup was the pulling out of Telecel, HIFA’s traditional sponsor of the main stage due to the ongoing licensing problems between Telecel and the authorities. So it was a relief for HIFA when ZOL offered to take over the sponsorship.

I am not sure whether the amount of sponsorship received by HIFA this year from various organisations was the reason for the few international artistes. The Norwegian Embassy, Multi-choice, BancABC, CABS, KPMG and Delta were on board as usual. Star FM radio also played a part in last year’s and this year’s HIFA. If that is the case, less sponsorship could be due to the poor economic conditions faced by the country at large. It could also be the reason for the few international artistes that came.

However, HIFA is now an establishment which has been running for 15 years. A lot of people and organisations have benefitted from its existence. For instance the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, for facilitating permits which allow it to function every year, has HIFA to thank as its cash cow. City of Harare also cashes in on the use of thevenue at Harare Gardens where local artistes have been banned from staging concerts during the rest of the year. The car park attendants last week were busy ticketing cars which had come to park around the venue.

Every single year HIFA employs hundreds of young people to do various jobs and help with logistics. Some work as car park attendants. Others are security guards. One friend of mine always looks to HIFA for lifting his spirits and giving him ‘formal’ employment for six days each year.

Other areas include the hiring of musicians, negotiating contracts with vendors, creating space for other artistes such as painters, sculptors and advertisers. The preparations for such a big festival is obviously done months before the event. Planning for HIFA is definitely a lot bigger than planning a wedding.

It was also a relief to see the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (Z.B.C.) partnering with HIFA as the outside broadcasting van was parked at Harare Gardens all week.

With experienced and best people such as Tafadzwa Simba, Maria Wilson, Manuel Bagorro, Elton Mjanana, Soukaina Edom, Stephen Chifunyise, Muchadeyi Masunda, AsaJogi, CarineTredgold and others brought on board by HIFA, one wonders why this year’s event did not quite take off when compared to previous years.

However, this year saw Mokoomba who also appeared at last year’s event doing their thing on the opening night and as usual, they were exceptional.

Mokoomba, that group from the Victoria Falls, proved to the audiences at HIFA that they deserved the international acclaim and recognition that they have received overseas.

Mokoomba’s performance which was presented by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in association with BancABC,


was spiced up by scintillating dances.

The dazzling performance on the night was directed by AsaJogi, designer Heeten Bhagat, musical director Magda Giannikou, storyteller and narrator Ignatius Mabasa and production manager CarineTredgold.

A beautiful display of fireworks that left the audience gazing in the sky in admiration of the spectacle rounded off the opening night.

After the first night, people were looking forward to more exciting events that would match or exceed this performance. A lot people in the audience were heard saying things like, “I wonder how Salif Keita is going to overtake this mesmerizing act on the closing night?” or “I am not sure whether anything else at HIFA will beat tonight’s event”, and “I am not going to bother attending anything else after this”.

Despite these sentiments being expressed, hundreds of people still attended the ceremony.

I will leave it to the readers who attended the closing night to be their own judges on the two acts.

The rest of the week was filled with differentl genres of music: starting with An Afro- Japanese Music Happening, TauraiPekiwe and the Legal Lions on Tuesday while Luisa Sobral, The Zimbabwe College of Music and Prince Edward School Bands who all performed on the Coca-Cola Green stage. The Zimbabwe College of Music brass band was awesome as they performed a programme of traditional, contemporary and modern jazz.

Unfortunately Prince Edward School band did not give its best because its drummer was involved in an accident and could not make it to the event. Instead the lead guitarist, TakakundaMukundu( theson of Clive Mono Mukundu) had to play the drums to cover up for him.

Another highlight of HIFA 2015 was the workshop programmes on Wednesday and Thursday where arts and culture practitioners got together. I attended the Impact Music Conference which had some of the leading names in music such as M.anifest from Ghana, Virginia Berger from France, PhionaOkumu of the Afripop Blog, Walter Wanyanya and Tehn Diamond from Zimbabwe participating. Presentations and debates took place on marketing music, music policy and advancements in music technology.

On Thursday at the ZOL main stage the Dancehall Alliance featuring Buffalo Soldier, Kaakie from Ghana and Guspy Warrior appeare d. They also gave a splendid performance but the number of those who came to appreciate them was small. The Zanzibar TaarabKidumbak Ensemble, i-Tribe, Buhle and Sylent and later Bashupi&Pkay also appeared on the Coca-Cola Green stage on the same day. The next day, Friday the 1st of May feature d the Prince Edward School band again without their original drummer.


Other performances included Digitts, True Vibenation and Beatenberg. Scheduled forSaturday were Djembe Monks and Michael Moore and some free stage performances on First Street.VictorKunonga and RaminKhalatbari were the main attraction on the ZOL main stage.

Sunday saw the closing of HIFA where TarironeGitare, Eve Kawadza and the Marondera Schools Orchestra, Makumbe High School Choir, Josh Meck Silas Miami & Raven performed throughout the day until Salif Keita & Hope Masike closed HIFA 2015.

We all look forward to a bigger and better HIFA in 2016.