After the success of our first show in Zimbabwe, and the joy of the song writing workshop on Friday morning, it was time to go and play some music on the streets of Zimbabwe.
The First Street stage was a platform for protest, discussion, and musical revelry in the centre of Zimbabwe. It was an opportunity to play music for people who might not be able to afford the shows on the main festival site. The ethos of First Street was a bit more rough and ready than the main shows, so we plugged in, set up, and got started.
The stage was shrouded by trees, so we managed to escaped the afternoon heat. The audience were shoppers, passersby, street kids, musicians (I saw a lot of guitars out there), and stall owners. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the centre of Harare.
After this performance there were no more commitments for the day. I had already mentioned to Extra-Blessing that I would love to see some more of Zimbabwe, something more of the landscape, or the animals. So, later that Friday afternoon, we headed off to Domboshava National Monument Site, a trail of incredible walks, views, caves, and very big rocks. We stayed there walking, and making each other laugh, until sunset on Friday evening. Then, after experiencing some of the lay of the land, it was about time to head off to the festival site again, to explore the stalls of food and art, and to see what shows Friday night at HIFA 2014 had on offer.
We decided to go to the Kunzwana #1 show. I was really excited about this band, because of their blend of Austrian and Zimbabwean musicians, playing clarinet, quarter-tone trumpet, trombone, mbira, vocals and electro-acoustics. I knew it would be a fantastic performance.
Kunzwana #1 did not disappoint. Truly virtuosic brass and wind playing was joined by some of the strangest and captivating vocal sounds I have ever heard, courtesy Isabella Duthoit, and mbira player, Hope Masike, added a real Zimbabwean feel to the compositions on offer. Coupled with the peaceful atmospherics of the Global Stage, the performance was a real highlight of the festival.
To top off an already incredible show, and a memorable day, the rather inimitable Helga Davis appeared, to add her powerful operatic vocal style to the last piece of the night. What followed was an off-the-cuff and varied improvisation. Sometimes the band followed Helga and sometimes Helga followed the band. At some points I thought the ensemble might fall apart, as though it was too much of an experiment for the results to be pleasing, but it never did. These were true professionals and wherever there was discord the musicians managed to bring the piece back into formation, and the result was a contradiction of unwieldy pleasure.
Saturday was a more relaxed experience. I did an interview at one of the nation's three main radio stations ZiFM, then retreated back to the hotel to read a book, poolside, until our headline slot on Lay's Global stage, the final show of the weekend.
And what a wonderful experience we had playing this final show. Firstly, I had invited one of my workshop attendees, Tariro, to come and sing a song with us. Tariro, is a clever and engaging singer, and something of a local song writing heroine. We chose to sing I Think it was Love, and she added something really sweet and powerful to the song. Singing in Shona, one of the 16 national languages of Zimbabwe, she translated the verses with subtle twists to the melody, which left the audience cheering.
Later in the set, after Alan had been sitting out for two songs, an audience member brought a beer to the stage for him as a consolation and the banter between band, and audience reached a wonderful relaxed height.
We were supposed to do a strict one hour show, but when we left the stage there was such a mighty encore that it drowned out the bass coming from the performance that had just started on the Coca-Cola Green stage. After convincing the stage manager to allow us one more song, we went back onstage to perform We Were Trespassers, the last song of a fabulous trip.