national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Poetry Africa’s Musical Voices include legendary Zimbabwean.

The symbiotic ties between music and poetry are made explicit through several of the participants in this year’s Poetry Africa, the 12th International Poetry Festival held in Durban.

The music on show at this year’s festival includes legendary Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo, who will be accompanied by members of his band Blacks Unlimited. Mapfumo, who has lived in exile in the USA since 2005, is the originator of the chimurenga beat, which was the definitive people's music of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle in the 1970s.

Truly a massive and influential figure, his music respects traditional culture and the struggle but has since been banned on Zimbabwe radio. Long before any other musician dared, Mapfumo challenged Zimbabwe's ruling party with songs like Corruption (1989) and Jojo (1990) and Disaster (1999) and more recently the album Rise Up (2005). His 1970s songs inspired a generation of people in the liberation war; while his music from the late 1980s has been a thorn in the side of the post-independence Zimbabwean government.

Mapfumo's songs tear away at injustice and tell the truth about the problems of Zimbabwe. The chimurenga sound he invented became the most inspired and important musical innovation in modern Zimbabwean music. Band leader Mapfumo and guitarists Joshua Dube, 'Pickett' Chiyangwa and Jonah Sithole took music in a totally new direction in the 1970s, re-interpreting mbira melodies on guitar and creating a new style of guitar and mbira interplay unlike anything that preceded it. Chimurenga was copied by virtually every Zimbabwean traditional musician; it became almost synonymous with what is "traditional Zimbabwean music".

Mapfumo and members of Blacks Unlimited will give must-see feature performances in the festival programme on 2 October at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 19h30 and the BAT Centre on 4 October at 19h30. He will also present a free workshop entitled Chimurenga Music on October 1 at the UKZN’s Music Department at 14h10.

Shameema Williams, Eloise Jones (aka EJ von Lyrik) and Bernadette Amansure (aka Burni) formed the trailblazing hip-hop group Godessa in 2000 and have since continued to break ground as the only recording and performing female hip-hop crew in South Africa. Godessa will perform on October 1 at the Elizabeth Sneddon at 19h30.

Joining them is the equally righteous hip-hopper Jitsvinger, from Cape Town, who released his slamming Afrikaans language debut album Skeletsleutel in 2006. Jitsvinger will perform on 3 October at 19h30 at the Sneddon.

Powerful, fresh and blessed with an enviable stage presence, poet and musician Ntsiki Mazwai has worked with household music industry names such as DJ Mbuso, Zynne Sibika, Bruce Sebitlo, Kyllex Faku and the Kentphonik team. Her single Uwrongo, which featured on DJ Fresh’s Definition of House Volume II, received heavy rotation on YFM and Metro FM and culminated in her SAMA nominated debut release, MaMiya. Described as “a new genre – kwai-hop-soul”, Ntsiki’s unique style of fusing her inspirational poems with beats has proved immensely popular. She will perform on October 3 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 19h30.

The full programme of activities, plus participant bios and photos, is available on More information on 031 260 2506.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 12th Poetry Africa festival is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), Royal Netherlands Embassy, Stichting Doen, National Arts Council, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, French Institute of South Africa, African Synergy Book Café, and the City of Durban.