Blissful night at Pakare Paye SPAR Solo Festival

HARARE - Saturday night turned into a blissful encounter as music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi aka Tuku led a classic act by solo performers who graced his annual Pakare Paye SPAR Solo Festival.

The night, which also surprised audiences with its chilly weather, witnessed a vibrant and growing festival that has for the past six years unearthed young artists’ talent.

The brainchild of Mtukudzi, the Solo Festival has grown in bounds and now accommodates more than 30 acts who perform solo, hence exhibiting their individual talents.

On Saturday night, the showcase’s stage performances were marshalled well by former College of Music director, Chris Timbe whose master play with language and engagement awakened audiences throughout the night.

Timbe was also to witness some of his former students perform, among them singing sensation Hope Masike.

For Tuku and wife Daisy who is the festival’s director, it was a night in which they saw their dream of a wonderful solo talent exhibit unfold with spectacular and glitz performances.

Indeed a nourished dream to arm artists, and in particular the youths. The couple’s idea is to provide youths a platform to perform before audiences and at world-class stage settings.

Tuku performed as the main act around midnight, sending the crowds into some frenzy with his master guitar-playing skills. The superstar’s act sounded like a big band bash and it was all the doctor had ordered.

Tuku rounded up the night by calling all performers to the stage for a concerted showcase that blended well and put an icing on a long night that had several surprise presentations from dance to vocalising.

The fans were fantastic. Tuku thanked those who thronged his centre for the performance.

“I want to thank you all for realising this dream. This festival is only possible because of your support.”

Kunle Ayo from Nigeria who was billed as one of the main highlights failed to turn up for the festival citing problems with his travelling documents.

But it was to be Kenyan music diva Suzzana Owiyo who turned out to be the night’s toast as she gave a mesmerising performance that left all spellbound.

In between her performance, the Kenyan star’s voice rose to unexpected heights and reached all corners of the arena. Forget the Kenyan language, Owiyo’s sound vibrated and the audience listened in attention and awe as the diva gave a spellbound vocal performance.

“I like Zimbabwe and I would like to stay here. Unfortunately no one is asking me to remain and stay in Zimbabwe,” said the music diva who greeted the audience in Shona.

Late in the night as she was introducing the main act, Tuku to the stage Owiyo said she met Oliver overseas at one of the studios. “I remember this man, this musician, Oliver Mtukudzi telling me that I had a powerful voice and that I should use it and follow my musical dream. It is funny that years later, and today, I stand here at Pakare Paye in Norton to introduce Mtukudzi.”

While all local music outfits and performers sprang surprise acts, it was Steve “Dongi” Makoni who shone on the beautiful classic night.

The musician’s last song during his slot had audiences on their feet and responding to the chorus. “This song was number 1 in the United States in 1961. It is a special song,” said Makoni.

In his usual teasing mood, the musician-cum-comedian had audiences in stitches as he continued to crack jokes.

Makoni said he was happy to perform at the festival “which I have always performed alongside Bob Nyabinde The Headmaster’. But I would like to tell you a story about this headmaster, because when he left public service he retired into pension only to be paid three trillion Zim dollars.”

Edith We Utonga, who performed a big bass solo guitar to the appreciation of the audience, was also a victim of Makoni’s humour. The bassist looked heavily pregnant and after her performance Makoni protested.

“I thought this was a solo performance by individual artists, but I am surprised because Edith played as a duo — they were two of them — Edith and  the baby. That was an unfair advantage,” cracked Makoni.

Pakare Paye Arts Centre’s products; musicians Munya Mataruse and Donald Kanyuchi proved they can be counted among those who play well as solo performers.

Strutting their guitars with finesse handling, one easily identifies Tuku’s influence in the young artists.

Mataruse in particular is everything that Tuku is — body structure; stage style; the hats and the singing. And he is funny on stage — you know Tuku is also funny when on stage!

There is something that Tuku can try and I am sure it will come out very well.

Tuku should partner Mataruse like he used to do with Picky Kasamba and I am sure it will be magical.

New kid on the block, Jah Prayzah gave a powerful mbira jam that had the whole arena up and jumping.

Prayzah’s mbira playing prowess and his powerful chants easily won the day as the gifted musician set quite a high standard for all those who were to play after him.

A number of divas, among them Diana Samukange, Clare Nyakujara, Batsirai Chigama and Kudzai Sevenzo gave splendid performances; and for once they all seemed like on a fashion contest.

They were elegant and managed to colour the night’s showcases with designer outfits — indeed it was a solo evening with “a solo” dress taste.

There are three musicians who always grace this solo festival — Makoni, Bob Nyabinde and Albert Nyathi. As stars in their own right, they have added glitter to the festival and perform annually.
 
Albert Nyathi performed early and recited several poems before bursting into this chant on the poem Welcome to Zimbabwe (Land of Contradictions): Once colonised in 1890; uncolonised in 1980; this is the land of contradictions my friends; where you will meet, the laughing hyenas and the crying children, the chattering monkeys and the roaring lions; where you will meet the doubting eagles in the sky and the hissing snakes in the grass, Visitor, welcome to Zimbabwe.

Mzilikazi quietly sleeps at Entumbane in Matopos side by side with Rhodes the rival who arrived for a rest here; Nehanda spirit roams around Mazoe among the orange plantations; in Nyanga the deep waters have no word to say except the mist and the misty abound; this is where you meet; Harare the city of one who does not sleep-Haa-rare! UBulawayo, umafavuke njengedabane — the city of Kings!

And now Zimbabwe is acculturated; it is a boiling pot of countless cultures; it is a hotch potch a wish wash; and because of the media American culture is tops; amongst the Zimbabwean youth; everywhere you go its “yo-man”— even to mum and dad in the countryside.


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