Ayo, Mhlanga light up Harare Jazz Festival

HARARE - After almost five years away from local stages, it was not surprising that guitar wizard Louis Mhlanga turned out to be the most popular performer at the Harare Jazz Festival on Saturday night.

As soon as the Mbare-bred musician hit the stage, most revellers, who had mostly remained at their tables dotted around the Msasa-based The Spook, suddenly made their way to the dance floor as Mhlanga showcased his well-documented multi-dimensional skills on the guitar.

The celebrated South Africa-based guitarist and vocalist played favourites such as Kugarisana Nevamwe Zvakanaka, Chiutare, Shamwari and Alois Na Jane.

No prizes for guessing that his hit Distant Lover — the signature tune on the Mai Chisamba Show — was the highlight of Mhlanga’s well-received performance.

So popular was Mhlanga on the night that the organisers were forced to bring him back to play one more song after his slot had ended.

The crowd just couldn’t have enough of his guitar artistry.

Mhlanga was replaced on stage by Bulawayo acapella group The Family Voices whose fairly good performance turned out to be nothing more than a lull before the Kunle Ayo storm.

The multi-talented Nigerian Jazz guitarist Ayo demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the most talented African guitarists with an animated display that breathed some life into the crowd that had become sleepy.

Ayo, who was armed with a cordless guitar, jumped down from the stage and danced with most women who were on the dance floor.

It was a master class from a talented entertainer.

Interestingly, Ayo played none of his own songs. He performed three popular Nigerian hits.

He kicked off his show with the hit Lady by the late African music legend Fela Kuti before Flavour’s Nwa Baby Ashawo. He concluded his energetic gig with P Square’s Chop my money.

The celebrated Nigerian artiste made the songs his “own” mostly through his long scintillating guitar solos that left the crowd in awe.

South African jazz musician Judith Sephuma was given the honour to be the last act of this year’s Harare Jazz Festival.

Her soothing crossover jazz delighted many on the night but after the energetic performances by Ayo and Mhlanga, Sephuma’s act was a bit laid back.

As expected music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi performed much to the delight of the crowd.

But Tuku only played a few songs because the organisers reportedly did not want the veteran musician to steal the thunder from bonafide jazz artists.

He, however, managed to join the Mbare trio on stage.

This year’s Harare Jazz Festival witnessed great performances by young Zimbabwean artistes who included talented guitarist/vocalist Norman Masamba, Intotal, Vee Mukarati, Buhle, Nyengeterai Zembe and The Outfit from Bulawayo.

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