Jazz rocks in Harare

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It was great jazz in the ‘‘Back to Jazzics’’ series in Harare last Sunday.  Well done, jazzists of Zimbabwe!  I knew it would be that good.  It was indeed a great performance, a Jazz Invitation reunion with the trio Kelly Rusike, Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana and Sam Mataure getting together after many years and many journeys, intersecting for a moment while carving their individual music paths through life.

Jazz Invitation in itself is such a tight band, the groove solid throughout, sparked by the artistry of bassist and bandleader Rusike (‘the journey continues’); Tamiswa Chirema on keys pulling everything together, and recently, Sam Mataure on drums, with Matthew Ngorima guesting this night on beautiful guitar.

Well occupying her space out front was the acclaimed jazz singer Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, still delivering an excellent performance, a decade or two down the line from her debut as a teen actress and singer, and four strapping young sons later, handling the craziness and complexities of jazz with agility and ease, and truly free expression in improvisation. 

Then, making it possible for all this artistry to thrive, veteran Mutare drummer Mataure was locking down the rhythm section groove with long-time-partner Rusike, both bringing their combined experience of many years and many bands to the music at hand — a deadly combination!  Can Jazz ‘rock’? Yes. It. Did.

The second set featured young musicians of “the next generation” — bassist Tafadzwa Marova (son of Filbert, who is also carving his own music career, playing widely in Harare and beyond) and Cole Rusike (16, son of Kelly, coming out on drums!   Wow, guy!  The set also welcomed the saxophonist “Pash” one of the few young guys stepping up to the sax, and entering the jazz sphere with good expression and delivery, and promising more fire into the future.  

With such talent, the future of live jazz in Harare looks to be rosy!
It was also good to see so many other jazz fans in the house, including acclaimed bassist Clancy Mbirimi, poet and writer Albert Nyathi, arts writer Munya Simango and  Larry Kwirirayi of www.3mob, plus — a full house of jazz-lovers.

Back to Jazzics, is a weekly jazz event that has been going strong for almost three years now at Chez Zandi’s on Herbert Chitepo Avenue in the Zimbabwean capital, featuring a wide variety of jazz groups and artists every Sunday from 5pm.  
“It’s an initiative of the non-profit Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust, established in 2016. 

Filbert Marova, artistic and programming director said the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust is an organisation that he founded together with Vee Mukarati, Robert Basvi, Friday Mbirimi, Clancy Mbirimi, Heather Madombwe and Tembani Mohambi.
“Our purpose is to keep jazz alive in Zimbabwe by providing a platform for jazz artists to showcase their skills. Our Patron is the respected musician and ophthalmologist, Solomon Guramatunhu.

“Among other objectives the Trust seeks to design and implement high-quality programmes to promote, educate and display jazz talent and empower organisations in Zimbabwe using seminars and workshops in the short term.  
Intended projects include the building of a Jazz Hall of Fame to chronicle and preserve the history of Jazz in Zimbabwe. 

“The Back to Jazzics initiative has unearthed brilliant jazz artists while influencing seasoned artists to rebrand their acts for greater expectations at the same time.  We are really excited to be doing this for our community,” said Marova.
Dozens of jazz (and related!) bands have performed on this platform; marketing is efficient and effective, and the event is now drawing the jazz market together, through wide local advertising, and  enjoyed being featured on CNN in January 2018.

With the rise and fall of many venues over the last few years, Back to Jazzics effectively created the long-running Sunday hub, and is helping to keeping Chez Zandi on the map as a venue for the only regular jazz event in the city, with a steady stream of music-lovers coming out each week, hungry for jazz and feasting on it. 
Last Sunday was the Back to Jazzics’ 143rd event since it started, and about the 137th at Chez Zandi including two jazz festivals. 

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