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completes successful tour in Zimbabwe
United States Embassy in Harare
December 11, 2006
U.S. based hip
hop group, AFAR, yesterday completed a successful four-day tour
of Zimbabwe. The group, which arrived in the country on Tuesday,
December 5, performed live shows in Harare and Bulawayo and conducted
four workshops with young artists, at Pakare Paye Art Centre in
Norton, Zimbabwe College of Music in Harare, Amakhosi Theatre Productions
in Bulawayo and Umkhathi Theatre Works in Bulawayo’s Njube Surburbs.
The tour was facilitated
by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Harare in conjunction
with Jazz at Lincoln Center. It sought to promote cultural exchange
by linking local artists to their counterparts in the U.S. The band–
keyboardist Richard Johnson vocalist Jason "Jahah" Berry,
drummer Che "Black Fist" Marshall , and bassist Demonterious
"Double D" Lawrence- also took time to learn more about
local music and traditional instruments during their meetings with
the various up and coming artists.
The socially conscious
hip hoppers kicked off their schedule in the country with a workshop
at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton (40 kilometres South West of
Harare) where they conducted a two- hour long workshop with young
artists. Pakare Paye is the brainchild of internationally acclaimed
musician Oliver Mtukudzi who also held a brief discussion with members
of AFAR prior to the workshop. Mtukudzi was ecstatic about AFAR’s
visit and described the visit as "an opportunity" for
artists to share experiences with the hip hop group. Mtukudzi also
explained the vision of the centre. Pakare Paye, said Mtukudzi,
is not a teaching institution, but exists to provide a platform
for the youth to showcase their talents. After discovering their
talents, the artists are assisted in recording their productions
and connected to the right people.
During the workshops,
discussions focused on rehearsals and the role of communication
during live performances. The group listened to, and commented on,
performances from local groups. Local artists were also given an
opportunity to comment on AFAR’s music. The highlight of these interactions
was the eventual selection of one of the local groups, Bongo Love,
to jointly perform with the hip hoppers during their show at Andy
Millar Hall in Harare. Bongo Love blends traditional instruments
to produce what it terms "Afro-coustic music".
Afar’s band leader,
Richard Johnson a.k.a Rjjazz, also took time to explain the values
informing hip hop music.
people say that hip hop is associated with a lot of swearing and
bad language. In the same manner, it can be used to promote positive
messages. It is very much shaped by what the audience wants,"
said Johnson during one of the workshops.
"I felt there
was need for the creation of a band with a positive image different
from the culture that had been created by our predecessors, a culture
that produced music bent on cursing accompanied by bad videos",
The band is currently
working on its second CD, playing gigs throughout the world, and
collaborating with other artists. AFAR’s international expansion
will continue in 2007, with the release of a new CD in Japan, in
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