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AFAR 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.

"Most 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", said Johnson.

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 January.  

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