Music heavyweights Victor Kunonga and Jah Prayzah take the Book Café main stage stage back-to-back on Friday 23 May, supported by energetic young singer and entertainer Ba Shupi and the gifted Cynthia Mare, to celebrate Africa Day and Culture Week.

By The Zimbabwean 

Jah Prayzah
Jah Prayzah

The show starts promptly at 8pm to accommodate the fans of some of Zimbabwe’s best-loved performing artists, who will be coming together from all corners of Harare in a celebration of diversity led by their favourite artists – part of the young generation of Zimbabweans who have risen to acclaim both at home and further afield, and continue to pull crowds and please music-lovers around the country and the world.

The single theme that unites all the artists performing is they represent a myriad of diverse Zimbabwean expressions and cultural origins and so remind us on Africa Day that our intangible assets in culture and our diversity are a “national treasure”.

Culture Week at Book Café (Harare), ignited a spectacular week of local cultural diversity with performances and cultural actions to commemorate Africa Day, under the theme “Re-linking our Communities through Culture”.

The theme is born from the concept of “cultural inclusivity” in which we welcome and celebrate all the extraordinary cultural diversity, origins and also African and other influences that make up Zimbabwean arts today.

The Africa Day theme and cultural activities have been devised in support of Zimbabwe Culture Week under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, and in Harare as part of the Harare International Carnival in cooperation with Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

These and other Pamberi Trust arts development programmes are supported by many local and international partners including Africalia and the EU Action Programme.

Victor Kunonga

Victor Kunonga
Victor Kunonga

A rising Zimbabwean star who has captured audiences with his cross-cutting mbira patterns employed on guitar and mbira, with interwoven bass and drum lines, a hybrid of sounds, with complex poly-rhythms through the interlocking guitars. Victor has taken mbira-derived and other forms of Zimbabwe’s guitar culture to totally new and unexpected destinations and created a deep and rich tapestry, a soundscape of truly Zimbabwean sounds.

Lyrically, Kunonga is in a class of his own amongst his peers. His social commentary is poetic and profound, but accessible, painting a poignant vocal picture of what he observes as he touches the pulse of society, charting its trajectory.

His music has carried Victor far and wide in the region, and after a recent collaboration with Victor, SA maskanda-jazz artist Bheki Khoza said “Kunonga’s music is subtle… not jazz, but contemporary afrocentric. The way he uses breaks and riffs makes it very contemporary – without leaving the roots. I like it when Victor puts in mbira in the set. It makes it very dynamic to hear that instrument in a contemporary setting, not just a sideline somebody playing alone.’

In December 2013, Kunonga entered into an unexpected but exciting music collaboration with Jamaican dub poet D’bi Young during Pamberi Trust’s programme for ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence’.

Sure to be included in Victor’s set list is new material from his fourth album which is in the pipeline, ably backed by his gifted young backing band ‘Peace’, comprising Norman Masamba (guitars), Pritchard Chikwama (bass) and Simbarashe Dembedza (drums and percussion).

‘Jah Prayzah’

Jah Prayzah has taken the country by storm in the last few years, thrilling fans across the country with his unique fusion of afropop, traditional mbira, and highly danceable music and entertaining performance,

In February Jah Prayzah won five National Arts Merits Awards from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe – Outstanding Male Musician, Outstanding Song and Outstanding album for “Tsoviriyo’, Outstanding Music Video, and also the People’s choice Award.

In April he launched his 6th album, a 10-track offering titled Kumbumura Mhute, to the delight of his fans.

Among many others and many travels in the region, Jah Prayzah has collaborated with Harare livewire Ammara Brown, in a sizzling duet titled Kure Kure which was well received in Zimbabwe, described as “… a fusion of different genres that include RnB and jazz but ultimately coming up with a melodious Afro Fusion riding on the seemingly discreet Mbira”. Jah Prayzah has also collaborated and recorded with Botswana’s ‘Charma Girl’.

‘Ba Shupi’

Ba Shupi
Ba Shupi

A high-energy entertainer who delights fans across the country and beyond, Ba Shupi (Peace Ndlovu) has been active in the arts all his life – from music to drama and dance – joining the famous Amakhosi Theatre (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) at the age of 13, from which led him around Zimbabwe and to Sweden, Russia, Netherlands, Germany and Uruguay as part of a large entourage in his teen years. Some years later he joined and performed regularly at the Book Café Open Mic, a weekly event staged by arts development organisation Pamberi Trust to identify and nurture young talent, which provided a new platform for exposure and opportunities for recognition, and led to his phenomenal growth.

Along with performances and high-profile collaborations on many club and festival stages in Zimbabwe over the years since then, Ba Shupi has also travelled to perform in South Africa and Malawi, and most recently a highly successful UK tour with performances in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Glasgow, and Leeds (Dec 2013-Jan 2014). One of his memorable collaborations was with the late great mbira star Chiwoniso Maraire at the Book Café, before she died.

Cynthia Mare

Cynthia Mare
Cynthia Mare

Rising Afropop singer and instrumentalist Cynthia Mare has risen up to several stages in the capital in the past year, including Pamberi Trust’s SISTAZ OPEN MIC event, which exists to promote women artists. From there she gained respect by her peers and audiences and has performed several times on Book Café and other stages, alongside more established artists, where she delivered a great performance. Rare as a female instrumentalist, Cynthia plays keyboards along with lead vocals – never an easy feat – and leads her backing band with life and style.

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