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Zimbabwe Jazz Festival 2022, a jam packed double bill

The 5th edition of the Zimbabwe Jazz Festival swings into gear this weekend in Bulawayo and Harare. Back with a bang and now extending beyond the capital, Harare, to Bulawayo ‘City of Kings and Queens’, the second largest city of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust in collaboration with Alliance Française have partnered to organise the musical event.  

By Plot Mhako with excerpts from The Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust

After two editions marked by the pandemic, which took place only online, the 2022 edition will  celebrate the return to live concerts by inviting the South African-based and internationally  renowned guitarist Louis Mhlanga. The festival is being made possible by funding from The French  Embassy and support from CFAO, Total Energies, Air France and KLM. 

Louis Mhlanga

In the true spirit of Jazz, this year’s theme is ‘Creative Freedom’. Featuring some of Zimbabwe’s  finest jazz artists, the festival is also delighted to present, on stage in Harare, the celebrated guitar  maestro Louis Mhlanga.  

Bulawayo, 28 Oct – The festival kicks off in Bulawayo at Alliance Française on Friday 28 October 2022  with an exciting lineup of jazzists, from some of the freshest young talent – the vibrant Ngoma  Ingoma – to the most senior exponents of township jazz, the Cool Crooners, and graced by ladies of  Jazz – Rute Mbangwa and Buhle le Ngqondo. To celebrate this new jazz development in Bulawayo, entrance is free. 

Harare, 29 Oct – In Harare on Saturday 29 October with ‘Bra Louis’ headlining, the festival features seven outstanding artists and groups who have been leading jazz in the capital for many years, as well as newcomers, some emerging from Prince Edward High School, which is known for producing  fine young musicians, many of whom have gone on to perform around the world. 

On the Harare stage the performers will be Intotal, TGV Entertainment, Prince Edward Jazz  Band, Tanga wekwaSando, Louis Mhlanga, Dudu Manhenga, Jeys Marabini, and Jazz Invitation while in Bulawayo Buhle le Ngqondo, The Cool Crooners, Rute Mbangwa and Ngoma iNgoma will make up the line-up.

We are delighted that for the first time the festival  is happening in two cities. After the bleak Covid lockdown years, some of our objectives have been  met, and more restaurants and venues in Harare are opening up to live jazz music entertainment, after the genre made a comeback with sustained events by ‘Back2Jazzics’ events staged by the Trust.  We are bringing Jazz back to the people again, and they’ll love it.” 

The festival’s artistic director Filbert Marova

With Alliance Francaise as host venues in both cities, the Bulawayo chapter takes place on Friday 28  October at the Alliance Française, 61 Heyman Rd, and in Harare on Saturday 29 October in the  popular Alliance Française garden at 328 Herbert Chitepo Avenue.  

“The promotion of cultural diversity is one of the values defended by France in the world. The  Alliance Française contributes daily to the dialogue between cultures, to the promotion of cultural,  artistic and linguistic exchanges.  

Alliance Francaise de Harare director Fanny Gauthier

Zimbabwe is full of talented musicians. The Alliance Française of Harare can boast of having  contributed to the career of some of them and wishes to continue this commitment. Together with  their long-standing partner the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust, the French Embassy, and the  Alliances Françaises are joining forces for an event specifically dedicated to jazz, a musical aesthetic so closely linked to the African continent.  

The programme is based on renowned artists but also invites young musicians to perform alongside  them. A series of 5 workshops is planned to enrich their musical practice. A total of 12 groups, i.e. about 60 musicians, will perform on 28 and 29 October 2022.” 

“We are very excited to be part of the Zimbabwe Jazz Festival for the first time, and especially after 2  years of Covid and with our Zimbabwean partners.

Alliance Francaise Bulawayo Director, Guillaume Ripaud

The director added that working hand in hand with the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust is an ideal way for us to create  stronger bonds with Bulawayo artists, and a first step in making Alliance Française of Bulawayo a  proper concert place in the city, as it used to be in the past. We want to be a place where artists, not  only musicians, gather and expose their work and art.  

“Organizing a workshop before the concert is really something we support, and the perfect  expression for music industry building. Having an artist from Harare in our programme is also a  perfect way to connect artists from all the country, and gives this event a national dimension. With  Alliance Française of Bulawayo having an annex in Victoria Falls with a new project coming up, being  part of the Zimbabwe Jazz Festival can also be a way for us to bring music events there, in the future,  and maybe extend the Festival to another part of the country.” said Guillaume Ripaud

“This is a festival not to miss because the legend who we have always wanted to feature is here. As  has become our tradition of continual improvement, we have once again raised the bar by bringing  the guitar maestro, Louis Mhlanga, to serenade his hungry Zimbabwean fans on this day of celebrating the creativity of jazz. Louis’s mastery of his instrument and homegrown brew of guitar  magic will certainly resonate well with this year’s theme, ‘Creative Freedom’.  

ZJCT Chairperson Robert Basvi

The other fine artists featured on the lineup have proven their mettle and will certainly make this  yearly feast live up to its billing, to satisfy all jazz appetites.  

The Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust are thankful to the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise in  Zimbabwe for their unwavering support of this Festival every year.

“The stage is set and all the jazz lovers out there have to do is make a date for the 28th October in Bulawayo and the 29th for the  Harare main act.”

Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust

In an ongoing relationship since 2007 the headline act for the Harare edition Louis Mhlanga performs with the American-based project, Playing for  Change, which comprises musicians from the entire globe, and sees him perform his special brand of  guitar wizardry across all states of North America.  

In addition to being globally respected and acknowledged as the master of the African guitar, Louis Mhlanga is best known for his warmth and humility. He is a legend in the musical fraternity, the artists’ artist, and his distinctive style is now being emulated by a host of young guitarists. 

The Board of Trustees of the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust is comprised of Filbert Marova  (Founder and veteran jazz pianist, composer and educator); Robert Basvi – engineer/entrepreneur/  music analyst and current chairperson; Tinashe Mukarati – saxophonist/music  administrator/entrepreneur; and jazz-lover Kumbula Kuyaziwa.  

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