Cape Town World Music Festival: Mtukudzi, Mohamed, Freshly and more

The inaugural Cape Town World Music Festival sees African music legend Oliver Mtukudzi headline a multi-national bill of over thirty artists, including some of the city’s many emigre artists.

Oliver Mtukudzi headlines the Cape Town World Music Festival

This article by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2012/ 09/30.

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi has released over fifty albums, been honoured with the Kora All Africa music award twice, given an honorary M.Sc in Fine Arts, and consistently been one of the biggest selling artists in his native Zimbabwe since 1985. Frenchman DJ ClicK is hailed by National Geographic as one of Europe’s leading world-fusion and by LonelyPlanet as a top exponent of melding electronic and traditional styles. Swaziland’s Bholoja (Mbongiseni Ngubane) was celebrated as the “find” of the recent Bushfire Festival in Swaziland for “restoring dignity and pride to the Swazi cultural heritage”. 90 year old Pondo uhadi and mhrubhe bow player Madosini has been called the queen of indigenous Xhosa music and was the first artist to be recorded for the WOMAD “Musical Elders Archives” project. Israel’s Boom Pam, who meld rock with Mediterranean, Balkan, Greek and Israeli music, have been showcased as widely as the WOMEX and SXSW music festivals. Multi-award winning Freshlyground, with members from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa, celebrate their tenth year of traveling their sound to the world. That’s less that a fifth of the artists who will grace the two-day Cape Town World Music Festival to be launched in November over four stages in Cape Town’s east city precinct.
“Why this festival?” says co-organiser Ma’or Harris shortly after inking the deal for one of the headline artists. “There’s an abundance of music around with no platform to show it, and we wanted to create a space where people can experience the music properly, whether it’s tango or Indian or kwassa or Oliver Mtukudzi’s ‘Tuku music’. We want the environment to be entirely engulfing, and to be there for one purpose only, which is to let people experience music they don’t always hear, and fall in love with it. We also want to make the festival accessible to all, so we have kept the prices low, and we are running a free stage, and also workshops and talks.”
The term “world music” is highly contested, and rightly so. It seems odd that a small, English speaking segment of the recording industry decided to imply, with one simple word, that they are somehow not part of “the world”, even as they lumped together music from everywhere else on the globe as being somehow the same. For the organisers – and, in all likelihood, most of their audience – the hold-all label serves a purpose, even as it has grown to include music not just from continental Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and India, but also Americana like folk, bluegrass and country.
“The highlights of my life have always been while present at an amazing live music show,” continues Harris. “Listening to so-called ‘world’ acts at festivals around the world; often at the Bassline Stage at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which caters to that kind of music; or hearing bands that would play at something like WOMAD. On the other hand, there isn’t a platform for all the amazing artists around Cape Town and South Africa – people like Adamu from Angola, or Sylvestre Kabassidi who left the DRC – who deliver world-class acts but keep getting booked for these little gigs here and there. In the townships around the city, and the suburbs where African immigrants live, there are all these amazing bands, but the best they can hope for is, maybe, a slot at Marco’s Place or the Mama Africa restaurant. We need a proper platform for them to be heard.”
This first edition of the Cape Town World Music Festival will take over Cape Town’s east city parking lot off Harrington Street to create two sheltered outdoor stages – the main “Beanstalk” stage and the free “Lion’s Head” stage – and reconfigure the interior of The Assembly for a seated, longer session listening stage, called “Silent Revolution”, that later makes way for the “Nu World” stage, with world-beat and AfroClap DJs.  Also on offer is a series of workshops and talks,  a day-time local craft market, food stalls and bars. The festival was conceived by Beanstalk’s Ma’or Harris and Alain Ferrier, and CapeMIC’s Hagar Graiser, with the Silent Revolutions stage curated by Kesivan Naidoo and Lee Thomson. Immediately, acts sprang to mind: the international headliners, and then local luminaries like Dizu Plaatjies, who co-founded both Amampondo and Ibuyambo to preserve and teach indigenous musical traditions; like multi-instrumentalist Pops Mohamed, who both catalogues and creates with indigenous styles; like Dirty Bounce, a side project by members of Mr Cat and The Jackal and Nomadic Orchestra; like Kongo Elektro, a collaboration between DRC-born band-leader Mapumba and Berklee graduate Dan Eppel.
“The Cape Town World Music Festival was the most natural progression for us as Beanstalk after doing the Balkanology parties, and then running the world music stages at festivals like Rocking the Daisies, OppiKoppi and event at GrietFest. We started thinking, ‘ What can the new big concept be, what will everyone fall head-over-heels in love with?’ Then we realised that is not a good way of thinking. Rather, we should look at the bigger picture. What do we love, and what doesn’t have a platform? It was obvious – we should do the thing that should always have been there, but is not. We should create a world music festival.”
* The inaugural Cape Town World Music Festival is on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November, headlined by Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe), Bholoja (Swaziland), Boom Pam (Israel), DJ Click Band (France) and, from South Africa, Freshlyground, and Madosini with Derek Gripper. Alongside these on the three paid stages are also performances by Adamu (Angola/SA), Sylvestre Kabassidi (Congo/SA), Johannesburg’s The Brother Moves On and Cape Town’s Babu, Mantras4ModernMan, Dirty Bounce, Cape Town Tango Ensemble, and DJs Toby2shoes, Jakob Snake-AfroClap, Maoriginal and more.
This article by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2012/ 09/30.

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