CityLife Arts

Africa Month Concert is back with a bang, featuring top talent from the continent

By Edward Tsumele

There is no doubt that the out break of the coronavirus has caused major disruptions in our lives as human beings, including the lingering fear of infection and possible death, but also the way we socialize and travel. That is besides the economic devastation visited upon the globe.

But one other thing that will make arts lovers not to forgive the coronavirus, long after it has been banished to wherever it came from in the first place, hopefully so, is the inability for promoters to put up festivals that we have over the years loved and embraced as necessary for us to have sanity.

One such popular event on Johannesburg’s entertainment calendar is the Africa Month concert that for years took place around Newtown

. Organised by well known music brand Bassline, this concert that normally takes place on May 25, Africa Day, has over the years become especially beloved because of the mix of the artists that are featured. It is the is one platform where  one will always be in a position to watch South African artists perform alongside some of the big names in music in Africa.

Some of those musicians from the rest of the continent are so big that they often are based overseas due to their global tentacles not only confined on the continent, but the rest of the world.

But then when the coronavirus struck last year, forcing the countries to effect lockdowns that did not allow social interactions, banning mass events such as music concerts, theatre productions and the like, the country had to kiss bye bye to the Africa Day concert last year.

By that time when the concert normally would take place on May 25, 2020, South Africa was in hard lockdown, making it impossible to have the Africa Month Concert. Everybody at that time accepted the situation as the country was facing a Pandemic whose devastation we had not witnessed in our lifetimes.

However somehow as a society we have by now  learned how to live with this virus in the air.  For example the wearing of the mask, especially in public places, has become so much part of us, with the exceptions of the few stubborn ones who think  the wearing of the mask is  a joke even at a stage where all the evidence by now is there to know that this virus is not a joke and can kill.  By now everybody knows someone who has lost a loved one, If personally they have not been affected so far.

Promoters of mass events, have also adapted to the new  ‘normal,’ for example live streaming events. Not as good as live, but at least giving the audience to enjoy normally live events such as live music and theatre, instead of having nothing at all. The good thing is one can enjoy these events in safety at home.

Now the good news I am about to tell is this –the Africa Month concert is back. It is not coming in the same way it has always come, that is a live concert attended physically by hordes of its followers.  This time of the Coronavirus, it is happening on TV. And living up to its reputation of brining top musicians from the continent to entertain music lovers, this time it is no different as the promoeters have come  up with a programme featuring musicians in the imagination of many a discerning music lover on the continent and beyond.

The Bassline Fest I AM HOME is a three-hour TV Special in celebration of Africa Day, to be broadcast on SABC2 on Saturday 29th May 2021 from 8pm to 11pm. A Pan-African Music Concert special showcasing artists from across the African Continent this Africa Month.

Says organiser Brad Holmes “This Bassline Fest I AM HOME Africa Day Special will provide the same musical performance greatness the Bassline Fest Africa Day concerts are known for – while exploring what I AM HOME means to artists across Africa. Shasha from Zimbabwe, Tems from Nigeria, Baaba Maal from Senegal;  Sun- El Musician, Msaki, Urban Village, Ami Faku and Umlilo from South Africa; Zambia’s Sampa The Great and Leila from Morocco, will provide exciting performances that show off the diversity of African music.” 

“The past year has seen us plunge into chaos, confinement and the collective trauma of isolation. But we have also been blessed with an opportunity to reflect and rediscover ourselves, our homes, our home countries and our art. Weare hereWhat now? This Africa Day, the Bassline Fest in partnership with SABC2 explores what it means to find ourselves right here: on the continent, inside our homes, with ourselves, connected and comforted by artists – and their music.Via Live performance footage of the artists, we’ll get intimate, pulling back the curtain to see what memories, dreams and experiences lie behind the music and the artists that make that music. We’ll explore the joy, liberation, refuge, power and community of music and performance on and from the African continent.”

In light of the continued COVID-19 virus quarantining, lock downs, social-distancing and while awaiting vaccine rollout, plus the hindsight gained from 2020’s challenges and successes, for the Bassline the successes were the streamed concerts we hosted: Play Your Part Africa & Blooming Sounds from Joburg, now Bassline presents a made for TV live music special, I AM HOME.

“The past year has seen us plunge into chaos, confinement and the collective trauma of isolation. But we have also been blessed with an opportunity to reflect and rediscover ourselves, our homes, our home countries and our art. We are hereWhat now? This Africa Day, the Bassline Fest in partnership with SABC2 explores what it means to find ourselves right here: on the continent, inside our homes, with ourselves, connected and comforted by artists – and their music.Via Live performance footage of the artists, we’ll get intimate, pulling back the curtain to see what memories, dreams and experiences lie behind the music and the artists that make that music. We’ll explore the joy, liberation, refuge, power and community of music and performance on and from the African continent.

”Bassline will be extending the viewership and reach throughout Africa via partnering with important African Music Festivals and Markets, who will be stream broadcasting the show on their respective Facebook pages. These are SAKIFO Festival in Reunion Island, AZGO in Mozambique, Sauti Za Busarra in Tanzania, Visa for Music in Morocco, Access via Music In Africa and Bayimba Festival in Uganda,” says the promoters.

The artists are:

 Sha Sha, whose real name is Charmaine Mapimbiro, began her career in Zimbabwe as a young vocalist working with Blindfaith group in 2015 – an artist development program based in Harare. She started performing at music festivals in Zimbabwe after being encouraged by her friends. After pursuing music professionally and having her singles hit the airwaves in Zimbabwe, she partnered with Anashe Media Group and began working with a couple of producers in South Africa. She started doing gigs and soon started growing a fan base but things really changed when a cab driver she befriended introduced her to DJ Maphorisa. Following her introduction to the DJ, 

Sha Shawas featured on songs like “Nge Thanda Wena” by Mlindo the Vocalist, “Akulaleki” by Samthing Soweto, “We Mama” by the Scorpion Kings (DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small) and “Love You Tonight” by MFR Souls which have helped cement her name in the music industry. The young beauty from Mutare has become an in-demand vocalist in Amapiano and it’s no surprise why. Her latest offering, “Blossom”, contains Amapiano tracks such as a remix of Moloko’s iconic song, “Sing It Back” and club hit Tender Love that have dominated dancefloors across the country.

Tems (Temilade Openiyi) is a Nigerian Music Artist, Singer-Song Writer, and upcoming music producer born 11 June 1995 in Lagos. Tems is one of the fastest rising singers to watch out for. Her song “Try Me” currently has over 4 million views. Another single titled “Damages” became another follow-up hit to “Try Me” peaking at number 6 on the newly launched “TurnTable Top 50” and she was recently featured on Wizkid’s song titled “Essence” off his Made in Lagos album. She has also been featured by top American singer, Khalid on the Afrobeats remix of ‘Know Your Worth’. Tems is focused on promoting the movement currently shaping alternative music in Nigeria to advance the culture and conversations alike.

Msaki from South Africa

Msaki is a composer and singer-songwriter from East London, South Africa. Her acclaimed sonic soundscapes combine soulful folk with symphonic movements, Xhosa lyrics and African poly-rhythms. Her raw delivery and skilful improvisation disrupts your senses, leaving you moved and quietly longing for more as she weaves subtle tales of love, loss, home, revolution and hope. She plays with an ever-evolving and expanding band of musicians from different musical backgrounds in what she calls the Golden Circle. In 2013, Msaki independently recorded and released an EP called Nal’ithemba, which was followed by her debut album Zaneliza: How the Water Moves in 2016. Her second studio album is currently in the works. Msaki has shared stages with renowned artists like Nduduzo Makhathini, Salif Keita, Pops Mohammed, Vusi Mahlasela, Angelique Kidjo, Siphokazi Mohapi and Thandiswa Mazwai.

Ami Faku from South Africa

Ami Faku is a rare musical gem from Eastern Cape, South Africa – with a voice that commands the attention of any room she sings in. Gifted with the ability to work with various musical genres, she finds her musical solace in the Modern Afro Pop genre. With influences from the likes of Daniel Caesar and Sabrina Claudio, and her own Xhosa heritage, Ami Faku’s sound is unique and global. She has worked with artists such as Ntsika Fana (The Soil), Jethro Tait and David (Kiffness) as well as with producers Wilson Okafor, Nobel Music, Eternal Africa and 37MPH. Ami’s start in the music industry came in 2017 when she competed in the TV talent show, The Voice SA. Though she did not win, she was signed by the Vth Season record label. Ami released her first studio album Imali in 2019, and it earned her the female artist of the year award at the 2020 SAMAs. In 2020, she was named as the most streamed female artist in South Africa by Deezer.

LIVE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiXiSgNBAQ4

Leila from Morocco

Leila was born in Oujda, Morocco. She grew up in a region rich in musical heritage such as Reggada, Arfa, Mechiakha, Gharnati, Rai, without forgetting the Algerian Chaâbi. Leila recorded her first single at the age of fifteen. In 2015, she formed “Snitra”, with which she toured before moving to Casablanca. Her voice is fragile and powerful at the same time, and her music is a harmonious mix of styles from her region that she gracefully blends with her Rock, Reggae and Blues influences.

Sampa The Great from Zambia/Botswana/Australia

Sampa The Great (Sampa Tembo) is a poet and singer-songwriter. Expressing herself through music, poetry and visual art, Sampa captures listeners with thought provoking words, while encouraging people to enjoy the simplicity of creativity. The rise of Sampa The Great has been spectacular to watch. Having previously released two mixtapes in The Great Mixtape (2015) and Birds And The BEE9 (2017), the Zambian-born, Botswana-raised and now Melbourne based artist shared her debut album The Return, in 2019. The Return sees Sampa delve into conversations of freedom, expression, heritage and displacement that have filled a four-year journey towards finding home within herself. It is a walk beyond her journey to selfdiscovery, rather a formative climb to enlightenment and contentment fuelled by her experiences as an artist in Australia and the physical, spiritual and cultural influences of her ancestors and birthplace in Zambia.

“Originating from Zambia, the Melbourne-based poet and singer-songwriter is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she a brooding soulful, hip hop genius who redefines typical rap music, but she is also a powerful commentator, using her words to effect positive change.” – AU Review

http://music.theaureview.com/reviews/live-review-sampa-the-great-reigns-supreme-at-st-pauls-cathedralfor-

melbourne-music-week/

Rhymes to the East (Live Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MddG0quhiFY

Umlilo from South Africa

Intergalactic shape-shifting kwaai diva Umlilo is a genre and gender bending multi-disciplinary artist. The queer performer/music producer’s signature sound dubbed ‘future kwaai’ explores and pushes the boundaries of electronic kwaito, alt-pop music in contemporary South Africa and has been a regular fixture in the international music community. They have released two acclaimed visual EP’s that have been playlisted worldwide, received over 100 000 streams online and featured across film, art, literature, fashion and music platforms. In 2017, Umlilo took their sound international with tours in North and South America and Europe with rap duo Stash Crew. Umlilo has released two EP’s ‘Shades of Kwaai’ and ‘Aluta’ available on Apple Music, Amazon and most online music platforms. The EP was playlisted all over the world in countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, France and USA. The debut single Living Dangerously off of Umlilo’s debut EP ‘Shades of Kwaai’ was named one of Rolling Stone SA Magazine’s hottest singles of the month for May 2013 and featured in film While You Weren’t Looking and will be part of the BBC drama series ‘Noughts and Crosses’ soundtrack. Umlilo has given two TED talks titled “Technology rescitates art”.

Umlilo, live with Thor Rixon in Cape Town :

Sun El Musician from South Africa

“AFRICA TO THE WORLD”

Sun-El Musician was the biggest winner for the SAMA24 – he walked away with 3 SAMA’s in these categories; Best Collaboration for his runaway hit Akanamali. The song also won him the SAMPRA Highest Airplay Song of the Year and Samro Highest Airplay Composer’s awards. Sun-El Musician was the ray that struck a nerve with “Akanamali” in 2017. It snuck up on, and shattered, dance charts with impeccable verve, in turn setting the tone for the deejay/producer’s

debut long-player. Africa to the World does more than deliver floor to floor bangers. “Umalukatane” hands down spasms and shoots energy; “Bamthathile” forces you to slow down and reconsider; and “Yere Faga” salutes honourable Malian singer Oumou Sangaré. Sun El-Musician has composed a standoutepic—frankly, one of the only collections of songs you’ll want to spin with alarming frequency from the get-go. Akanamali is an act of pure genius, a song that in its weirdness has brought the whole of South Africa and surrounding countries to its feet. And still currently the most played song across all radio stations. An opportunity to work with African talent is a dream that we are turning in to a reality. Capturing the soul of Africa and merging with the progressive sound is the heart of who Sun-El Musician is and what he represents.

 Aurus from Reunion Island

is a modern mirage. The incarnation of our contradictions. Having collaborated with many great musicians over the years, Bastien Picot honed his skills as a vocalist through various genres across the world. Aurus is his solo project – a visually and sonically compelling Reunion Island act steeped in the unusual combination of Creole and English lyrics on Maloya instrumentals.Using traditional instruments such as the kayamb and rouler and inspired by the symbols of the different forms of Horus (the Egyptian god) recorded in history. To Bastien, it means seeing beyond the material world, taking Maloya culture further into the world and beyond, where anything is possible.

Urban Village from Soweto South Africa

For the four musicians of Urban Village, who have known only their gigantic township of Soweto, these traditional roots hidden by buildings and concrete are the source of their music.  Whilst, others are still digging for that precious metal, gold, the four companions ofUrban Village have decided to dig up these mixed legacies of which they are the heirs and share them through music. Born for the most part in the last years of apartheid, they, like all adolescents of their generation, plunged happily into house and dance music that turned the page of a past too heavy, and offered a new skin. But the past had other secrets, carpeted at the corner of the streets of Mzimhlophe, the Soweto neighbourhood where they lived. Because it was there, around a workers’ home, that Lerato the guitarist heard the Zulu musicians and their very particular style, called maskandi. Something to put him on the track, observing and listening to the “Malumes (Uncles)”, that is to say the neighbours of the neighbourhood. Lerato learned his instrument on his own, mixing styles from homelands and rural areas to make his own, sharpened in club jam sessions where spoken word, hip-hop and jazz rub shoulders freely. It was in this universe that he met Tubatsi, to which he entrusted a flute and who became the lead singer of Urban Village, Tubatsi also began to write, and penned the lyrics of most of the songs on their debut album “Udondolo (Walking Stick)”.

“Feet steeped in tradition and head bowed toward the future, the Soweto based group Urban Village creates a unique melding of Zulu guitars, indie-folk, South African choirs and jazz and dazzled with an insane energy and charisma.” – Pan African Music

Baaba Maal from Senegal

Born into a large family of fishermen in the Fouta town of Podor in 1953, Baaba studied music in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and Paris, and embarked on a two-year musical pilgrimage around west Africa with his friend Mansour Seck. He then recorded albums with Seck, including the desert blues classic Djam Leelii, and the band Daande Lenol (The Voice of the People). Since the 1980s, he has released several solo albums, toured the world many times, worked with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack to Black Hawk Down, and collaborated with the likes of Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Tony Allen and U2. Despite his international perspective, he has always acknowledged his roots by singing in Pulaar, the Fulani dialect of the Senegal River valley. Baaba’s work is a modern twist on the West African tradition of the griot: the storytelling troubadour. Baaba has most recently been involved with the global mega-smash movie Black Panther soundtrack, where he collaborated on the the composer Ludwig  Göransson, as well as performing the song Wakanda. It won the Grammy Awards (Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media) and the covetted Best Original Music Score at the Academy Awards. 

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