American singer-songwriter Billy Joel once said, “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
Five years since its inception, Durban’s Zakifo Music Festival aims to harness the binding power of music by bringing together some of the world’s best African and Afro-centric artists to foster a culture that appreciates live music in a diverse environment.
Recognising music’s ability to cross cultures and looking to strengthen Indian Ocean ties with its sister festival Sakifo in Reunion, Zakifo was founded by Jerome Galabert, Sipho Sithole and Andy Davis. “Sakifo means ‘what is needed’ in Creole,” says Galabert. “With Zakifo our intention is the same. Through our world-class line-up we strive to inspire and create lasting opportunities for collaboration, cross-cultural exchanges, economic opportunities and skills development.”
Both events are part of the Igoda Music Festivals Circuit, a Southern African initiative that presents an incredible opportunity for artists and fans to travel across the tip of Africa, celebrating music and participating and strengthening the region’s interconnected creative economies. Igoda means ‘knot’ in Zulu. The Igoda Music Festival Circuit includes other music festivals such as Mozambique’s Azgo Festival, Johannesburg’s Bassline Africa Day and Swaziland’s Bushfire Festival. All these events happen over a period of three weeks in May and June when festival fever grips music lovers immersing themselves in the vibe.
Held across two weekends from 24 May to 1 June and occupying some of Durban’s most happening venues, the curated festival is as much about the musical journey as it is about the party. Ranging from intimate bespoke concerts to large shows at the catering for 3,500 to 4,000 people, the programme features cutting edge musicians such as three-time Grammy Award-winner Ben Harper, Nigeria’s singer songwriter sensation Asa, Afro-pop group Beatenberg, South African audio-visual artist Red Robyn, Mozambique’s Granmah, Germany’s techno-marching band Meute and more. Curiocity Hotel in the CBD will host several engagements, showcases and industry events with the artists as they share their knowledge.
Dynamic songbird, Red Robyn who hails from Durban’s Bluff area applauds the festival for giving her the opportunity to perform for her community on a bigger stage and for reaching varied audiences with world-renowned headliners each year. “It gives artist like me the opportunity to break into the global festival scene by being associated with artists like Ben Harper and Asa,” she says. Inspired by all the artists performing, she adds that Zakifo’s impacts on the music industry are significant as it brings cultures together, allows artists the chance to network and provides much-needed focus on live instrumentation in the local and international music scene. “I think music is very powerful in that it can bring unity as we share and identify through lived experience. It’s extremely important to continually expose South Africa to the global music scene to ensure growth and development in the arts scene and Zakifo has begun to play a vital role in this."
Durban musician and ongoing Zakifo Music Festival attendee Paul Jones was also initially drawn to the event’s diverse musician lineup. After his first attendance many of the new musicians he saw became personal favourites for him. “As an audience member it’s great seeing bands from such different cultures and music scenes. There’s a different energy than what you might expect from a normal festival.” Paul states that the festival has been important to for his own cultural growth. “We tend to be fed music that people say is popular and that radio says is cool whereas musicians like these from around Africa and the rest of the world are doing really interesting things and playing with different cultural styles. This is important for one’s own cultural growth.”
With its power to bring scores of different people together in a joyous celebration of African and afro-centric musical styles, Zakifo certainly has the right recipe for what we could all do with more of, social unity. And, if that’s the case, to borrow the words from that romantic old bard, Shakespeare, “if music be the food of love, play on…”
Friday 24 May at the Winston Hotel, will see a festival stage outdoors along with the Winston pub and Origin’s Engine Room. With Artists Meute (Germany), Puts Marie (Switzerland) Dobet Gnahoré (Côte d'Ivoire), Make-Overs (ZA), Sands (Eswatini), Granmah (Mozambique)
Saturday 25 May at The Werehouse has a line-up of amazing contemporary African female performers Sho Madjozi (ZA), Eme (Nigeria) & Moonchild (ZA), Dope Saint Jude (ZA) and Sobantwana (ZA)
Sunday 26 May at the Rainbow restaurant has a small intimate performance by Lindigo (Reunion).
Friday 31 May at Durban Botanic Gardens and The Werehouse. Lineup TBA
Saturday 01 June at Durban Botanic Gardens with international artists Ben Harper (USA), Asa (Nigeria//France), Lindigo (Reunion), Maia & The Big Sky (Kenya) along with the sensational Durban talent of Red Robyn (ZA).
Visit festival platforms:
Facebook: @zakifofest for regular updates
Tickets: www.zakifo.com (through Howler)