Zimbabweans momentarily forgot about bank queues and cash shortages, as they partook in a 10-day merrymaking fête, where public drinking was permissible and Harare was teeming with all sorts of people, but it is over now, as the curtain came down on the Harare International Carnival, yesterday.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO / PRECIOUS CHIDA
While Zimbabweans are reeling from the economic crisis, the carnival was a merry-making extravaganza, which brought temporary relief to many.
Punctuated by performances from 26 countries, the carnival was entertainment galore on a mass level.
The fête, which brought together teenagers, street dwellers and the elite at different concerts dotted around the central business district, was wrapped up with a free concert that began on Saturday evening and ended yesterday, featuring an array of both local and international artistes at Civic Centre Grounds in the capital.
Encompassed by a series of events and festivities, the carnival roared to life on September 1 under the theme One Love-Our Unity, Our Pride, with arts and culture lovers being treated to diversity.
Although it kicked off on a low note, as the first few days had little vibe, the mood and atmosphere improved, as the fête headed for its climax.
The eighth day of the carnival — Friday evening — appeared to be biggest night of this year’s edition of the fiesta that is aimed at advancing Zimbabwe’s arts, culture and heritage, as well as uniting the population, as carnival-goers were spoilt for choice with three high-profile events — Samba Night, Rhumba Night and Dancehall Night.
The Samba Night concert at Private Lounge car park, which was hyped as a major highlight of the fiesta ahead of the Carnival Street Party the following day, failed to live up to its billing, as the samba dancers, Momo King from Brazil disappointed merrymakers after they failed to perform to expectations.
The fans’ reactions to raunchy dancers Beverly “Bev” Sibanda and Zoey Sifelani’s separate sets showed the two were no pushovers and deserved to perform on bigger stages, as they received wild cheers.
Cuban dancers, who were supposed to perform at the same concert, were in no-show and there was no immediate comment from the festival organisers, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Across town at Cresta Oasis Hotel car park, huge numbers were expected at the carnival’s Rhumba Night headlined by the Congolese legend, Werrason (real name Noel Ngiama Makanda), but only a handful of people turned up.
Unlike the 2015 carnival, when Rhumba Night was headlined by Koffi Olomide and attracted thousands of people, this year’s, which featured both local top and upcoming artistes, among them Lady Storm, Diamond Musica, BV Labien Musica, Romeo Gasa and Dj Buzzie Maestro, failed to attract the expected numbers.
Despite the poor attendance, all the artistes put up spirited performances, but it was Werrason who won the hearts.
A well-celebrated musician, who has won several awards in his country, Werrason’s energetic set alongside his immaculately-dressed 15-member band, Wenge Musica, who presented well-choreographed dances, was value for money for the fans.
“I am really happy to be in Harare and I want to thank you all for the support,” Werrason said.
The carnival reached its climax on Saturday, with the street party, which then culminated in a free concert, where thousands of people swarmed the streets and stood all day on the roads, as spectators.
Festival enthusiasts were in for a treat, as different groups paraded their talents in a march that saw some streets being blocked.
The march began at Kwame Nkrumah Avenue and Simon Muzenda (Fourth) Street, through Jason Moyo Avenue to Rotten Row and, finally, to Robert Mugabe Road to the concert venue, Civic Centre Grounds.
A mixture of music, from African drums to European sounds, reverberated almost everywhere, as traditional dancers from around Zimbabwe and other countries paraded their cultures.
The toast of the day was Jah Prayzah and Soul Jah Love, who had fans literally eating out of their hands.
Not to be outdone were the Brazilian samba girls dressed in their traditional irresistible skimpy sexy attires, as they too caused a bit of commotion, as people jostled to catch a glimpse of their performance.
However, some reggae-dancehall fans, were disappointed as Jamaican music star, Beenie Man was in no-show, despite ZTA announcing he was going to perform at the concert
The festival saw children from different schools showcasing Zimbabwean culture and tradition.
While South African socialite Zodwa Wabantu was banned from coming to Zimbabwe because of her “nudity” and to preserve local culture, ironically, some Zimbabweans paraded semi-naked on the streets.
Although the closing concert was a success in terms of turnout on Saturday night, it, however, had some setbacks, chief among them, the poor sound quality that many, who were far from the stage could hardly hear the artistes’ vocals.
This also triggered violent scenes that temporarily displaced the fans.