Poet, Writer and Writer Wadzanai Chiuriri, better known as Black Pearl had invited me oh-so-numerously to her intimate gatherings of Poetry, Music and good vibes. Unfortunately for the four months I could not attend this project which began as simply ‘The Playlist’ that was until its recent metamorphosis into ‘The Afro Playlist’ which happened on a cool Saturday night at the DeMoyo Clothing and Design hub in Harare this last weekend.
Born out of the familiar Creative frustration of the adulting trade-off between passion and financial survival; The Afro Playlist is a space for Art in general with a strong focus on Poetry, a hint of music and a strong seasoning of dialogue that Black Pearl explained;
“When you write something you need to share it, it’s frustrating being unable to express yourself, having to sell your talents to keep your passion funded…this is what the Afro Playlist is for…it’s a space where the Art within us can breathe…an outlet born out of frustration”.
Sat in a dimly lit room which I later learnt was the DeMoyo Cafe, I twiddled my thumbs in anticipation as patrons settled in with tumblers of wine and meticulously plated platters of braaied meat. Once Black Pearl had introduced herself and warmed up the crowd, it was time to begin with Spitfire. Spitfire who is fairly new on the scene was both clearly nervous and yet oddly confident, it was as though the more she read from her floral notebooks her very own words strengthened her, from heartache, dizzying love and her Shangane heritage, her performance was a pleasure. I’d personally like to take time to read the pieces myself to additionally enjoy them.
Shortly after was Batsirai Chigama, a now self-published Poet, Batsi needs little to no introduction at all. Reading from her Poetry anthology ‘Gather All the Children’, I was quickly reminded of why she was held in such high regard. Witty, sad, real and well thought out, described many of the pieces which were accompanied by ambient percussion from Othnell ‘Mangoma’ Moyo and Vocalist Charmaine Mutize which transported my imagination to places where Batsirai’s read words directed, each journey only paused at her sweetly announced ‘the end’.
Flowchyld’s piece was pro-feminist, pro-black and emanated a familiar attribute, that of aggression. The crowd listened attentively as she echoed what I believe must have been the lost words of the revolutionary Spirit Medium – Mbuya Nehanda. I remembered a conversation I had with Flowchyld before the show started. When I asked her how she dealt with the audience’s reaction to the intensity of her words, she simply said,
“what I say know is no longer a choice, I speak words I was sent to say even if it’s not necessarily what people would like to hear…I’m just a messenger” she concluded solemnly.
To bridge the Poetry to the Music the host of the evening , Black Pearl opened the floor to questions to the participating Poets, which led to myriad of themes, from income, the bad rep Art gets in publicity, the douchebag-ery that is many of the male dominated traditional media houses and their insatiable tastes for the alternating spread leg or open purse incentives. Sadly these weren’t unfamiliar issues but ones that have been referred to continuously.
A question of note however came from a gentleman who asked the Artist what making looked like in the sense of Poetry, which brought about the type of answer that pulls at the Art strings ya know…
“when I manage to make someone feel something” – Flowchyld
The conversation about Poetry, Arts Management and everything in between ensued only proved a shared consensus, that the Zimbabwean Creative Community was either not having the right conversations or none at all.
As I soaked all of this in, it was already time for the lovely Masa Caroleen to take stage. I was really looking forward to finally watching her, all the more since I missed her at the recently launched ‘Citi Sessions’ even if I wasn’t sure of what to expect.
Masa Caroleene on-stage is so bubbly you’d think she’ll fizzle over, a warm smile and goofy banter, her vocals ever so crisp I sat up in anticipation as I experienced Asa like Soul, packaged in wild vocal ranges over varying Afro-Jazz and Chimurenga rhythms.
An ode to her father and grandfather sung in siChewa had me transfixed. I am till now convinced that Masa is the real deal ladies and gentlemen, I am SOLD with no refund! Of note was her interesting take of the Zimbabwean classic ‘Dambudziko’, not forgetting the playful banter of ‘Mazvet’.
Her final song titled ‘Tochema’ was a sad goodbye for the audience who did nothing short of demanding one more performance from Masa who tearfully obliged,
“guys, don’t say that you’ll make me cry, no one has ever asked for an encore” Masa quipped.
The reality is I don’t go out as much as one would expect me to, this is because my time is spent on things I often refer to as ‘more important’ (don’t judge me), …however, my Saturday night at the Afro Playlist was not only well spent, it was encouraging to see Artists band together to create their magic less the handouts and endorsements. Just really going out there and going for the gold that their Art represents and offers, to a willing audience less the shenanigans.
Listen! If you enjoy poetry, intellectual conversations, mature interactions, hidden gems of music, talent and spaces, then the Afro Playlist is your cuppa tea. If not, in the words of Black Pearl…those will come will come and those that won’t, won’t, the Art will go on!