The British Council – the UK’s cultural relations organisation – today announced that the Noisettes will play a show at Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) on 2 May, as well as performing at Chikarubi Prison and leading a series of workshops with local musicians and artists. In addition the group’s singer Shingai Shoniwa will perform acoustically in South Africa on 26 April; Shoniwa’s mother is from Zimbabwe so the gigs represent something of a “homecoming”.
With a career that has stretched over seven years, Noisettes’ fun & playful mixture of genres has brought them hits including ‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm’. Their second album ‘Wild Young Hearts’ went platinum and their latest album ‘Contact’ includes collaborations with musicians such as Will.i.am and Ne-Yo. Shoniwa, set to launch her solo career, explains: “I’m thrilled to be performing, it’s an amazing platform, and I’ve been determined to get there - all of my creative blessings as a person, and as an artist, spring from my Zimbabwean heritage. Growing up around influential Zimbabwean personalities in London in my youth always reminded me of where I was coming from. John Chibadura, Stella Chiweshe, the Four Brothers, the Bhundu Boys, the writing of Shimmer Chinodya... my colourful upbringing was, to quote Dambudzo Marechera, ‘it was a fine madness’”.
As well as performing at Chikarubi Prison as part of HIFA’s Prison Project, which supports artistic activities in prisons to rehabilitate offenders, Shoniwa will also be giving a workshop on song-writing with twenty young up and coming musicians from Zimbabwe. In addition she will be collaborating with some of Zimbabwe’s leading female performers for her show on 2 May; including Hope Masike, Tariro neGitare and Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana.
The British Council has a long history of facilitating collaborations between British and African artists. In recent years this has incorporated a performance by Mercury-nominated, London-based band Portico Quartet at Cape Town International Jazz Festival; as well as a residency led by UK artist Rachel Gadsden in collaboration with South Africa’s Bambanani Group as part of the Unlimited International programme celebrating arts, culture and sport by disabled and deaf people as part of London 2012. Looking to the future, 2014 will mark 20 years since the advent of democracy in South Africa and will herald a major strengthening of cultural ties in collaboration with South African arts and artists, in a multi-year initiative called ConnectZA.
Joel Mills, Senior Music Adviser British Council, said: ‘We’re delighted at the opportunity to support the Noisettes, one of the most exciting and dynamic UK bands to perform at Harare International Festival, and develop connections with local artists and communities.’
The Harare International Festival of the Arts is a 6-day annual festival and workshop programme that showcases local, regional and international arts and culture in a programme of theatre, dance, music, circus, street performance, spoken word and visual arts. HIFA has come to be seen as a unifying force for socially and culturally disparate groups of Zimbabweans and is now the largest cultural event in Zimbabwe.
Shoniwa is engaged in learning more about Zimbabwean culture and music and recently accompanied Zimbabwean musician Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi; singing for the legendary artist at his 60th birthday at his music centre Pakare Paye. New Year’s Eve 2013 saw her performing with Tuku at the Victoria Falls Carnvial. Shoniwa said: “On my last trip to Zimbabwe I integrated myself with the arts and cultural community, and was given helpful guidance from the Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi, Oliver Mtukudzi and Fred Zindi. I would love to and hope to visit Murehwa Cultural Centre and other local centres on future trips. This is a vital homecoming experience as a Zimbabwean artist”.