The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2011 will be held in Harare, Zimbabwe from April 26 to May 1 this year. The theme of this year’s festival, the Engagement Party, will highlight the way artists can lead the way in engaging societies on issues of importance.
The U.S. Embassy in Harare has announced that this year, the U.S. participant in the six day festival will be Slavic Soul Party, a nine-person, New York-based musical group, that is renowned for offering an acoustic fusion of Balkan and Gypsy music with American gospel, funk, jazz, and Latin music from the neighborhood’s of New York. Dubbed New York’s official number one brass band for Balkan-Soul-Gypsy-Funk, Slavic Soul Party offers fiery Balkan brass, throbbing funk groves, Gypsy accordion, and jazz chops, woven seamlessly into a Balkan brass setting.
The group has performed in Turkey, and in virtually every major New York music club, but this will be their first appearance in southern Africa. They will be appearing on the HIFA-2011 main stage, and is also planning performances in other venues in Harare while there.
The American contribution to the 2010 HIFA was the percussion dance group, Step Afrika, a group of performers who do dance without music from the style created by fraternities and sororities on historically black college campuses in the United States. In addition to performing in the festival, Step Afrika conducted dance workshops for students in Harare. Slavic Soul Party, an ethnically diverse group, will carry on this tradition, working and performing with the Zimbabwe Prisons Band and other groups, and will participate in a parade in one of Harare’s suburbs in support of children’s rights.
HIFA is one of the major arts festivals in southern Africa and, despite the political instability in Zimbabwe attracts performing artists from around the world. Artists include singers, musicians, and dancers who stage public performances in one of the event’s many venues. In addition, the international entrants, most sponsored by their embassies in Harare, conduct public outreach through clinics in their performing specialty for secondary schools and colleges.
U.S. Embassy public affairs officer, Sharon Hudson-Dean, described this year’s HIFA theme as “clever, creative, and politically astute. We are thrilled that New York’s Slavic Soul Party will provide some of the music for this engagement party.” The message to Zimbabwe, and southern Africa, is that only in America could such a cultural fusion of Gypsy, Latin, soul, jazz, and funk take place.