Mhlanga: Jazz virtuoso brought house down

Louis Mhlanga

Last weekend was a moment of jazz, wine and dance.

For three years, the jazz scene was quiet. Covid-19 was ruining everything, especially public gatherings.

When the ban was lifted, the Jazz Community Trust organised the first Jazz Festival and who better than world renowned guitarist Louis Mhlanga to be the biggest act on the night.

Jazz is known for colour, ambiance and intimacy. These came in bucketfuls and the appreciative crowd was thrilled.

The venue was the picturesque Alliance Francaise, Harare. By the time I arrived, the parking lot was nearly full and Prince Edward High School Jazz band had already warmed the stage.

Ernest Tanga wekwaSando was doing his thing with the slow ballads and his drummer (the legendary John Muyambo best known as Chibhodhoro) was in the element, the audience literally eating from his palms as he belted the drums.

He played Buhera as the closing song and the house was now warm enough for the legendary Mhlanga to take over.

Mhlanga is known for his instrumental jazz. This is a man who has played with the who is who in jazz circles across the world.

He has played as a session musician including for jazz maestro the late Hugh Masekela. Louis has toured the world and has done renditions of world renowned guitarist - Jimi Hendrix.

The audience was ready for him. He played like the veteran he is, the audience swaying to the melodic tune before he moved to the song Mukai.

The multi-racial audience sang along, I'm not sure how many among the crowd knew the song, but as they say music can unite people.

To cap his set, Louis played Distant Lover — a song that locally has been popularised as the Mai Chisamba Show signature tune. The house was on fire.

He left the audience wanting some more, but jazz being jazz the festival had to go like a clockwork, each act strictly playing to its allocated slot.

Dudu Manhenga was next. She slowed the tempo as the audience had to catch its breath. Her act was more than an interlude.

They played the slow jams and audience was nodding or swaying in appreciation.

Dudu took the opportunity to introduce her family — yes, she sings with her children as backing vocalists and husband on the drums.

Jays Marabini was the next act. I have to confess, I hear little Isindebele, but I was swept off my feet by his stage act. Marabini was interactive with his audience and they loved it. In his final act, he taught the audience a little imbube dance.

It was left to Jazz Invitation to close the festival. They carried the audience along as it started to taper out. The festival was done and it was a success.

It managed to bring out people like poet Chirikure Chirikure, former Finance minister Herbert Murerwa, former Harare spokesman Leslie Gwindi, media personalities Larry Kwirirai and Terrence Mapurisana and jazz musicians Rute Mbangwa and Hope Masike. Comedian Bhutisi -Admire Kuzhangaira as well as producer Clive Mono Mkundu were among the audience.

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