Tuesday, 5 August 2014

AMAWALA - GENDER LANDMARK PRODUCTION 2014


AMAWALA!  (Those that Shine) 

AMAWALA is a vibrant collaboration between leading women artists of Zimbabwe from diverse musical backgrounds: RUTE MBANGWA (jazz), EDITH weUTONGA (contemporary traditional), and TINA WATYOKA (afro-pop), backed by some of Zim's gifted instrumentalists.

 
With each of the women already established in the music industry and well known names in Zimbabwe, ‘Amawala’ is a unique collaboration fuelled by a strong sense of unity and mutual respect.  Their differences make them stronger together, and the energy between them is electric!
 

In June 2014 the three artists – who for some years have been supporters and participants of the popular programme for women artists – jumped onto the stage at the monthly Sistaz Open Mic at Book Café in Harare, and delivered an exhilarating impromptu performance together for the first time ever, which sparked a unique energy which grabbed the audience attention, and brought to the fore the best in each of them.

 
After a first ‘official’ joint performance at Book Café on 31 July 2014 under the adopted name ‘AMAWALA’ (Those that Shine), the three women will now continue the collaboration, supported by the gender project FLAME (Female Literary Arts & Media Enterprise) of Pamberi Trust, one of Zimbabwe’s widest reaching arts development organisations.  Amawala is scheduled to perform two shows at the Book Café, Friday 29 August and Saturday 13 September setting up for their debut appearance at Intwasa Arts Festival(Bulawayo) on Saturday 27 September.

Pamberi Trust exists to facilitate the arts, and along with programmes for youth, gender and freedom of expression, one of it’s missions is “Re-linking Communities through Culture”. 

 
RUTE MBANGWA
 
Rute Mbangwa is a 1998 graduate from Children Performing Arts Workshop CHIPAWO, who is now a renowned and seasoned jazz artist in Zimbabwe, performing with her own backing band as well as with many other artists along the way.
 
In 1998 and joined in the formation of the young group Another Tribe, before moving on to do backing vocals with popular Township Jazz musician Tanga wekwa Sando, with whom she gained much experience during studio work and live performances around the country.
Rute Mbangwa performas with AMAWALA on July 31, 3014: FOTO BY BE CHIGAMA
 Towards the end of 2003, she worked with the group Africa Revenge as backing vocalist. In 2004 she recorded an eight-track album with Jazz Sensation, entitled If Only My Heart Had a Voice which she composed, arranged and produced.  Mbangwa released her second album in 2007, entitled Rute Goes Kumanginde which exhibited her versatility, creativity and innovation and that she had matured since the first album.
 
Recently she was one of the winners for the composition of the theme song for the United Nations World Travel Organization, and she’s an active participant in the Pamberi Trust FLAME programme since it was established in 2006.

Rute is also a busy family and businesswoman, but manages to stay true to her first love – music.

 
EDITH weUTONGA
 
Edith Katiji was born in the small Zimbabwean town of Kadoma in 1979, the first in a family of 5 children.  After completing her secondary education, she pursued music with the Army School of Music in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo, where she started off as a vocalist with the Army Band and soon moved on to the city’s famed Amakhosi Cultural Centre ‘Township Square’. 
 
Here she honed her musical talent by joining a 6-month musical instruments crash course for women musicians at Amakhosi, supported by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). This gave birth to the all female band from Amakhosi called Amakhosikazi [‘Queens’!] where Edith started off as composer and lead vocalist for the band, and later discovered her passion for the bass guitar.
Edith WeUtonga

The band performed at various private and national events, and when they disbanded in mid-2006, Edith found herself in the deep end as bassist in a new band she formed from the remnants of Amakhosikazi, called ‘So What?!’, and once again Edith assumed the mantle of songwriting and band coordination and management.

 
The group relocated to Harare and joined the live music circuit at many of the popular city centre venues including the famous Book Café and Mannenberg, The Kraal, Jazz 105 and Sports Diner.  In 2008 So What?! went through some changes after a few key members left for greener pastures as the economic situation in the country worsened.  The new, rather depleted version of So What?! continued to meet their music commitments – until Edith’s near fatal car accident in July 2009 where she sustained serious head and facial injuries, from which she thankfully made a full recovery in time.
 
UTONGA – A New Dawn

During her recovery, Edith had discovered a new sound within herself.  She felt that her scrape with death, followed shortly afterwards by the birth of her second son, presented her with a new beginning in life. She began to write new material with more meaning and depth.


 She called the new sound ‘Utonga’, meaning ‘dawn’ and re-branded herself and her band as EDITH weUTONGA [‘Edith of Dawn’].  The band worked hard in and around Harare with almost no resources, performing the new material, to warm appreciation from audiences. 
 
Besides regular commercial shows, Edith weUtonga have performed at corporate and private events, and for numerous NGO's including Norwegian People's Aid, Young Voices Network, Crisis Coalition, ZimRights, Women’s Action Group and Pamberi Trust. 
 
They have participated in most of the major festivals in Zimbabwe over the last few years, including the Harare International Festival of the Arts, Winter and Summer Jazz Festivals, the Pakare Paye Solo Festival (alongside Zimbabwean superstar Oliver Mtukudzi), Chimanimani Arts Festival, Intwasa and Ibumba Arts Festivals, and the International Images Film Festival.
 
Edith is a major contributor to the FLAME gender programme by arts development organisation Pamberi Trust in Harare, performing in special events for the promotion of women artists, representing women artists on various discussion and activism platforms including ’16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence’, the rollout of the ‘Non-Violence Toolkit’, and facilitating workshops ‘For Women Artists By Women Artists’ in different parts of the country.
 
Beyond the borders of Zimbabwe she has performed at the Blankets & Wine Festival in Kenya (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT2CCn8fA-Q); The Tilapia and The Sheraton in Uganda in 2012 and 2013, and in collaboration with Indian artists at the Latin Food Festival and Royal Orchid Hotel in Bangalore, India in 2013.
Edith still carries a huge responsibility, as the ‘matriarch’ of the group, playing the role of songwriter, lead singer, bassist, coordinator and administrator for the band, with a wider management role played by her husband, Elton Mjanana who is himself a busy filmmaker.
 
Edith Katiji has risen in the ranks of Zimbabwe’s musicians against overwhelming odds, and is ready to move forward and upward, blessed with a strong work ethic, exceptional leadership qualities and a deep commitment to her music and the artists of her band.
 

TINA WATYOKA

 Young Zimbabwean singer, composer, and musician, the lively and gifted young artist TINA WATYOKA has determinedly and doggedly pursued music from a young age, completing the National Certificate in Music, learning, playing, forming a band, building an audience and performing widely in Harare up to the present, and recording her debut album ‘Introducing Tina’ in 2010, which received good airplay in Zimbabwe.

 
While studying, writing and producing her own music, she also has worked with other acclaimed artists of Zimbabwe over the years, among them the late mbira star Chiwoniso Maraire, a tour with the late Taku Mafika to Europe in 2010, Harare International Festival of the Arts in 2012 with both Busi Ncube (now based in Europe), and the widely acclaimed Zimbabwean poet Comrade Fatso & Chabvondoka¸ and with her own music collaboration at Mozambican Independence Day, Chimoio in 2013.
Tina Watyoka
 She’s notably been featured on many occasions at the Book Café, Harare’s popular hub which attracts people from all over Harare to a diverse music programme. At Book Café over the last few years she has performed solo and in collaborations with many other young artists, performed regularly in the monthly Sistaz Open Mic platform and achieved a Tuesday night slot for many weeks, participated in workshops for the development women artists, and the annual ’16 Days Programme’ of Activism against Gender-based Violence by Pamberi Trust, along with dozens of other women artists. 
 
Still performing in Harare and the small city of Gweru (with a uni-band), Tina is now studying for an Honours degree in Music & Musicology at Midlands State University, which she is finding an eye-opener in terms of exposure. She performed for the President of Zimbabwe for the first time at MSU Graduation Ceremonies of 2013.
 
Tina launched her exciting second album, ‘Ndoita Sei?’ at Book Café on 27 February 2014.  Special guests at the launch were be star artists Victor Kunonga and Alexio Kawara, who she names among her mentors.
 
The three women are supported by some of Zimbabwe's brilliants instrumentalists as follows:
 
Paplo Nakappa on Bass
Frank Mavhimira on Lead
Lloyd Chidikano Drums
Christopher Fefini on Keys

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Vagina Monologues Writer to Visit Zimbabwe



Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, activist, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the international One Billion Rising movement, arrives in Zimbabwe this week to engage with grassroots women leaders and organisations working on issues pertaining to ending violence against women.

The Vagina Monologues was first produced as a play in 1996. It consists of a number of monologues that explore issues that women deal with on a day to day basis in a frank, matter-of-fact manner. The monologues touch on issues such as menstruation, masturbation, sex, rape, birth and orgasm. The overall theme is that of reclaiming the vagina as tool for empowerment and as a part of the body that women should not be ashamed of.

The monologues have been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries, including here in Zimbabwe.

In 1998 Ensler spearheaded the formation of V-Day, a non-profit organisation that has raised millions of dollars for women’s anti-violence groups around the world. V-Day organises the annual One Billion Rising event where tens of thousands of men and women all over the world express their stand against gender-based violence through dance.

On her Zimbabwe visit, Ensler will be accompanied by V-Day director, Monique Wilson, who is also an internationally renowned women’s activist.  Wilson is a member of Gabriela – a national alliance of grassroots women’s organizations in the Philippines, and is the Director of International Affairs of the Gabriela Women’s Party. She is also the international spokesperson for the Purple Rose Campaign aimed at ending the sex trafficking of Filipino women and children.

Speaking about her trip to Zimbabwe Ensler said; “We are excited about this trip because we have heard about all the amazing work that Women’s organisations are doing in Zimbabwe. We are hoping to use this opportunity to learn more about women’s issues in the country and to meet with some of the tireless grassroots women leaders.”

She said they were also hoping to meet with One Billion Rising Organisers in Zimbabwe to plan for the 2015 edition of the movement.  They were also hoping to bring the issues and context of women in Zimbabwe onto a global platform.

ENDS
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