Focus BEST From AFRICA

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on 24th January at Rich Mix zimlink & media4youth covered The BEST From AFRICA Starting off the new year with a big bang, Focus and Global to bring you the ultimate talent among the African dance world.

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Last nights showcase was one of many FOCUS events to bring new and exciting acts from diverse communities into the mainstream. Rich Mix located on Shoreditch high street really is the perfect venue for this type of event. The first Focus goers I came across were locals who frequent the venue as it is always quality entertainment they tell me. I am now excited for the night to begin! Speaking with Sophie from Continental Drifts http://www.continentaldrifts.co.uk/ she tells me there is a lot of talent that deserves attention and Focus Africa provides the platform and much needed exposure.

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First band on is Heritage Survival from Manchester, originally from Zimbabwe. They are clearly an exceptional group of musicians who are bound by their love for afro-fusion style awesomeness. The sounds were great and the rhythms tight, good vibes and dancing quickly ensues. Some simple but authentic melodies were being chimed out of an unknown instrument that I later find out is called an Mbira. It is a South African instrument consisting of a wooden board with staggered metal keys attached inside. I am told later that the band leader Zivai (referred to as “Boss” by the bandmates) has been playing since the very young age of 14 and has a natural talent for music and with any instrument (except brass which he forgivingly shy’s away from) Willard who plays the trombone, speaks passionately about the purpose of these events which is to raise the awareness of poverty around the world through music. Heritage Survival have shared their message the world over, sometimes in front of crowds as large as 22,000. They seem to bring the party wherever they go, we stumbled across them backstage singing and jamming in celebration. No audience, just for the love of it.

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There was much excitement in the air in anticipation of the next act. I spoke with some ladies, Kathreen from France and some of her friends, one from Italy and other places. They were actually students of Gaspard Zamble fifteen years ago with Zamble African Dance Company in London! www.zambleafricandance.com They started with absolutely amazing African hand drumming – I just couldn’t believe those sounds were being made by hands on drum skins, the depth and harmonies and variety of sounds! Phenomenal speed and accuracy seemed to be inducing a state of hypnosis as the audience tapped, clapped or swayed in awe & appreciation. The drums had these attachments that looked like silver tongues with little metal rings all the way around, they made a shimmying sound like a belly dancers belt. When the dancers came on stage I watched the body movements and different sounds the drummers made match up and change simultaneously like in cartoons – it was really well done, like sound effects along with every movement. They looked like they were having so much fun and couldn’t stop dancing off stage either when their act had finished, genuine passion.

The last band “Congo Allstars” had a much more modern feel, from guitar sounds to the clothes and jewellery they were wearing seemed a bit further from, perhaps, tradition and were there to really get the late night party started . We tend to get too involved in our lives in the city and forget to acknowledge the diversity and what it means every day, even down to what we wear. There were people from all walks of life and I couldn’t help but notice the influence of African patterns on entirely modern dresses. What influence this rich culture has had on western culture – Club music with African influence and bongos played between bands got everyone in the mood. People just came to have a regular Friday night out, to dance, drink rum cocktails and stay up late!

by Nick Martin

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