The third ever Miombo Magic music festival took place at Christon Bank on 17 and 18 May.
Set atop a huge hill in the dappled shade of old msasa trees, the two day festival brought a stunning 23 band line up to the happy crowds who danced the weekend away.
Highlights on Saturday included a groovy set by Macy and THe Red, with lead singer Macy Huber taking their easy listening reggae numbers to great heights.
Rob Burrell, celebrated front man for rock band Mann Friday played a solo set with soul – his steely acoustic guitar and raw, emotive voice mesmerising the roughly two hundred people watching.
Selmor Mtukudzi was on as the sun went down, and was also well received.
It was however Mokoomba who thrilled the crowd most on Saturday, putting on their usual highly polished and energised show that got the audience dancing madly. It was their second gig in as many days after returning from their just ended European tour, and they were welcomed warmly.
Jam Signal slam dunked their funky jazz show before DJ Toby2Shoes took to the stage for a set which lasted three hours and was relentlessly compelling, leaving late night revellers absolutely exhausted. He dished up electro swing, techno, and skilfully tossed in some completely unmixed jazz and rock numbers which somehow gelled perfectly with the huge variety of electronic music he is known for.
Sunday dawned fresh and clear, and the music started early, luring even the most hungover of the campers from their tents for food and coffee, and yes, some hair-of-the-dog breakfast beers too. Among the long list from Sunday, it was the hugely enjoyable Drum Café workshop that had the crowd fully participating. The group handed out djembe drums to nearly everyone in the audience and led the audience on a pumping rhythmic journey that was fun for all.
Miombo is branded as a family festival, and the interesting dynamic on the dance floor for rock band Evicted’s set proved this to be true, with young kids through to grandparents rocking out as the afternoon wore on. It was with despondency and reluctance that campers packed up and trickled their way back to Harare to nurse the Sunday blues.
Talk to anyone who was there and they will vouch for what a special event Miombo Magic has become. It’s not for the beautiful setting or great music alone. The festival was initiated to raise money for the Christon Bank Primary School, and has continued to run for the same purpose since then, a driving objective which seems to trickle into the sense of kinship and community shared by the mixed audience.
Co-founder and organiser Gus Le Breton said, “It’s remarkable that a school so close to Harare is so under-resourced. Members of our community have been trying to find creative ways to raise money to develop the school, and finally decided to start this festival two years ago.”
Le Breton, a musician himself, said that to keep costs down the event depends on some goodwill from the performers who come together as a community in their own right to participate in the festival on stage and off.
In terms of how this year’s festival went, Le Breton told Harare News that although selling around 500 tickets at $50 each, they didn’t quite cover costs, but did gain a lot of confidence in the process of running the event.
Talking to the future, Le Breton said, “We would like to grow a little bit, but will conserve the safety and ease that the people enjoy ahead of getting too big. We want to continue promoting the natural beauty of Christon Bank, whilst celebrating our local artists and exposing people to as diverse a musical array as possible.”
Get your tickets for Miombo early on next year. This year’s success will surely translate into a busier event, but the small, community feel of the festival means that space will be limited.
Photo: Graham van de Ruit