In celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy, the first Awesome iLembe Arts Festival will take place across the iLembe region on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal from 8 to 10 August 2014. An innovative and far sighted initiative by the Department of Arts and Culture in partnership with producers Awesome Africa Festival Productions, this multi-cultural event will take the music to the people – and directly into the communities themselves at venues in Mandeni, Ndwedwe, Maphumulo and KwaDukuza.
The Festival will feature around 40 local, national and international artists in the disciplines of music, theatre, dance, poetry, storytelling and arts and crafts, with the main focus falling on music this year. Audiences will be enthralled by contributions from various music genres and themes including jazz, gospel, pop, rock, pan-african, maskandi, isicathamiya, hip hop, Indian traditional, Bollywood, and various “world music” styles. The Festival will also include the “Funk it Up” DJ Experience, as well as a focus on South African legends and a Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
As the Festival falls over the “Women’s Day” weekend, there will be a strong focus on women artists, and in the special concert commemorating legends, the first artist to be featured will be the incomparable Ray Phiri with his “The Man, The Music, The Friendships” concept.
In keeping with the Festival’s aim of showcasing local talent, it is envisaged that up to 50% of all talent will be drawn from the iLembe region. The international artists will be chosen for their passion and dedication in collaborating and transferring skills to local artists, and renowned KZN based mentors will work alongside local talent and local event managers to prepare them for the festival.
Says MEC for Arts & Culture Mrs Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Sapetha, “We are very proud and excited to associate ourselves with this unique brand and concept, that goes far beyond providing great entertainment. Besides many pro-active socio- economic elements, the Festival also addresses the vital aspects of social cohesion and nation building in our country. No longer will iconic events and artists be the domain only of the big cities. We pride ourselves in taking the music and the arts back to the people – in essence straight into the communities who have supported our fight for freedom and democracy. We have recently had big names such as Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem and other international stars only performing in the big cities, and even Durban has been excluded. Many people are asking us why we are bringing a legend like Kirk Whalum deep into the rural areas – and our answer is that we believe that we need to “give back” to our people in the communities, who have never had the opportunity to see these kinds of stars right in front of their eyes, despite relating and supporting their music for a long time – and in this instance especially Kirk Whalum, whose brand of gospel and jazz speaks directly to the soul of our people and our sense of Ubuntu.
So what better time to launch this than in 2014, the year of our celebration of twenty years of freedom and democracy. In years to come, it is envisaged that the number of venues included in the Festival will increase to include historical sites along the King Shaka Heritage route and the Luthuli Museum (which was a home for the first South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Chief Albert Luthuli), Ndondakusuka Hills and the Nhlangakazi mountains. We see this Festival growing organically in the future, and enticing tourists not only from South Africa, but also the world to come and share our community spirit and talent”.
Festival Director Princess Nandi Zulu says, “The Festival aims to be an iconic event that will last into posterity, and the added components of a local talent search and a capacity building programme will address inherent societal issues such as economic development, job creation, skills transfer and talent identification, making it a truly unique event. The festival, is expected to attract an audience of around 20,000 people over the three days, and will provide between 400 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs. The festival will actively target an eighty percent share of festival staff and festival related spend to flow into the iLembe region thus stimulating economic development. In time, we aim to stimulate tourism along the ILembe Region which boasts majestic hills, warm beaches and a rich cultural mix of Zulu, European and Indian people and historic heritage sites”.
The Festival will be launched in style on the 27th March at the Sibusisiwe Community Centre in Mandeni, with the example of “taking the music to the people in the communities”, being taken quite literally with a unique “concert of a lifetime” by US Jazz legend Kirk Whalum, who will bring his much celebrated series “The Gospel According to Jazz” to Africa for the very first time. The tenor saxophonist has collaborated with industry greats such as Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones and Barbara Streisand and it is his passionate sax solo that is heard on Whitney Houston’s mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You”. Kirk considers himself as a “man of the people”, and is the recipient of numerous awards and acknowledgements for his musical excellence, and won his first Grammy award for Best Gospel Song “It’s What I Do”, featuring Lalah Hathaway. He recently recorded the next chapter in his series (Chapter IV) in New York to be released worldwide in September. He will preview some of those new songs as well as perform his anthems from the past.
For further information on the Festival, or for anyone in the ILembe region who would like to be involved, please visit the web site www.awesomefestivals.com or call Gabi Nkabinde on 084-3578860.