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Get set for the Azgo

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Azgo Festival is one of the finest international music and arts celebrations on the continent. For the past seven years, it has brought together a mélange of music, dance, fine arts, film, fashion and workshops.

It's a dynamic display of performance arts with a strong focus on artists from the host country, Mozambique, and then the rest of the continent and the Diaspora.

The annual event is about showcasing the country's artistic pulse and cultural heritage while promoting it as a tourism destination for music lovers.

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AFRO-FUSION: Freshlyground are Josh Hawks (bass guitar), Peter Cohen (drums), Zolani Mahola (lead vocals), Simon Attwell (saxophone, flute and keyboards), and Julio Sigauque (electric guitar).

Furthermore, its aim is to create a platform to encourage collaborations between continental and overseas artists.

This year's edition is dedicated to Naguib Abdula, one of Mozambique's celebrated painters. Organisers hope his works on the festival posters will help to introduce them to a new generation of budding visual artists.

Renowned for his half-mile colourful murals that adorn the Maputo skyline, Naguib achieved international fame following a 1996 solo exhibition at the UN headquarters in New York and subsequently the Vatican, Rome. The country's independence from Portugal in 1975 was the muse and fuse that got him to paint in earnest.

It was his way of capturing the history of his motherland as well as teaching ordinary Mozambicans about political concepts such as freedom and socialism. In the process he inadvertently pioneered an artistic renaissance that was inspired by the heroes of the revolution and the struggle for a better Mozambique.

Four decades later, the 62-year-old expressionist painter's works have become a benchmark for Mozambican art and an inspiration not only to a young generation of fine artists but musicians as well.

One of them is drummer Paulo Chibanga, better known to South African music lovers as a member of the Joburg-based experimental/alternative band 340ml.

Chibanga is also the festival founder and director. “The name Azgo is derived from old Maputo slang and it means ‘let’s go’,” he explains. In this regard, it's a call for African musicians to revisit their cultural roots through their art.

It's also an invitation for music lovers across the world to attend the festival for a taste of Mozambique and the continent's diverse musical flavours.

These include jazz, soul, samba, Afro-beat, hip hop, electronica, reggae and marrabenta – the mainstay of Mozambican music.

It is the country’s foremost dance rhythm – intoxicating and as spicy as its rich, complex history and breathtaking landscape. Born during the colonial era, marrabenta shares strong similarities with Latin American calypso and salsa, while at the same time retaining an authentic African flavour.

The lyrics are mainly inspired by themes of love, betrayal and social criticism. The kings of marrabenta include the late great Fany Mpfumo, Hortensio Langa, Dilon Djindji, Lisboa Matavel, Xidimingwana and Maekwana.

The genre’s undisputed queen is Elisa Domingas Jamisse – popularly known by her stage name Mingas.

With her alluring and hauntingly soulful vocals, she started her career as a commanding presence with Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mozambique before embarking on an international solo career. However, this list would be incomplete without Ghorwane, the country’s enduring and most successful band. Formed in 1983 in the hot and dusty northern province of Gaza, the band takes its name from a small lake in the area that never runs dry, even in the hottest season.

The lake has become a metaphor for their endurance in the face of personal tragedies, political upheavals and natural disasters. The band has lost two of its founding members – Zeca Alage (1959-1993) and Pedro Langa (1959-2001), but continues to enjoy popular support among the legions of music lovers even beyond Mozambique's borders. Within the country, Ghorwane has raised the flag of hope for millions of Mozambicans during a 17-year-old civil war, a series of devastating droughts and floods as well as the ongoing HIV/Aids pandemic.

Idolised for their mellifluous brass and vocal arrangements as well as their honest and open commentary on socio-political issues, Ghorwane's members have earned themselves the endearing title of bons rapezes – Portuguese for the good guys. Their 2005 album, Vana Va Ndota (Sons of An Honorable Man), is one of the finest examples of marrabenta music. Festival-goers will definitely be hypnotised by their magic. Other Mozambican acts expected to perform at the festival are Azagaia, the country's foremost political hip hop artist, and Xixel Langa, a dynamic jazz vocalist from the famed Langa family. A star destined to shine on stage, Xixel is the daughter of Hortensio Langa, one of the leading custodians of the marrabenta tradition.

South Africa will be represented by the ageless Ray Phiri, a consummate performer who needs no introduction. This festival is his first gig in Mozambique in decades.

His daughter, Nonku Phiri, is part of the stellar line-up. She is the future of South African music and steadily leaving indelible footprints on the country's electronic music landscape.

The talented singer and dancer has demonstrated an ability to express herself in a number of styles including house, electronica, hip hop and kwaito. Her first single, Things We Do on the Weekend, became an instant hit with its refreshing future kwaito beats accompanied by her sultry vocals.

One of the most innovative and original acts to have emerged in South Africa in recent years, Freshlyground returns to this festival since their last show in 2013.

Their performance will be an opportunity to showcase their new single, Banana Republic.

Batuk is a creative collective founded by South African electronic music producers Aero Manyelo and Spoek Mathambo alongside prolific artist and lead vocalist Manteiga from Mozambique.

The eclectic ensemble is on a quest to connect the African diaspora by exchanging and sharing rhythm culture and language while fusing it with electrifying house beats. With influences from afro house, soul, zouk, kuduro, deep house, techno and traditional African music, the trio represents the spirit of proudly African youth with a global state of mind.

Maskandi artist Bhekisenzo Cele – better known by his stage name Vukazithathe – is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer with powerful energy and a great knack for improvisation.

He is expected to bring to the festival the rich Zulu musical heritage of his ancestors from the east coast.

Vukazithathe plays bass, guitar, concertina, violin and harmonica.

Performers from other parts of the world include Brazilian singer-songwriter Maria Gadu, whose fusion of samba, afro-beat and funk, has led her to become one of the fastest rising stars of popular Brazilian music, with four albums and two Latin Grammy Awards to her name; and Portugal-based Cape Verdean rapper Angelo César do Rosario Firmino – better known as Boss AC.

The list also includes João Barbosa, aka Branko (Portugal), Jojo Abot (Ghana) and Gren Seme (Réunion Island).

Tickets available online via www.entradaz.co.mz

General admission tickets are 2 000 MTS (R400)

VIP weekend pass: 5 000 MTZ (R100). For accommodation and transport enquiries contact Silvana Jamice: [email protected] Date: Saturday May 20, 10am to 5am. Venue: Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo

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