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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Concert Craziness

Seconds before the camcorder pitches sideways and crashes, unattended to the ground, the video footage shows Mr. Bendy Legs from the Mashombe Blue Jeans band leaping outwards from the two and a half meter high stage. One of the traditionally dressed contestantsHis flailing body grows ever closer to the camcorder before “ka-pow!”, man and machine meet in the most unexpected of ways.

Muchamba is one of the entertainment bands keeping the 5,000-ish people happy while the contestants in the Annual Chikuni Tonga Concert competition take a breather. There are almost one hundred bands from all over “Tonga land” (encompassing large tracts of the Southern Province in Zambia) to compete across twelve different categories. There are solo artists singing unaccompanied songs, there are people singing to all manor of unusual musical instruments and bands featuring homemade drums, guitars and bass. A few have dancers up front entertaining the crowd and others are adorned in magnificent traditional African dress. Some sing with furious passion, others sing soulful sonnets while others attempt to rock the crowd.

One of the very passionate contestantsChikuni is a quiet place, more or less. Despite my usual departing tag line, it’s certainly not in the middle of nowhere and is instead very well known throughout Zambia and beyond. Having said that, it’s not exactly a metropolis either and it is most definitely, thankfully, in the bush. So when 10,000-ish people all arrive together over the course of two days, the place can feel a little other worldly. I was relatively isolated from the whole thing because I spent both days on stage filming the contestants and entertainers for the forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster “Chikuni Tonga Concert 2011”, coming direct to DVD soon. The time I did get to spend rushing around, I enjoyed the contrast to the usual quiet life here. And rushing around through crowds of people surprised by my appearance and (laughable) ability to greet them in Chitonga will provide one more memory of my time here.

As well as the contest and the entertainers there was also another notable performance from Mukanzubo Kalinda, the excellent Tonga cultural centre based here in Chikuni. There were about 40 girls in all, performing lots of different traditional types of dance in all manner of striking outfits and accessories including axes. They were backed by the singing and drumming of the regular Mukanzubo troupe. When all of the dances had been performed the girls and the band disappeared off stage but there was a final treat for the audience. When the next set of performers came on stage the crowd went wild. I was sandwiched in the VIP area between the crowd and the stage; trying to run the camcorder, keep annoying cadets from walking in front of the camera and taking a plethora of still photographs. The ladies doing their thing with styleSuddenly it seemed to be all men at the front of the crowd and the whistling and cheering became more and more immense. The reason for all this was that the last group was the regular Mukanzubo dancers, but they were kitted out in evening dresses, very flattering and seductive evening dresses! They only performed one number which was probably a good thing or there may have been rioting but the girls seemed to love the reaction and were all smiles for their boisterous adoring fans as they performed and then promptly exited stage left to recover from the exertion.

So all in all, a very busy but fun weekend, rich with yet more memories. The memories of many of the competitors will remain with me for quite some time along side the Mukanzubo performance as well as boys in trees, huge crowds, climbing towers and utter exhaustion.

Your reporter in the middle of nowhere


  1. Not much like the Water Rats, then?

  2. Err, definitely not; my ears weren't bleeding, there was no alcohol and there were no cute indie girls to fail to chat up...