THE Harare International Carnival (HIC) reaches fever pitch this week.
To kick start proceedings will be Brazil’s foremost samba dancers, Momo King, the group that has wowed the world with its exquisite float performances. The world-celebrated ensemble will arrive in the country this Tuesday with a full strength 12-member team for a performance the following day at Private Lounge.
On Thursday, rhumba lovers will be in for a treat as Koffi Olomide, a giant in the genre performs at Longcheng Plaza courtesy of the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi will take over on Friday to celebrate his 63rd birthday at the Glamis Arena. Tuku will be supported by a plethora of local artistes in what promises to be a memorable carnival night.
The jamboree climaxes on Saturday when carnival goers converge in the capital’s streets for the popular HIC Street Party where all groups that are taking part in this year’s edition of the carnival take to the streets to parade their acts.
However, it is the inclusion of Momo King at this year’s carnival that has certainly sparked interest.
After feeling the heat from Zimbabwe’s top pole dancers Zoey Sifelani and Beverly “Bev” Sibanda last year, the Brazilians decided to enlist the services of their best and trusted carnival gurus this time around.
The famed Samba dancers have won the coveted best international float prize in almost every carnival that they have participated in. Brazil has since 2011 been participating at the Seychelles carnival, but Samba only made headlines this year when Momo King made its maiden appearance at the fifth edition of the Carnival International de Victoria.
The Sunday Mail Leisure caught up with the Brazilians from their base in South America. Although, language proved to be a barrier, one of the coordinators of the group managed a quick rehearsed remark: “It is a great honour to take part in this carnival. Surprises are always a part of our act and we have created special costumes for our parade. I’m sure it will be a beautiful spectacle that will add to the carnival’s success and wow effect.”
Momo King is considered the king of carnivals in numerous Latin American festivities — specialising in the entertainment aspect of things. Its performances portray four artistic languages — visual arts, theatre, music and dance.
Locally, samba proved to be a hit from day one, as over a thousand people paid their way into the Airport Lounge last year where the visitors were unfortunately upstaged by locals.
The venue, however, has changed to Private Lounge this year but the organisers are still the same, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) in conjunction with Devine Assignments.
ZTA head of corporate affairs Sugar Chagonda confirmed that Brazil’s number one rated samba outfit was making its way to Harare. He added that their office has been inundated with calls from locals who want to know “whether the samba girls” are a part of this year’s carnival.
“The Samba Night is back by public demand and I can confirm that the best group from Brazil, Momo King, will be landing in Harare on Tuesday (this week). We are working with Devine Assignments, the same promoters we worked with last year,” said Chagonda.
“The Samba Night together with other events like the Rhumba Night and the popular Street Party that are all scheduled for this week are set to push the carnival to its climax. I have confirmation of flight schedule and time of arrival from all visiting international artistes including the Brazilians.”
From the videos that the group has posted online, it is evident that Momo King’s float and display represents a burst of energy, colours, samba and joy. The act they are bringing to Harare will be running under the theme, “Sao Paulo, experience it all!”.
Their parade gives the audience a glimpse into the culture of the biggest and most famous Brazilian city, Sao Paulo, a city which represents a melting pot of cultures, receiving people from all around the world in a tolerant environment that respects diversity in all aspects. Among the group members will be Vanesa Rodrigues Bernades, Michelle da Costa Chaga, Juliano, Barbosa da Silva, Sheila Cristiane da Silva, Camila Basilio Okamoto and Danniel Nobile Okamoto.
Last year, conservatives who are not comfortable with semi-nudity raised concerns over the samba girls with concerns arising from their costumes. Chagonda, however, says this year there has been no outcry over the inclusion of the Brazilians. Thus the ZTA official notes Zimbabweans are beginning to grasp the carnival concept. Accordingly he argues that there is nothing wrong with the samba girls displays.
“Indeed they were mixed feelings over the samba dancers’ display last year. But people should know that carnivals are meant to celebrate various cultures. We bring them here so that they show us their culture not for them to behave like us. Besides they will not be naked per ser. They have a special type of costume they put on for the carnivals and that needs to be appreciated,” explained Chagonda.
Devine Assignments director Biggie Chinoperekwei said the Samba Night is going to be fun-filled, adding that they are ready to host the episode.
“The Samba Night is going to be bigger and better than last year and we are expecting a 12-member group, different from the set of Brazilians that came last year. They now know that Zimbabweans are hard to impress, so this time they decided to bring their crème de la crème so that people understand why Brazil is rated the best in the world with regards to carnivals,” said Chinoperekwei.
“. . .their costumes blend well with the Private Lounge theme hence it is going to be a night to remember. The public should note though that this is a no under 18 event that will start at 9pm when kids have gone to bed.”
Away from the samba dancers, the Tuku and Friends concert, which is set to be held at the Glamis Arena this Friday has all the ingredients of a mega show. Apart from Mtukudzi himself, who will playing with his Black Spirits band, other artistes that will take to the stage include sungura king Alick Macheso, sungura messiah Peter Moyo, man-of-the-moment Jah Prayzah and dendera crooner Suluman Chimbetu.
Zim dancehall will be represented by the very best in the genre, the evergreen Seh Calaz, chairman Killer T and the inimitable Soul Jah Love.
Dr Zobha, DJ Stavo, Judgement Yard, Templeman and Gary B, and DJ Cables will be rotating on the turntables while Africa Revenge, Picky Kasamba, Diva Mafunga, Munya Mataruse, Diamond Musica, ExQ, Stunner, BaShupi and Franco Slomo will also be in action.
“It’s a gala,” said Josh Hozheri who is part of the organisers of the Carnival Tuku and Friends concert.
He added: “All is set for the gig. We have concluded all the necessary modalities to guarantee a smooth flow of the event next week on Friday. Performing artistes have also confirmed participation.
“The event is this year being held as part of the ongoing HIC so we expect it to be an even bigger success than the previous years. Thus we urge music lovers to come in their numbers in support of mdara Tuku and the carnival.”
The ZTA has also partnered with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the Rhumba Night. Scheduled for Long Cheng Plaza on Thursday October 8, the event will be headlined by Rhumba giant, Werrason.
“The DRC has sponsored Werrason for the carnival through the partnership that we created. The event will be free of charge in line with our objective to create gross national happiness. The carnival is meant to lighten up the situation in the country by bringing smiles on people’s faces and ZTA cannot achieve that alone.”
Reggae advocate Robert Zhuwao will host the HIC Reggae-Socca Night at Red Fox Hotel on October 6.
Orlando Octavo from Trinidad and Tobago who is being brought for the Harare Carnival by Jah Put Ah Hand Movement, headed by Marlene Divinti, ZTA and Red Fox Family will headline the gig. The Trinidad and Tobago artiste will be supported by local sound movements Judgement Yard, Red Fox Sounds and musicians Guspy Warrior and Ninja Lipsy.
Octavo is also expected to perform at the Red Fox Carnival Street Party to be held along First Street on Saturday, October 10. Finally, a Carnival After Party will be held on October 24 at the Glamis Arena. The event will be a dancehall affair featuring local artistes and a visiting top Jamaican artiste. More than 24 countries are taking part in this year’s edition of the HIC.