Inside UB40 featuring Ali Campbell grandiose concert It was a UB40 featuring Alistair Ian “Ali” Campbell live in concert.

Tafadzwa Zimoyo-Lifestyle Editor

The venue was Sunshine City – Harare.

The date was May 25, 2023, a memorable day in the history of entertainment and showbiz in Zimbabwe.

Not that it was Africa Day, a holiday in Zimbabwe for that matter, but some revellers both local and foreigners celebrated it in style.

It was a UB40 featuring Alistair Ian “Ali” Campbell live in concert.

Zimbabwe was remembered once again, added on the Ali Campbell tour show.

Forget about the drama, squabbles, name fight between the Campbell brothers – Ali and his band came, saw and conquered.

Like some had said before, nothing takes you back in time like music. 

“When you hear a certain song you have to stop, take stock — even forgetting where you are and the moment you’re in — because you’re transported to another time and place, but more importantly to another emotion: sometimes good, sometimes bad,” Errol Edwards once wrote.

Hosted by Ngoma Nehosho, UB40 featuring Ali Campbell arrived on Wednesday afternoon at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare.

Ali Campbell

What makes the band unique is their self-effacement.

The crew was whisked away in a tour bus just like how they do it internationally.

This time around, it was not about the fancy cars, cheer leaders, semi dressed girls or young boys roaming around the airport, but it was a classic welcome.

It was a mature feat.

They went straight to rehearsals before checking into a hotel.

The show had been marketed for past months, with tickets going on for US$60 for general access, while US$120 was for VIP seating.

First things first.

When UB40 first came to Zimbabwe, I wasn’t born yet, but years later because of their untimely music, I could and still listen associate with them.

Music is universal.

I remember my aunties and uncles dancing to the UB40 vibe while growing up. 

Time flies.

Fast forward, as old as my aunties and uncles now are, we managed to attend the concert together.

Ngoma Nehosho founder member Walter Wanyanya released the programme line up for the concert two days before, and this proved how organised he was.

We arrived at the show around 5:45pm, despite the gates opening at 6pm.

There were already queues for ticketing to get show tags.

Peaceful, civilised and sophisticated are the correct words to describe the atmosphere around outside the show.

It was much different from some shows locally where one will have a tug of war with bouncers in order to gain entry, even if holding a pre-paid ticket.

It appeared people had been waiting a long time for this show and they came from near and far.

In the queue, it was evident that the mature fans dominated the crowd, perhaps those who witnessed the rise of UB40 in its infancy in the 1980s.

With their small blankets, walking sticks, camp chairs, flasks which had coffee and some with food picnic packs, they entered the stadium arena of Old Hararians Sport Club.

Those with VIP tags knew where to go.

Oops, it would be prejudicial not to talk about the courtesy at the parking lot, it was different from some other local shows where revellers have been fleeced to obtain parking space.

It was well organised!

As they had promised the fans, organisers managed to arrange seamless parking and it seemed everyone knew where to park without any hustles.

Everything was going according to the script.

There was a cash bar and ablution facilities reserved for those in the VIP arena, while the general access area had the same arrangement.

Due to the magnitude of the show, organisers saw it fit to have radio personality Comfort Mbofana as the master of ceremony.

He resonated well with the crowd, most probably because some of the people were his age-mates — those who grew up following UB40.

The crowd was cosmopolitan – talk of all races attending the show from locals, Chinese, whites, Nigerians to South Africans. It appeared the whole world was represented.

“My friend, I am so happy, I travelled all the way from Russia. I love Ali Campbell. I am joining them in South Africa too,” said an excited fan identified as Alexei Timofey. “Please call me Alex. Zimbabwe is full of loving people.” 

Among local guests at the show were current and former Government ministers, diplomats, yesteryear celebrities, artist managers and fellow musicians.

And to the show itself — kudos to the organisers for the high quality sound and lightning on the stage.

Who still remember the Global Citizen concert in South Africa?

Yes, the stage could be mistaken for some international festival, but it was the UB40 featuring Ali Campbell in Harare.

No technical glitches were experienced.

First up was seasoned disc jockey Chiwedaar, as young as he is, some feared that he would not pull through considering the age gap.

But wow!

Chiwedaar proved that for one to be a good DJ, you need to research much on music and audience.

He played the golden oldies from rhythm and blues, pop, reggae to soul music.

He did well to keep the audience alive and dancing.

Musicians Mimmie Tarukwana and Sylent Nqo did their best to entertain the crowd.

Actually, since it was a mixed crowd, more like an international festival, the two fitted into the picture because of their type of music.

Talented South African singer and performer Josh Ansley from The Voice had a good day in office.

And the crowd could be heard singing along to his music.

As per programme, it was 8:45pm and the stage was now set for UB40 featuring Ali Campbell to perform.

And at 9pm on the dot, boom, Ali Campbell was on stage.

Short stature, full of life, he did not waste time as he started singing the first song – with his band and the instrumentals being heard in sync.

The sound was crystal clear, you could hear that this is a guitar, this is a keyboard, these are drums and these are trumpets.

The crowd went wild.

Who knew old ‘‘ballies’’ could still shake, dance and sing along.

It was like they were on Christmas Day and excited to receive and open their Christmas presents. 

Just like small kids, those who appeared to be of old age were haywire.

Ali Campbell belted tunes after tunes.

Some of the popular songs he sang included ‘‘Red Red Wine’’, ‘‘Kingston Town’’, ‘‘Cherry Oh Baby’’ and ‘‘Here I Am (Come and Take Me)’’, among others. 

It was clear that Ali Campbell is ageing, but that did not stop him from entertaining the crowd, doing his signature dance — twist and whine — and the crowd loved it.

It was a sing along affair mostly, apart from a few songs he introduced from his new album.

“Let me give you a sample of my new album,” Ali Campbell said.

It was a show for the mature, something which seems missing on the local showbiz.

Ali performed for one hour and a few minutes.

At one time they appeared to have left the stage and gone before they had finished the prescribed time.

But within five minutes they came back to finish off the show, making the fans love them more.

It will not be an understatement to say the band gave fans their value for money.

“I love you Zimbabwe. I remember performing here in 1982 and it was so amazing, we enjoyed it. I remember going to Nyanga. Hope to see you again and thank you for supporting me. Zimbabwe is great,” said Ali Campbell.

The show ended around 10pm and the crowd left the venue happy.

“This show was amazing. Thank you organisers for a well-coordinated show. They reminded us of our golden days,” said a 63-year-old chief executive of a local company who wished to remain anonymous.

“I last attended a music show in 1996 with my wife and this is 2023, we enjoyed this one. One of the reasons why we no longer have a change of music – bubble-gum and fast music. Besides, promoters no longer accommodate us.”

Mrs Pamela Manjoro (66) came with her three sisters.

She said UB40 featuring Ali brought reggae magic to Zimbabwe.

“Otherwise to me this was all. Fun was had,” she said in colloquial English.

“Wish the organisers could have finished the show with a fireworks display. UB40 featuring Ali Campbell brought some reggae magic and consciousness. I came with my sisters and we are celebrating my late father who so loved UB40.”

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