Shoko Festival lives up to billing World Poetry Champion Xabiso Vili performing at Shoko Festival.

Kundai Marunya-Arts Correspondent

It was three days of fun, thought provoking discussions, poetry, theatre, comedy and music as the annual Shoko Festival successfully held events across Harare and Chitungwiza last week. 

Last Thursday, the first day of the festival, saw media personnel exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its use in fighting disinformation and misinformation at the Hub Unconference. 

The conference also had master-classes in fact checking and graphic designing and a photography master-class on the second day.

Performance wise, the first day had an explosive programming that featured both underground, rising and established artistes. 

This is the day Jordan Moozy, the celebrated musician born in Botswana to Zimbabwean parents, rocked the stage with a blend of genres that gelled well in producing a unique sound during the Mash Up Night session. 

Female artistes were also given a chance to shine in an electric Women’s Cypher session which featured Nyasha Vengesai, Banshee, Reich, and Nolunthu J, among others. 

The shows, which were all held at Moto Republic, were well subscribed. 

A bigger, central venue would have been suitable for the country’s longest running urban festival which at some point commanded thousands in following, fully packing the National Museum grounds in Harare’s Rotten Row area.

Last Friday had poetry lovers treated to a slam that featured a highly charged new generation of wordsmith who embraced the theme “Taking Back Our Future”, and shared their diverse views ranging from black empowerment, neon-colonealism, feminism, and capitalism, among other things. 

Hupepe Chule’s delivery, a mixture of Shona and English satire drove the crowd into frenzy, while Dumiso’s blunt analogy of capitalism’s influence on life; how money can buy you anything was one of the highlights of the slam.

Dumiso is the late Book Cafe founder Paul Brickhill’s nephew and a godchild of the late nationalist Dumiso Dabengwa, whom he was named after. 

He well represented the respect the two icons commanded, and he is definitely one of the new poetic voices to look forward to in the future as continues on a path to speak sense and advocate for equality. 

Vanessa from Zambia, brought a great feel of feminism, delivered in an explicit but thought provoking way that has one rethink how they view women and sex. 

Also present was the reigning World Poetry Slam champion Xabiso Vili whose explosive set was well celebrated by the crowd judging from the ovation, shouts and whistles. 

Other participants include Kuda Rice, Link, Tafadzwa Ncube, tears In the Soil, and Nodeshan, among others, all doing justice to the stage. The absence of the old crop of seasoned poets that has for years dominated poetry slam, and a new highly talented crop is evident that the sector is growing. 

The second day ended with a comedy show at Reps Theatre, the Roast of Kuda Musasiwa affectionately known as Begotten Sun. 

The show opened with a pre-roast humorous play from the Zimbabwe Theatre Academy as they depicted the pains of child birth. 

They took a swipe of corrupt nurses who ignore their patients and are rude to those who have not paid them bribes. 

Their jests resonated well with mother who have gone through the ordeal at various clinics where child birth is free but medical personnel find ways to fleece expecting parents. 

The roast, which celebrated Musasiwa’s efforts and contributions in the arts sector, and his countless efforts in bring about innovation as an entrepreneur and farmer. 

The no holds barred show had a panel of ‘washed up’ celebrities namely Ba Shupi, Ricky Fire, rapper R.Peels, Blacpearl, Magi and Bulawayo based comedian Babongile Sikhonjwa.

The panel took a dig at each other’s careers, personality and even outlook, but in a way celebrating Musasiwa who they all at some point have worked or associated with. 

Shoko closed down with a free musical show in Chitungwiza’s Unit L Community Hall grounds. 

The highly subscribed show had ‘ghetto youths’ seeing their celebrities live on stage.

Artists like gemma Griffiths, Hwinza, Tha Nu Vybz, Bling4 and Nutty O delivered great sets to the enjoyment of the crowd. 

Ultimately it was a great festival, but for someone who has seen it at its peak, much more needs to be done to retain and supercede the glory of the past. 

There is need for more shows, and bigger venues, but in terms of being organised and quality of productions, Shoko Festival remains one of the greatest in the country.

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