Dancing with the Diaspora

South African Music Festival Network IGODA :

In my capacity as music journalist I went to Swaziland, Johannesburg and Durban events whilst Skyping to the partners in Maputo, Reunion and Uganda. It is in an interesting experience for some artists to go to all six cities, or even use a selection of the cities as a launchpad into other territories, particularly up the Indian Ocean Coastline.

I had the joy of researching this material over two years and it was documented in Mail & Guardian with an article titled “Casting the music festival network wider.” In African Indy, article “Setting Southern Africa on fire with a circuit of music festivals.” In Business Day, article, “Culture gets shot in arm as festivals join hands,” in African Independent article, Zakifo: Réunion to Durban and in Business Day, the following article, “Igoda tying cultural knots in South and East Africa.” The research featured in inflight magazines as it is an exciting tourism circuit that is multi-cultural including arts, crafts, sculptor, urban culture, music and performance business as well as the staged live music shows.

Igoda is an invitation to travel this beautiful country and discover new things for yourself. “Igoda” means “knot” in Zulu and symbolises an inter-regional exchange to promote arts development financially, logistically, socially and politically. Igoda is a membership based organisation comprising of six festivals that collectively solicit acts, promote regional exchange, facilitate sponsor partner engagement and promote tourism packages. The Igoda festivals take place during Africa month, an annual month long celebration commemorating the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25 1963. Partner festivals are Johannesburg’s Africa Day, Azgo in Maputo, Bushfire in Swaziland, Sakifo, Reunion, Zakifo Durban and Daodao Uganda. Zimbabwe’s HIFA festival participates. Igoda has two or three annual meetings where decisions are taken to improve and grow their network. In 2017 members met in Botswana with a potential partner from that country. As Reunion has existing cultural exchange and training links with Mauritius and Madagascar this is another possible expansion direction. The success of the Igoda festival circuit relies on ECONOMIES OF SCALE:

The festivals share 20 - 80% of their programme and have strong regional development platforms. Festivals are able to negotiate more favourable performance fees, reducing costs and allowing them to sustain and expand. The value proposition to the artist is great
as the more festivals they perform, the more they earn. The Igoda originated out of the Bushfire festival in Swaziland founded by Jiggs Thorne. They initially joined forces with the Bassline Africa Day in Johannesburg began, sharing musical performances in a programming collaboration that reduced costs and increased artist mobility. From 2007, Jiggs and the home for African music in Johannesburg, the Bassline in Newtown, shared musical performances.International bands could land in Johannesburg, perform at the Bassline Africa Day festival and then drive to Swaziland to perform there. This collaboration reduced costs, increased exposure for musicians and allowed the two festivals to expand at a rapid rate particularly through their collaboration with international embassies, institutes and sponsors from Switzerland, Austria, America, France, Portugal and Spain. Jiggs Thorne & the Bushfire Festival Bushfire built on a metaphor of “fire” metaphor was stated by artist Jiggs Thorne in the heart of Swaziland’s Ezulwini Valley, about four hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Inspired by the beautiful, free and uplifting “outside-art” creations of the roadside sculptors of Swaziland, Jiggs built a multi-disciplined venue as a sustainable base for artistic
expression. This venue he called House on Fire.

Says Jiggs: “House on Fire is a fantasy-scape that is inspired by meeting points where different stories, symbols and icons come together promoting tolerance and respect. It is a collective picture, a symbiosis of harmony in contrast, that creates an alternative mind-set. It is an Afro-Shakespearean globe theatre.”

The fire metaphor represents conscious and creative sharing for positive social change, and it quickly burnt beyond the four walls of its building into a week-long annual Bushfire festival that started in 2006. Today Bushfire brings the country of Swaziland to a standstill, using all bed space for the 20 - 30 000 visitors who enjoy the festival, and generating more than 30 million lilangeni for the Swaziland economy.

The Bushfire festival immediately set about using its success for positive social development. Jiggs’s mother, Jenny Thorne, initiated the extremely empowering programme “Gone Rural”, which uses the local Lattanzi Highveld grass to create handmade crafts. Today more than 750 women are employed in the Gone Rural programme which brings much positive change through health care, education and water
projects. Bushfire donates 15 lilangeni of the festival ticket price to an innovative development programme called “Young Heroes”, which provides food, education and support for HIV orphans. And they have developed a strong feeder programme for professional music development in Swaziland as well as pioneering an arts curriculum for the schools. A focus of the Igoda Festival circuit is the development of local talent with bushfire showcasing 40% local. A year-round feeder programme, Road to Bushfire, develops local talent at the House of Fire venue. Economic benefits are balanced with social upliftment. The festival is a leader in innovation and sustainability, including initiatives such as indigenous tree planting, recycling waste, solar-powered film screenings and cooking on gas. The revenue from ticket sales generates an effect six times the amount for Swaziland’s creative economy.

Thorne said, “When each region develops its block, it solidifies and strengthens the industry through the creation of networks. This generates interest, brings in acts and facilitates regional exchange and sponsor partner engagements.”

Africa Day Festival Johannesburg Brad Holmes, founding director of the Bassline Africa Day festival, started the Bassline jazz club in Melville that operated between 1994 and 2003. It showcased the power of jazz music to break social barriers and change the way people thought.

Holmes said: “Today, Igoda is the pioneer. It is the next really great thing. It is growing and spreading. And we are giving audiences around the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region content they might not have necessarily

The circuit was extended to Sakifo Festival on Réunion Island founded in 2004 by Jérôme Galabert. “Sakifo” is a creole term meaning “what you need.” Sakifo put Réunion on the creative tourism map. Started in the fishing village of St Leu in 2004, the festival has since expanded to the second biggest city, St Pierre. Today it is a nine stage festival with satellite bars, trade zones and the annual IOMMA (Indian Ocean Music Market) record industry trade fair. 30 – 40 000 people attend the annual event. Merchandise sales alone are worth 20 000 Euros over the weekend of the festival.

"Our vision of the Indian Ocean is the vision of a big Indian Ocean and all the countries of East Africa are concerned. In the future Tanzania and Kenya can also inspire themselves with the dynamic opportunities we have created with Igoda," says Galabert.

"When you have a south-south network, it is an extraordinary experience for artists to perform in front of people from Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa before targeting an international audience. It is about giving them the tools," says Galabert.

In 2015, the Zakifo music festival in Durban was launched as a sister to Réunion’s annual Sakifo festival. Business Day wrote “Culture gets shot in arm as festivals join hands.”

French technical experts are seconded from Réunion to Durban for the festival, to oversee sound design, staging, lighting and hospitality. This ensures the festival quality is of international standard. Air Austral, the Reunion Island Airline, sponsors the Durban Réunion flight corridor. And, the National department of Arts and Culture is a partner in the festival, providing a solid foundation.

Durban and Réunion harbour town, Le Port have had a close working relationship through the Sister Cities project, started in 2005. Eric Apelgren, Head of International and Governance Relations at eThekwini Municipality listed the points of cooperation as; tropical health, shark repellent technology, eco-tourism through the Green Corridor development project and solar energy programmes. Cultural exchange is on-going through the French language centre and during the upcoming French rugby game in Durban, eThekwini Municipality and KZN rugby union will be promoting further exchanges, including a visit to Réunion and other activations.

Furthering trade and investment is core to the Zakifo strategy. On their 2016 visit to Sakifo, the producers met fifty small and medium sized businesses. This has triggered a business delegation from Réunion to travel to Durban in 2017 to explore potential trade partnerships. Réunion has a strong sugar cane industry and is a sophisticated craft rum manufacturer. Davis said, “They do rum the way we do wine. They will grow special types and varieties of sugar cane to create special types of rum. They feel they have a lot of expertise that they can share. And they have all the technology and farming techniques. It has become a hub for green energy and sustainable energy. I think that is a great import export relationship that could be evolved.”

The inclusion of a Durban leg completed the triangle of co-operation between South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland and fitted comfortable with intergovernmental arts, culture and heritage exchange between the Swaziland, Mozambique and KwaZulu Natal
triangle known as the East3route. The Durban had leg was started by owner of ZigZag magazine Andy Davis and n 2015 Zakifo was launched as a sister to Sakifo and as an integral part of the Igoda festival network.

Andy Davis said, “A festival is a very egalitarian space. You get to create a world and populate it the way you want and be free to imagine a different reality.”

“I like the idea of a festival that responds to the needs of a place. The idea was lets fortify and build a strong culture here.”

The Doadoa East African Performing Arts Market founded by the Ugandan-based Bayimba cultural organisation, which was started by Faisel Kiwewa in 2007 was established in 2012 In Uganda and joined the circuit in 2017.

Doadoa was a natural partner as it is built on networking and music mobility. The "market" entails a full week of meetings, networking and discussions with the intention of distributing East African music more effectively within the region and beyond. In the previous edition 1,700 artists, event organisers, festival directors, venue owners, studios and distribution companies — mainly from the continent but also from Europe, the US and Asia — attended. The event has had tangible benefits for more than 15,000 artists and professionals.

Festival director Faisel Kiwewa was an orphan adopted into a royal home in Uganda, he transferred his successful search for his parents and his own identity and meaning in life into an arts career.

"As an artist, I was looking for a platform that would help others in the arts business to learn, practise and present their work in the most conducive and appropriate environment," he says. "The founding of Bayimba was to bridge this gap and create the vibrancy that we enjoy in the industry today."

Bayimba hosts four annual festivals — the three-day Bay-imba International Music festival, the Kampala International Theatre Festival, Amakula International Film Festival and Dance Week Uganda — as well as a variety of events and artistic skills training

Bayimba has recently bought a new site, 40km out of Kampala on Lunkulu Island, on the shores of Lake Victoria. It will be inaugurated in August 2018 with the centrepiece Bayimba International Music Festival.

"Our idea was to create a vibrant arts scene in the city. We have done that. For the future of the festival we have needed to create a new path, vision and excitement," says Kiwewa.

In its 11 years of operation, Bayimba has become an advocate of arts and culture and a driving force in the Ugandan creative industry. More than 3,000 artists and arts professionals have benefited from arts education, skills development, artistic exchanges and collaborations. Bayimba has triggered the emergence of new arts initiatives, artists and careers.

"The varied programme of activities has been crucial in raising awareness and appreciation of the benefits of arts and culture to development, ensuring greater access to a variety of artistic and cultural expressions, providing artists with platforms for exposure and networking, promoting creativity and artistic and entrepreneurial skills among professionals within the sector," says Kiwewa.

The East African Community, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, has 156-million citizens with an established common market for goods and services. Various declarations and action plans, such as the East African Community Culture and Creative Industries Bill in 2015, have acknowledged that the creative industry is a dynamic and growing sector. Bayimba strives to strengthen access to the cities within the bloc.

The DoaDoa "Caravan" is one such innovative regional networking platform and aims to open up new routes for the exposure and mobility of performing artists. A strong connection between Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali has been created and it is being strengthened each year with an eye on going to the islands, Comoros and Zanzibar.

"We want to first strengthen the mobility within and access to the cities. And then from there we will start opening it up. This will open up new horizons for cultural exchange and mobility for artists across the southern and East African regions," says Kiwewa.

With the drop in Mozambican metacais, the Azgo Festival has cut its programme to one day of amazing music, art and culture. Maputo’s Azgo Festival, founded in 2011 by Paulo Chibanga, drummer for the band 340ml.

Zimbabwe’s International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) although taking place mainly in April does participate with the circuit. One of the oldest festivals in the southern African region is the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). It was established in 2000, during Zimbabwe’s political isolation, and immediately became a great initiative in bringing people together and influencing the socio-cultural landscape of Zimbabwe. The festival employs more than 1 000 Zimbabweans in various roles and sells over 50 000 tickets for all the shows. HIFA is expanding its festival to offer year-long arts and cultur entertainment and development events and collaborations.

Founder and director Manuel Bagorro says: “A touring circuit allows presenters to share costs in more efficient ways, meaning that we’re able to do more with the resources available. It’s also stimulating and constructive to exchange ideas and opinions with colleagues in the region.”

Seven cities with an opportunity to reach out to more and more is putting the cultural heritage on the map. Sipho Sithole, shareholder on the circuit points out, “It is more than the sharing of artists. There is also the sharing of best practice and learning between the festivals;
the sharing of contracts and talent management and the sharing of expertise.”



© 2018 African music, writing, philosophy and multi-media creations © Struan Douglas
kindly to support the cost of travel and cultural exchange