Igoda Festival Circuit: Together we are strong

Africa month commemorates the founding of the African Union by Haile Selassie and Kwame Nkrumah on the 25th May 1963. The vision of “embracing collective identity and rejoicing in our unique heritage and culture,” is being realisedin the SADAC region.
‘Igoda’ Zulu word for ‘knot,’ is a membership based festival organisation comprising of five festivals knotted together in an inter-regional exchange. Igoda festivals share a common creative aesthetic,vision for arts development and benefit financially, logistically, socially and politically. The festival network has provided a point of focus for international embassies, institutes and sponsors to extend the reach of their promotions. The end result is an increase on talent on display for the audiences.
The circuit originated in 2007 when Bushfire in Swaziland and BasslineAfrica Day in Johannesburg begansharing musical performances. This collaboration reduced costs, increased artist mobility and provided economies of scale.
The early successes of the Swaziland Johannesburg cultural corridor lead Igoda festival circuit founder Jiggs Thorne to approach Sakifo on Réunion Island to join the circuit. Sakifo,a creole term meaning ‘what you need,’ was started in 2004 by Jerome Galabert in the coastal fishing village of St Leu. The festival provided the international exposure that symbolically connected the island to the rest of the world.
Next to join the circuit was Maputo’s Azgo festival founded in 2011 by Paulo Chibanga, drummer for 340 ml. Durban joined the circuit in 2015 with a custom made festival – Zakifo - founded with Sakifo and South African partners, Sipho Sithole and Andy Davis. The inclusion of a Durban leg was a powerful compliment to the circuit as it completed the triangle of cooperation between South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This triangle rests on an intergovernmental arts, culture and heritage exchange known as the East3route.

“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.” Jiggs Thorne

A Pan African circuit

The Durban festival benefitsfrom a burgeoning Indian Ocean Network accessed through their duel programming with Sakifo. Damien Marley, youngest son of Bob Marley, is headlining both the Sakifo and Zakifo festivals as part of an extensive five stop tour up the East Coast of Africa from Durban to Mauritius, Réunion Island, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Igoda is growing holistically and more festival destinations will definitely join the Igoda festival circuit in the future. Neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe (with the existing HIFA festival) and Botswana, are looking to participate. And there is a long term vision of using the template Igoda has provided in Southern Africa to replicate in East, West and North Africa.
Founding director of the Bassline Africa Day festival,Brad Holmes, was the founder of the iconic Bassline jazz club.The Melville venue that operated between ’94 and ’03 had a strong social and economic impact on Johannesburg and showcased the power ofjazz music to break a number of social barriers and change the way people thought.The forthcoming book “Last night at the Bassline,” the story of the Bassline jazz club in from will be released on the 8th of June.
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 SADAC region content they might not have necessarily seen.”

Music development and social upliftment

A focus of the Igoda festival circuit is the development of local talent. The 2017 Bushfire programme is 40% local, bringing in 11 Swaziland acts to the main stage of the festival. A year-round feeder programme, ‘Road to Bushfire,’develops local talent at the House of Fire venue. Established Swazi performers on the festival include afro-pop legend Bholoja, and producer Mozaik who performs with Siyinqaba.Exciting newcomers are Sands and Flameboy Universe.
Bushfire is a leader inbalancing economic benefits with social upliftment. The 5 Million emalangeni (equivalent to the rand) revenue from ticket sales generates an induced impact six times the amount for Swaziland’screative economy.
The festival is a leader in innovation and sustainability, including “greening” initiatives with indigenous tree planting, recycling of all waste, solar powered film screenings and cooking on gas.Emphasis is placed on social consciousness and changing attitudes to encourage positive change. The ‘Young Heroes' programme provides food, education, health care and vocational skills training for 1000 HIV orphans.
Zakifo in Durban has a 20% local participation including singer Lu Dlamini and electric duo Easy Freak. Festival director Gabriella Peppas said, “Zakifo is still a young festival and we are trying to grow. We are hoping to start a schools festival as well as a project called ‘Sound of Zakifo,’ which will lead up to the festival and look at developing KZN talent.”

What to expect

“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,” describes Zakifo festival founding partner Andy Davis.
Bushfire is a top ten world music festival and a for-runner in the ‘experience economy’. It offers a holistic experience with activations and installations as various as Theatre for Africa. Africa Day has a new look for 2017. It has expanded out of Newtown and into the amphitheatre at the Johannesburg Expo Centre (Nasrec), a point from which the festival is expecting to expand. Department of Arts and Culture, Trace Africa TV and Khaya FM are partners.Gauteng artists, folk singer Vusi Mahlasela and popular singer Thandiswa Mazwai are included on the line-up.
Sakifo, now in its 14th consecutive year brings the town to a standstill with a capacity audience of 30 000 people enjoying nine different stages, satellite bar areas and a variety of local merchandise and trading opportunities. The festival includes IOMMA, Indian Ocean Music Market - an annual record industry trade fair.
With the drop off of the Mozambican Metacais currency, Azgo festival has reduced its programmingthis year to one day of amazing music, art and culture.The festival theme for 2017 is gender equality.The festival is headlined by Latin Grammy Award winner Maria Gadu from Braziland is 50% Mozambican with marrabenta masters Ghorwane and electro newcomers Batuk highlight performers.
The third consecutive year of the Zakifo festival will host three unique stages overlooking the historic Blue Lagoon, apoint of convergence of the Umgeni River, the Indian Ocean and the diverse people of Southern Africa.

Struan Douglas

Struan Douglas is a freelance writer and author based in South Africa.