The performing arts circuit used to be a serious hive of activity. During the late
90’s to early 2000’s each suburb had a least 3 vibrant arts groups staking their claim in the city. Rivalries were the order of the day and quality was a necessity. Then with the hardships of the economy many groups fell by wayside to never rise again, some still soldier on. One group that came from nowhere to being a top player in per- forming arts is Amawumbo Ensemble.
They endeared themselves with fans with their sweet harmonies and energy on stage. Their most recognizable piece being UMONA a dance musical. Amawumbo quickly became regulars in Europe, especially Sweden, Norway, and Spain. They were counted in the same league as Umkhathi and Siyaya.
Marshalled by Alex Mhlanga who easily ticks the box of a very good choreographer, Amawumbo were a force to reckon with. ists of today like Heather of Nobuntu, Anna now with Siyaya, Madolo of Kwabatsha and globe-trotting Othnell Mangoma who plays drums for almost all top Harare acts. The group even boasted of some of the top art So after one of their tours Amawumbo split up, giving birth to Kwabatsha. Please note the group did not die, it lost members. I will have you know the group is alive and doing just fine. I drove to Mabutweni last week to watch their rehearsal.
They are working on a project called Phakama Mfazi. It’s an all-girl project with 10 strong girls. The harmonies and style still exist, so does the energy. These girls are doing just about everything that their male counterparts do on stage, from spinning, jumping, drumming to stick fights. They take to stage with just about the same energy guys would. Phakama Mfazi the show premieres in June, from the little that I saw, I am almost certain it will be a hit.
In related news, the award-winning musical Zambezi Express is coming back to a stage near you. Arguably one of the most celebrated pieces from this region if not the country. Coming back after a 3-year sabbatical, the new look Zambezi Express, dubbed “The Return” opens at the Bulawayo Theatre on the 20 of May and will run for 10 days. The home of Siyaya Arts, Stanley Square is all activity as the rehearsals are now in full swing.