One of the key events on the KZN cultural calendar is the sixth Standard Bank Awesome Africa Music Festival which moves to the Playhouse Complex in Durban for the first time on October 1 and 2 which is again part of the eThekwini Municipality’s drive to develop a Cultural Precinct within Durban’s Inner City district. The festival forms the anchor for the cultural component of the exciting Celebrate Durban season.
The festival has developed a unique multi-cultural pan-african musical identity which includes unusual marriages of different genres and styles. The general theme of the music focuses on collaborations with artists from the African continent and beyond - and represents a massive cross-cultural fusion of energy that attracts musicians and music lovers both nationally and internationally. This year there will be more of a focus on multi-disciplinary collaborations involving visual art, film, dance, music, cuisine and the spoken word.
One of the highlights is Baaba Maal from Senegal who is a true original African superstar, his distinctive and soulful voice sings of the mysteries of ancient Africa as well as controversial contemporary issues, like women's rights and Aids education. Baaba Maal comes from the Toucouleur people in the Fulani Fouta region and learnt his culture from the old musicians in local villages. Since 1982, (when Maal and his longtime friend, blind singer/guitarist and griot Mansour Seck formed Daande Lenol “Voice of the People”) - he has combined gentle West African folk and mbalax rhythms with rap, hip-hop, techno and reggae styles. In 1994, his landmark mega-hit album Firin' in Fouta established him in the hearts and minds of millions of fans around the world.
A real coup is the legendary Zakir Hussain from India - a tabla virtuoso and international phenomenon of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, as well as gaining him worldwide fame. The favorite accompanist for many of India's greatest musicians, from Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar to Birju Maharaj and Shivkumar Sharma, his playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity. Zakir's musical contribution has been unique, with many historic collaborations including Shakti with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, Jan Garbarek, Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, George Harrison, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, Tito Puente, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, the Hong Kong and New Orleans Symphonies as well as his esteemed father Ustad Alla Rakha. Most recently, he has composed soundtracks for the films In Custody, Little Buddha and the brilliant Vanaprastham.