#HIFA2015: Salif Keita dates Hope Masike

Salif Keita

Salif Keita

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THE dream collaboration is on tonight — Mali giant Salif Keita, and Zimbabwean mbira queen, Hope Masike, share the stage as the curtain comes down at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa).

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As per tradition, the concert is expected to attract thousands of revellers as the Malian international superstar, who performed at the same venue at Hifa 2010, does what he knows best.

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Keita, who is 66 years old, is renowned for his unforgettable live performances, soaring vocals and emotionally-fueled songs.

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Fans better get ready because the Malian giant, also referred to as the Mansa of Mali, is promising an electrifying performance tonight.

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“I am looking forward to having Hope Masike join me on stage on Sunday. I won’t divulge exactly what we will do together because we would not want to spoil the surprise for the audience at the Hifa closing concert. They will just have to come and check it out for themselves,” said Keita, about his much-awaited act tonight.

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“It’s been a few years since I last visited Zimbabwe. I am really looking forward to coming back, and it is always a pleasure to work with Hifa, who are always extremely professional, and produce a great African festival,” he added.

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Before the fireworks illuminate the skies to signal the end of one of Africa’s top festivals tonight, music lovers will witness a different kind of fireworks from singing sensation, Masike.

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The mbira playing, traditional dancing Masike, who boasts two internationally acclaimed albums, “Hope” and “Mbira, Love and Chocolate” has vowed to unleash herself onto the Hifa crowd.

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And those with a vivid imagination or rich experience in music can easily guess what is likely to come out from blending Keita’s undoubted international class and Masike’s unique mbira-playing skills and vocal abilities.

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Given both artistes’ experience on the international arena, tonight’s show is undoubtedly one not to miss.

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Coming from a humble background, Masike still cannot believe the journey she has travelled in her career.

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“It’s amazing that songs I sung with my friends playing on the streets of Highfield, many years ago, probably out of tune and definitely with wrong lyrics are the very same songs that I am going to be singing with the ‘Mansa of Mali’ himself, the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’. God just gave me yet another great thing to thank Him for,” said Masike.

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While the stage will be for the visiting Mali giant, Masike will feature on a number of the exponent’s songs.

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Hope Masike

Hope Masike

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“I’m coming in as a special guest performance on some of Salif Keita’s songs at the ZOL Main Stage. The collaboration was planned by Hifa. They got in touch early this year while I was on tour in Germany and it was something that the two of us were very keen to do.

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“It was a mutually shared desire to make something happen. I have done collaborations before and I don’t think I will have problems today,” she said.

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Interestingly though, is that despite both being well-travelled, the two have never even come close to working together before.

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In fact, the songs that there will be playing tonight were rehearsed a few days ago. And it will be interesting to note how they are going to blend the distinct instruments that they both use.

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Keita, combines traditional West African music styles with influences from both Europe and the Americas, while maintaining an overall Islamic style. His musical instruments include the balafon, djembe, guitar, kora, organ, saxophone and synthesiser.

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But this should not come as a challenge or intimidation to mbira queen Masike.

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She has become the modern day custodian of the revered mbira musical instrument that has provided the cultural soundtrack to the people of Zimbabwe going back to ancient times.

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In the line of her duty, the mbira player who has had successful tours in Europe has collaborated with a number of artistes. The mbira queen has exchanged notes with South African pianist Bokani Dyer, Norwegian outfit Monoswezi, French wheel spinner DJ Oil and alternative hip-hop band The Monkey Nuts.

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It is not yet clear if Masike and Keita will take their relationship further from the Hifa arena. But organisers of the event are confident a fruitful working relationship is going to be birthed during the closing act.

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“So far they have only agreed on a collaboration at Hifa on the closing day. We have to wait and see how the partnership works out. When artistes respond well to each other artistically, something usually comes up,” said Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba.

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He added: “Hifa values the opportunity of having a collection of artistes from all over the world in one place that can impart knowledge to local artistes. Hope (Masike) has worked for this and she has taken the initiative of doing collaborations beyond Hifa and has been reaching out, in that regard we don’t doubt her capacity.”

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Some of the songs to expect from the international superstar include “Wamba”, “Folon-The Past”, “Tenin”, “Africa”, “Dalimansa”, “Sina (Soumbouya)”, “N’Bife” and “Karifa”.

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Hifa was this year officially opened by Mokoomba. The group has been a regular feature at the annual festival but this was their first time to perform as the opening act of one of Africa’s leading international arts festivals.

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Established in 1999 by Manuel Bagorro, this year’s Hifa is running under the theme, “Articulate”.