KUNZWANA # 1 - a resounding success
All in all the Kunzwana # 1 concept proved to be not only feasible but also relevant as a valuable experiment of artistic trans-cultural encounter and collaboration of musicians from diverse backgrounds. At least in parts this has led to new forms and blends of music styles which caught the attention and curiosity of the audiences. It has also found wide coverage by the media not only in Austria. Eventually the project has gone far to challenge some stereotypes of African and so-called World music alike.
The combination of musical and other artistic forms of story-telling (Tales of Resilience, visuals, interface and new media) was well received and has been transgressing the boundaries of otherwise often segregated fields of art. Overall (in Southern Africa and Austria) the project has evolved in 6 workshops and rehearsals, 7 concerts of the full Kunzwana # 1 ensemble, 5 more concerts with some musicians only taking part, 3 openings of exhibitions or presentations of Tales of Resilience, plus some jam sessions or individual artists joining other groups or performances. What a range of activities conducted in a short period of time. (The mileage of the journey by minibus in Austria alone was more than 2500km!)
Despite these major achievements the project faced some limitations and constraints too. Depending on changing individual and physical conditions or circumstances the flow of energy building up during the performances was not always as stringent as for instance at the very compact concert in Viktring, one of the highlights of the Austrian tour. listen: https://soundcloud.com/kunzwana-1/live-at-musikforum-viktring-2014
The artistic balance achieved by Kunzwana # 1 as performance art collective proved to be quite fragile with some set backs into standard patterns and dated funky grooves. Especially the younger members found the experimental approach of the project sometimes uncomfortable and called for more directions or a director.
The social fabric of the ensemble didn't achieve true band status not only because of the limited time spent together but also due to the very diverse backgrounds, generations and artistic interests of its members. I must admit that I missed some more common ground and zeal developing over time and found limited interest and curiosity in wider cultural exchange and explorations prevailing. But probably my expectations were flying too high in this regard.
The preconditions of low budget funding were responsible for some time and physical constraints like the lack of a sound technician accompanying the tour throughout or a driver. At the onset of the Austrian tour there was a lack of communication about the set up and branding of smaller performances to fill the gaps between the three Kunzwana # 1 concerts.
What next? We are working on a CD documentary of the Kunzwana # 1 project since the demand was raised during and after the performances several times along the tour. We will see what will come up afterwards - may be Kunzwana # 2 !? I agree with Paul Brickhill that we should "keep going".
some sound + video files:
to recall some feedback after the first phase of Kunzwana # 1
Comment / Feedback from Jill Richards / Johannesburg
"As a South African, raised in the Western classical music style, I have thought long and hard about how one might combine the musics of apparently very different cultures and indeed, if this can be achieved in "non-popular" music. I believe this is very important in terms of both Africa and South Africa, given the pan-African sentiment and our own new democracy.
There have been attempts made, not always successfully.
In the case of the Kunzwana project, I was delighted at the concert at the SABC in Johannesburg, as it showed me that there is indeed a way to achieve this which is musically valid, and which effectively marries the music cultures of Austria/Europe and Zimbabwe (broadly speaking in both instances). I had a strong sense of musical structure plus the space to allow for improvisation, as well as using existing music sources from the Zimbabwean musicians. There was musical space for all the performers, without musical compromises.
I was fortunate enough to have a play/improv session with Mangoma, Isabel and Franz, and it was even clearer to me that working together like this is not only possible, but desirable and successful.
I congratulate you on this initiative: I am sure there were tricky moments, but I think a project like this is a wonderful way to show us how music connects us all, no matter where we come from."
Jill Richards, Johannesburg, http://www.jillrichards.com/
Comment / Feedback from Paul Brickhill / Pamberi Trust, Harare
"Musical explorations, outside of a musician’s normal style, expectation or comfort zones, are the most difficult and challenging to harness, and then the most rewarding and revealing. It reminds me a little of Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige” (in its day, something of a shock to his fans at the time), or Abdullah Ibrahim’s explorations (over the last decade), his least known, and likely the music that will test us as listeners. Such music breaks form, and then celebrates musical “taboo” (it can’t be “done” that way; oh, yes it can, who or what “rule” says it cannot?). And so music extends fundamental boundaries of form and understanding of “what IS music?”. Music is always searching for that intangible; it’s soul, suggested but never captured; that is its journey, but never the destination; there are endless landscapes to conjure. That is music, and when it reaches a destination, it tends to lie down and might then have a little sleep, only dreaming of its journey. Some years ago, what I considered a “huge” solo, a year’s work in the making, 28 minutes long for which I frequently received good applause, was refuted by my own wise band leader – a hard taskmaster; he demanded I switch to a more difficult key (for me), maybe an F sharp or A flat, and up the tempo beyond my actual technical ability. I was angry, a year in making, I had reached a destination of sorts. He said to me “Unless you venture outside what you consider normal, I cannot hear your true voice, much less the whispers from your soul”. And so with Kunzwana # 1; it was always premised on “an unstated meeting place between the past and the future”, unthinkable, unknowable and never defined by any destination except to dare itself to undertake a musical journey and invite an audience, at times, to accompany it. It will never reach its destination, its true vision is to transcend that. It has begun a journey, a cascade of voices and sounds, at once resonant, rhythmic and yet quite discordant, questioning, which we dedicate in its courage and fullness to one Keith Goddard, who with his spiritual force in a tiny frame, opened a crack in a closed door and invited us all to have a peak what lies “beyond”. Kunzwanan # 1 has already raised emotions, asked questions, had its minor setbacks, its applause and left its audiences in a little bit of wonder, what next? When I listen to live music, I watch faces of an audience, so I can say without hesitation, “a little bit of wonder”. For this reason, we say keep going and from time to time, allow us – the audience, the listener – to venture inside what might lie beyond. We never know what we discover and our only expectation is that it is reminds us of the possibility of awe. It is and should be a humbling experience for the musicians. Keep going!"
The Huffington Post, UK, 13 May
„We decided to go to the Kunzwana #1 show. I was really excited about this band, because of their blend of Austrian and Zimbabwean musicians, playing clarinet, quarter-tone trumpet, trombone, mbira, vocals and electro-acoustics. I knew it would be a fantastic performance. Kunzwana #1 did not disappoint. Truly virtuosic brass and wind playing was joined by some of the strangest and captivating vocal sounds I have ever heard, courtesy Isabella Duthoit, and mbira player, Hope Masike, added a real Zimbabwean feel to the compositions on offer. Coupled with the peaceful atmospherics of the Global Stage, the performance was a real highlight of the festival....
At some points I thought the ensemble might fall apart, as though it was too much of an experiment for the results to be pleasing, but it never did. These were true professionals and wherever there was discord the musicians managed to bring the piece back into formation, and the result was a contradiction of unwieldy pleasure“. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/josephine/josephine-oniyama-zimbabwe-part-two-kunzwan_b_5302103.html