Unplugged's August Edition With Nigerian Rapper Ladipoe: A Review

The Unplugged music festival returned this past Saturday for its August edition, with the headline act being Nigerian rapper Ladipoe. After its star-studded return from a near 3 year hiatus last month, with performances from Takura, Shashl, Asaph, Fusion 5 Mangwiro and the headline act Sun-El Musician, they were huge expectations for its other 3 editions, including this one.

Sight & scenes from Unplugged August 2022 Venue
Sight & scenes from Rylance Farm
Image: Zezuru Creatives

The music festival was again hosted at Rylance Farm, the beautiful & scenic location that has seemingly become its new home but as the sun faded into the horizon we would all pay for those views, with a cold breeze that came from the dam. Most of the country is warming up but the nights at Rylance still feel very much like winter.

By the time we arrived Shabach the Band had already taken to the stage and they were performing some of their current favourite hits, with the flair only live instrumentals could provide. The atmosphere was still subdued but the crowd was slowly getting into it. There's something about Unplugged's relaxed nature that makes it a more difficult stage to perform. If you don't start off with something that grabs the Unplugged crowds' particular attention then it's going to be a difficult set.

Kae Chaps
Kae Chaps singing on stage
Image: Zezuru Creatives

It was a combination of the sunset and sad loves, as around 5 pm, Kae Chaps kicked off the artist's performances. One thing I especially loved, was the fact that music was an experience. It wasn't just the background track and a mic we've grown accustomed to but it was live instruments and genuine transitions between songs, that made even the songs you didn't know, a pleasure to listen to. But I'll admit, Kae Chaps' performance had highs and lows, and I got that feeling something was still missing from it. He however closed his set with a rendition of his hit song Gehena, which was seemingly redeeming all the lows during his performance. He also looked my sister in the eyes and I've still not heard the end of that.

Edith WeUtonga
Edith WeUtonga on stage
Image: Zezuru Creatives

On the heels of Kae Chaps, is what in my book was the performance of the night. It checked every single box and more. Edith WeUtonga and the Utonga Band gave us one of those performances, that'll forever remain on your mind. It was a performance that took us on a journey across the world of music. You could say it was extremely experimental in how local sounds like Jiti, Shona folk, Afrofusion & Chimurenga were blended together and then flipped over as Edith transitioned into global sounds like Rock & Roll with booming notes on her bass guitar.

At one point in time, it felt like we were all bearing witness to a spiritual awakening on stage, Edith performed as if captured in a trance that wouldn't let her go. Halfway through her set, she introduced us to her friend from Japan, who played the melodica and she blended in beautifully into the performance. Edith WeUtonga didn't miss a beat, and she closed out her set with an emphatic performance on the bass guitar.

Nutty O on stage
Nutty O on stage
Image: Zezuru Creatives

Nutty O took to the stage next and the atmosphere became near electric. The crowd in their hundreds sang along to every song and the energy was peak here. Nutty O had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands with almost every voice singing out each and every melody as if in desperation to be heard. "Handipere Power" has been the anthem of note during his concerts but nothing could've prepared me for when he performed "Boom Shelele", it was so loud you could barely hear yourself think. 

When Nutty O's performance came to an end, it was perfectly set for the headline act, yet Ladipoe arrived to a rather sombre welcome. He kicked off things with "Jaiye", which means the time of life but it certainly didn't feel like that, and it was no fault of his own because Ladipoe was energetic but the crowd couldn't give that energy back because they didn't seem to know the music at all. It was only about 2/3 songs into his set when he gave us "Big Energy", true to the song's title the crowd began giving back the energy he was putting into his performance.

Ladipoe on Stage at Unplugged Festival Zimbabwe August 2022 event
Ladipoe performing in front of the crowd
Image: Zezuru Creatives

I loved how Shabach the Band, the choir on the backing vocals and the vocalists who did the hooks just gelled together with Ladipoe for this performance as if it wasn't their first time performing on stage together. It felt like something they did regularly, that came naturally. It was really now a concert, as Ladipoe went through a few more of his hits in Know You & Running, with the latter igniting more and more of the crowd to sing along. Then the moment everyone had been waiting for finally came along, as the rapper performed "Feeling". 

Although it was Ladipoe's energy that dominated the stage, it was the young lady singing the chorus who made this particular rendition of the song what it was. A rendition that ended with Ladipoe shirtless, and men & women alike making noise for the superstar. My sister was one of the loudest because she got to touch his bicep when he stepped off stage to perform right in front of the crowd. This brought his performance to a close but yet it all felt a little short-lived. I felt hadn't gotten anywhere near enough music from him on stage.

Ladipoe shirtless during his performance
Image: Zezuru Creatives

I know, a 45-minute set has become the norm (except for the African Giant who gave us two times that) for international artists but I felt like we only just made it past 30. Something about the night made it feel anticlimactic, like right when we were running on vibes the rug got pulled right from under us. I didn't get near enough excitement and besides Ladipoe almost falling at one point, the most dramatic thing that happened on the night was Vimbai allegedly catching her boyfriend cheating and running out into the carpark to bash his car in.

Although it was cold later on, I loved Rylance Farm as a venue, the scenic views and the calm scene are absolutely worth it. However, even though it's easier to get into than most festival venues in Harare, the event still gets a zero in terms of accessibility (disability access). The vibes were there but it fell a little under expectations. I think there's room to do more to augment the experience, how about a curated playlist by the artist a week before, featuring the songs he/she will perform? Because a crowd that's just waiting for one song is just not it.

The story of the night wouldn't be complete without taking hats off to Shabach the Band for being there for almost every single artist on the night, I absolutely loved their work.

Greedysouth rating: 6.5/10

Side note: They did manage to catch Vimbai just in time to save those car windows.

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