Francophone Week Harare - The Mixx Concert: A Review

The 2024 Francophone Week has been underway across Zimbabwe since the 9th of March. A celebration of the French language and French culture that cuts across art forms, communities and countries. In Harare, the fortnight-long event is a collaboration of Alliance Française de Harare with 8 embassies.

Francophone Week Harare Review

While Francophone Week has a host of festivities that include conferences, film screenings, exhibitions, and workshops, The Mixx Concert can be described as its crown jewel. Featuring a lineup of Othnell Mangoma, Sankrox, Asante Mo and BKB, The Mixx Concert is aptly named. It is not simply an experience of the different acts on their own but a cauldron of collaboration.

To begin the end, I can't describe it as anything other than a concoction of different cosmopolitan musical universes. Blues, Tchamassi, Traditional Burkinabe and Zimbabwean rhythms, come together on one stage. While a sizeable crowd was in attendance, the concert still felt intimate. Maybe that's just the effect of sitting in front and being face to face with music, but something about it felt different from my usual live music experiences.

While Othnell Mangoma took to the stage, only tidbits of his performance drifted to us as we waited out the rain in the car park (he would return later to collaborate with BKB). When we finally made our way into the venue, it was to the sounds of Sankrox. The multi-genre and multi-language band from Switzerland. A dexterous guitarist, a jazz pianist and a versatile vocalist. 

Sankrox during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare
Sankrox during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare 

At my core I'm a fan of Hip Hop and Dance Music fan, so Sankrox's particular blend of music spoke to me. Yet I feel their performance would've resonated with any music fan. Alternating in tempo with one moment as captivating as the next, it was an immersion into the rhythm of South American and African sounds, while rooted in French music. More than half the lyrics were lost in translation (I haven't used my French B2 diploma since I got it from Alliance) but they gave me a performance of rap music I won't soon forget.

Asante Mo during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare
Asante Mo during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare 

Asante Mo (a name much too close to Asante sana which triggers Mugabe ptsd for Zimbabweans) took to the stage next and they're one group I had been waiting a long time to see. Named after the Swahili words for thank you, an expression of gratitude for the support they received when they started, the group leaves you in awe. Their performance is a fusion of DJ'ing, percussion and dance, with drums as the star of the show.

If Zesa could somehow harness the energy this group brings to a performance, load shedding would be a thing of the past. They performed a stirring rendition of Gemma Griffiths' "Ndichatarisa" which I think even Gemma would be proud of. Halfway through their performance, the trio were joined on stage by their opposites in gender but almost a mirror reflection in the French/Burkinabe group of sisters BKB. What's better than 3 percussionists on stage? It's definitely 6. 

Asante Mo and BKB brought together DJ'ing, and percussion on 4+ different sets of instruments and choreography. It was a marriage of Zimbabwean and Burkinabe, that simply felt right. When the collaboration ended, BKB finally took to the stage alone.

BKB during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare
BKB during their performance at Alliance Française de Harare 

As a child raised on Ndombolo and Sungura music, BKB instantly struck a chord with me. They were slightly subdued in terms of vibrancy when compared to Asante Mo, but their performance had the flavours of Soukous and Zouglou that were just right on the ear. It was captivating and enchanting from the word go. Their performance brought to mind Mokoomba but with a greater emphasis on percussion. It was vibrant but mellow, like an orchestra of drums executed seamlessly, even without a conductor.

Othnell Mangoma came on stage for a brief cameo, and as he showcased his craft, I felt a stab of pain for missing his set. In the end, they were rousing calls for an encore and BKB duly obliged. 

The Mixx Concert was a night of percussion (with drums as the stars), and innovative French rap. The theme of collaboration and cultural exchange was the glue that held it all together, with the diversity of Francophone cultures put on display. A breath of fresh air as far as local concert experiences, and you can definitely sign me up for the Francophone Week concert next year.

Greedysouth rating: 7.4/10

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