Unplugged x Coca Cola Harare Food Festival with Murumba Pitch: A Review

This past Saturday the Unplugged festival returned in collaboration with Coca-Cola to finally bring the global phenomenon that is the "Coca-Cola Food Festival" experience to Harare. Hosted at First Capital Bank Sports Club, the event was Unplugged's first edition of the year and it also served as a celebration of 10 years of the festival.

From the crowd turnout, it was clear that the city had more than missed the festival. I had last seen such a baddie density (measured in baddies per square metre) over 6 months ago at Old Hararians Sports Club when Ngoma Nehosho hosted Jacaranda.

Unplugged x Coca Cola Harare Food Festival with Murumba Pitch: A Review

There were at least 4,000+ of us packed into the First Capital Bank Sports Club grounds. A scene that usually means countless Arabic scents will be in the air battling for dominance, but on this occasion, it was the aroma of spices that dominated the atmosphere. The line of food trucks was the entire length of the field and people certainly came ready to indulge, myself included.

The experience that people often have in Harare when restaurants are combined with groove (you know the places) is generally below par for the palate. However, the only disappointing thing for me about the food at Unplugged x Coca-Cola Food Festival was that my appetite couldn't be matched by my wallet. With austerity measures in play, I somehow still travelled to Asia, the Caribbean, and North and Latin America through my palate.

I used to have my doubts about prawns but Meals By Mapz made me a believer, in such divine textures and flavours, although I had mixed feelings about the egg noodles. Prawns are still such ugly things to look at but as they say, it's what's on the inside that counts. 

Reggae Flavaz served up a flavourful jerk chicken that was nice and tender, with spicy notes that hit the spot. However, by far my favourite things were nachos with chicken from Taco Cabana and the pulled pork sandwich from Smokey Bandit. It was foodgasm that felt like little fairies doing the moonwalk on my tongue.

From 4 out of the 12 food outlets on hand, it was quite the experience, with some very much appreciated culinary exposure.

The performances on the day were however not quite up to par with the food. By 6pm they had already played "All I Do Is Win" and I couldn't help but start feeling that the conspiracy theory that DJs were bewitched by DJ Khaled had some credence.

King 98 definitely surprised me with some of his better work on stage, but it felt like he was let down by the track selection for his set (he has way better and more popular songs). While on the opposite side of the spectrum, Takura performed a phenomenal selection of songs from his catalogue. It was certainly hit after hit but the overall performance felt a bit flat.

It should be noted that the sound engineering on the day wasn't at the usual standards expected from Unplugged. So in some parts, the artists may have not been at fault. I'm a big fan of Enzo Ishall but on this day, he too felt like he had been jinxed. However, there was a certain ambiance about the festival that saw us look past all these things. They were distortions about how the music sounded but you still felt the overwhelming urge to immerse yourself in the vibes.

In my book, Rimo was probably the first memorable act of the night. If I'm being honest I'm not usually a fan of him but he played his set like the rent was due. Murumba Pitch took to the stage at a later-than-usual slot for the headline act at Unplugged. I'll admit I was a bit worried by the time they went on. 

Now I don't know if it was because I have recently watched them perform but Murumba Pitch felt like it was just good. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely vibed to them but it felt a little anticlimactic in comparison to my expectations. However Murumba Pitch certainly maintains high standards, a bit of better sound and track selection (they didn't perform nearly enough of their own hits) on the night and who knows, maybe they would've matched the highs of Jacaranda.

Ultimately I feel like the sound let every performer down, it feels harsh to judge them on matters out of their control. What I will say though is that Unplugged x Coca-Cola Food Fest definitely left an impression on me. 

From an organizational perspective, it was definitely a class act. The food trucks were well curated and not just good food but the festival was a trip across the globe through cuisine. While great on paper, the lineup didn't quite live up to the billing. However, they certainly emphasized the FOOD in the food festival part of everything. Hopefully, this festival structure is the first of many.

Greedysouth rating: 6.4/10

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