Girlfest Zimbabwe 2024: A Review

Cooler boxes, live music and food have become the three key ingredients to Harare's social life over the weekends. The music festival experience has become a staple, the recreational water and mealie meal, and similar to how our staple food has those that are better at making it, the same goes for outdoor events.

A good festival is always the result of great curation, well at least in my book. It's not just a matter of just having great artists on paper, but creating an experience. A good festival should not only satisfy the senses but it should have an atmosphere that inspires emotions. This is certainly a notion that Girlfest Zimbabwe understands.

The grounds at ZB Sports Club were a cascade of sunset tinged hues. Fashion was a language of expression, a display of individuality united in colour. The "Sunshine Tangerine Affair" was Girlfest Zimbabwe's 4th edition and without a doubt their biggest event yet. The theme was adhered to religiously and Girlfesters certainly came with their singing voices.

Part of the crowd at Girlfest Zimbabwe 2024
Image: Mudiwa Shoots

It can be taken as trivial (because event organisers always ignore this) but before the event had even began, Girlfest Zimbabwe had already scored their biggest wins. Toilets. Posting over 20 mobile toilets the morning of the festival, Girlfest Zimbabwe addressed women's most voiced complaint about local festivals. A lack of enough rest rooms. Something that has been constantly brought but never addressed. A clear sign organisers were paying attention to the concerns of attendees and the missteps of other events.

While Girlfest Zimbabwe are the pioneers of the concept of women only festivals in Zimbabwe, the idea has grown to be a lot bigger than just them. However Girlfest has a way of defining itself as the festival of the people. 

The mechanical bull at Girlfest
Image: Mudiwa Shoots

The food stands were diverse and numerous enough to almost make food an equal star to music on the occasion. The artist lineup was curated to the audience, and the entertainment wasn't left to music alone. Girlfest had fire breathing dare devils that literally brought the heat with them, they had stilt walkers that drifted among the crowd, and they even had a mechanical bull. It felt a little like a carnival and festival, wrapped in one. 

One of the stilt walkers at Girlfest
Image: Mudiwa Shoots 

When it comes to local festivals, if you attend them often enough then most lineup start feeling familiar. It generally becomes a comparison of their previous performances against what's currently on show. However on Saturday night, the crowd was the difference maker. The energy the artists gave out on stage was replied to in equal measure by the crowd.

One of the fire breathers at Girlfest
Image: Mudiwa Shoots 

We were guided through the performances of the day by KVG as the MC and Pretty Gangsta on the decks, and what a combination the two were. They played their roles to perfection and I was genuinely surprised by how good Pretty Gangsta is at her craft. Just good music and not an "All I Do Is Win" in sight.

Takura performing at Girlfest
Image: Mudiwa Shoots 

Reflecting on the several times I've seen Kae Chaps perform, on the Girlfest stage was probably the best I've seen for him. The sad love songs had a choir of thousands singing the words back to him, and that definitely left an impression on me. Takura came up next, and he not only had a well curated set but a good performance. Very few can rival his catalogue and the noise that came with every new track he performed was testament to that. In one of the more humorous moments of event, Takura invited someone to dance for him on stage because "kwanga kusina mabhebhi kurehab".

Nutty O brought a new level of life to the when he took to the stage next. He had a combination of energy and stage presence that resonated well with the audience. He easily had the crowd at it's loudest, and although this wasn't the best performance (I've seen him a lot so I'm biased) I had seen from Nutty O, it was still so good. Arguably the best performer on the night.

DJ Zinhle performing at Girlfest
Image: Mudiwa Shoots 

DJ Zinhle arrived on the back of this high, and while her reception was initially loud, her performance kicked off with a very much subdued crowd. While it was certainly a display of dexterity on the decks, it took a while before the crowd finally got into it. Girlfest didn't particularly have an Afro House crowd but at the climactic point of her set, Zinhle firmly had her hands on the marionette's cross and she swayed the crowd into motion.

Enzo Ishall was greeted with a resounding welcome, and he didn't waste time diving into the best of his catalogue. His performance of "Iyoyo" saw the crowd transformed into a sea of fireflies as everyone had their flashlights on and moved to Enzo's tune.

Now when I had initially seen the Girlfest lineup, I hadn't pictured Master H as a closer. An underestimation of his abilities on my end and I was certainly glad to have my expectations surprised. General Aladdin, as he calls himself, was electric on stage. I was in awe and disbelief, at just how much energy one man could expend on it. He might have not had a band but he made up for it with sheer stage presence.

I had my doubts about the strength of his catalogue but I was proven very wrong. Spirited and more vibrant than a long life battery ad, Master H gave the occasion a fitting end.

Girlfest Zimbabwe was a near perfect occasion. I have never in my life seen women that happy before. 

Despite a few minor stutters, the sound was well managed. The food was amazing and abundant enough for the thousands in attendance, and so were the facilities. The parking was a fair bit of distance from the festival grounds but then that couldn't be helped. All in all my biggest gripe would be for better disability access so the girls living with disabilities don't miss out on the experience.

In the context of Zimbabwe, festivals exclusively for women are a concept that is still young, but if my experience is anything to go by then they're very much in capable hands. Girlfest Zimbabwe is right up there with anything I've experienced from Hidden Culture or Ngoma Nehosho.

Greedysouth rating: 8.1/10

Disclaimer: My observations were mostly made from the artist's section which was right next to the stage, so I had a fairly different vantage point from most.

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