Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Festival Esperança

Try to imagine for a second an entire stadium full of people, all shouting loudly and dancing to the lively beats of energetic musicians late into the evening. Many of us have probably been to a concert like this and many of us have probably been to so many we’ve lost count. But now try to imagine being in this same crowd amidst a sea of people who have never witnessed anything close to this kind of spectacle. This is Mozambique and this was the Festival Esperança (the festival of hope).

As I mentioned once before, large scale concerts in Mozambique are about as common as a gay pride parade in Alberta. African musicians rarely have the resources to stage such events and locals rarely have enough finances to afford the high ticket prices. As a result, when a big concert does happen it is BIG news, especially if the headliner is a major international superstar. The last time the international music industry descended upon Mozambique was back in 1995 when Eric Clapton thrilled a capacity crowd of 60,000 at the Stadium de Machava (Mozambique’s national sporting complex). This past Saturday, I joined at least 65,000 others at the same venue to be a part of what was being billed as the “concert of the decade.” Headlined by UB40, the concert also included the fabulous and timeless Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe and the classic reggae hero from South Africa Lucky Dube.

The concert was organized in support of people living with HIV/AIDS and the ubiquitous red ribbons were to be found all around the stadium. In between musical acts, Mozambican celebrities and government officials made emotional pledges to the crowd to be strong in the fight against HIV/AIDS, their pleas often generating the same level of applause from the crowd as the musicians. The number of sponsors for the event was staggering, including everything from government departments to multinational corporations to major international NGOs. Everything from flyers to pamphlets to free condoms were distributed throughout the crowd or dropped from airplanes above. Seeing the hundreds of inflated condoms being batted around by the boisterous crowd just added to the surreal picture of the event, although much to the chagrin of the HIV/AIDS activists on stage.

We headed down to the concert in a group of 14, holding close to the belief that there is always safety in numbers. Such precautions were justified as the whole event was absolutely chaotic. The line up getting into the stadium alone was about a kilometer and a half long with nearly every street vendor within a 50 kilometer radius of Maputo franticly running up and down the line trying desperately to sell the impatient crowd anything from cold beer to cashew nuts to mysterious “street meat.” We almost spent as much time outside the stadium as we did inside but all realized that this was simply a golden opportunity for people watching. I was all prepared to bring my camera and guard it with my life at the concert but decided against it at the last minute. It was probably a wise decision as some friends of ours were pick pocketed and had their purses slashed. Still, the pictures I could have had would have been priceless.

By the time we finally got into the stadium and meandered our way up close to the stage, the strength of the crowd was really starting to build. The group Kapa Dech was on stage, an all percussion group from Mozambique that quickly worked the whole crowd into a frenzy. This group was quickly followed by the hugely popular Lucky Dube whose singing, dancing and preaching too everyone to a higher place. Looking around me, I had never in my life seen so much energy and “positive vibrations” pulsating through a crowd of people. Simply spectacular. Oliver Mtukudzi then came out and beautifully continued the musical celebration. I think My Zimbabwean friend Mondli can best describe Oliver’s music, “Ah he is great. He makes the young ones jump. He makes the old ones jump and he even makes the white ones jump!!” In all honesty, UB40’s set was rather anti-climatic following the amazing performances by the African musicians, although they did bring down the house when they pulled out “Red Red Wine.” Who doesn’t love that song?

Altogether it was an amazing concert and an unforgettable experience, made all the more special by the fact that such events only occur once every ten years in this country.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wise decision to leave the camera at home. I have been enjoying your pictures very much, you have a good eye Jared!

5:59 p.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

Thanks Erin, I've never been much of an artist but photography allows me to see the world through an artist's eyes. Cheers!

12:42 a.m.  
Anonymous Africa said...

Is there a conflict of interest when the department of state is sponsoring an event that drops condoms from a plane? Though the lineup looked stellar, I would loved to have seen it.

12:24 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice country that mozambique.

5:25 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we want more pictures of angoche city please

2:55 p.m.  

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