Zahara: The spirits arose
zahara took to the stage at 22H30 with Ngiyadodhola a song about feeling cold, her voice sounded compressed and in some instances the drum was out of key but the 4000 crowd had none of that as they sang along.
By the time she sang, Destiny, we quickly realized that we were in the presence of a force of nature. Her voice, this time seemingly inspired by the singing along crowd.
She was easily the diamond-headed arrow of the night after some mess by Big Ben who chose to sing the wrong songs at the right platform and after some lengthy delays which the organizers called breaks.
But who cares, Zahara had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand as reeled hit after hit, the adulation rising with every majestically delivered verse and every head movement.
Umthwalowam sent the crowd into frenzy, a song which talks about a heavy burden where she is asking for a help on carrying the load. It was as if the crowd understood every meaning of it. This time she went from being extraordinary to possessed, as her voice echoed across the city, “ndiya cela ndiphatise, u-u-u uyandisinda,” she sang on.
And the crowd, braving the chilly conditions, swayed hands in unison as Zahara methodically confirmed her place in Namibian hearts.
Then ca`me Ndiza, my favourite, where Zahara is like a bride telling her groom that “I am coming to you, to give you my heart, then you do your all.” Interestingly, the crowd kept pace, tongue twisting here and there.
She is fond of rhythmic and melodic complexity, extended improvisation which switches into some rock fusion, and switching gears on a dime, yet she never loses sight of the big picture, making the fans feel her, the value of their money.
I disagree with those that say she is Jazz. Her performance on Saturday morning had some elements of Afro pop, some rock, it had some jazz of course, and some soul, but I don’t want to give it a name. Maybe Zahara music. But that we can ascertain on her next album.
My breakfast song Thekwani, whose chord progressions brought to mind Miriam Makeba’s township vibe was belted. The tune featured a spirited give and take between Makeba and Mama Dorothy Masuku.
Towards the middle of the set the momentum built to such a degree that it became impossible to concentrate on anything but the music and the interaction between the band members. By now the crowd had lost her, she was in her own world, they couldn’t sing along, but stand in awe, some in tears of emotions. The spirits of Windhoek had been awoken.
Without Desmond on Icwad’encane (a small love letter), Zahara’s afro pop song was greeted with much adulation from the fans and she did not disappoint when she sang George’s shona verse, herself.
An hour into her show, it had become apparent that it was not the drummer that was fault, but the drum itself. And as they fixed it, Zahara did not want the mood to be destroyed; she looked up to Salif Keita’s Africa song, then Brenda’s Leave Me Alone, and another rendition of Vulindlela. Namibia came alive.
By 23:30, she was back to herself, with ‘My Guitar and it is still debatable whether she was shedding a tear or just touching her eyes. On this one, the guitar cried until the guitarist cried herself. Two more songs later she came to the national anthem and by now it was some ten minutes before midnight. Like any national anthem Loliwe closed a spirit filled night.
The sound of her melodious voice singing beautiful lyrics over perfectly arranged instruments is still familiar (echoing in my mind) hours after the show.
Zahara is certainly no untalented opportunist riding on the back of good promotions, she has talent. She is no Prima Donna or Diva.
Her total control of the show made me forgive Big Ben for choosing the wrong songs in his curtain raising songs, but Lize Elise, PDK and Elemotho had held their own with some great performances in the under-cards and deserve all the credits, for also spicing up the great night.