The Mixtape Vol. 56

Reunion Island's world music festival comes to Durban as Zakifo

Before we start with Zakifo, let’s talk about Sakifo, the seriously cool music festival in the Indian Ocean, set on a tropical volcano called Reunion Island. It's the region’s biggest music festival, attracting between 20 000 and 30 000 people each year. There are under a million inhabitants on the island, so it's hugely influential. Beyond that, the line-up is culturally relevant: a mix of contemporary pop, rock, reggae artists and the very best African, Francophone, Indian Ocean and World artists. The festival’s appeal is multi-generational, the line-up is eclectic and diverse but united by a strong common denominator of exceptional quality. Most interestingly, Sakifo has played a crucial role in both responding to Reunion Island’s cultural needs and in strengthening the island’s creative industries and their export markets – while attracting loads of tourists. 

It was obvious that the concept of a diverse, multi-generational music festival underpinned by an incredibly relevant line-up would work well in South Africa, and the Indian Ocean link made Durban the obvious destination. Well, that and the fact that Durban really needs a strong cultural injection and a big destination festival that appeals to everyone in the city and not the standard old-market segment.

Andy Davis first visited Sakifo in 2007 as a journalist and met the founder, Jerome Galabert, and almost immediately, they started discussing the idea of bringing the festival to South Africa. Andy then met Sipho Sithole of Native Rhythms at the Indian Ocean Music Market and Sakifo in 2012 and all three of them clicked instantly. Mainly because they all had the same idea of bringing this incredible festival back to Mzansi. It took a bit of time, but in 2015 they managed to deliver the first Zakifo in Durban.

Now that you know, you should all jump in and get involved. There's nothing like Zakifo anywhere else in SA.

Zakifo Musik Festival 27 and 28 May 2016, Battery Park, Durban Beachfront.

Tickets here, cheap cheap.

Read our little chat with Zigzag publisher and Zafiko heavyweight, Andy Davis, after the jump. 

Who's the team behind the event?

Well apart from Jerome, Sipho and myself; Gabriella Peppas, our festival director, heads up an exceptional production team of Gabisile Manon Nkabinde, Sineziwe Khumalo and Paige Furness. Mark Edwards aka Ghostbreath does all our video work. Kronk produced the incredible artwork theme for this year’s festival, Belinda Saville is in charge of all the stage and tech requirements along with a team from our sister festival in Reunion who will help with artist liaisons, tech, bar, etc.

We want to make sure that in everything we do, as Zakifo, from the artists we put on stage to the team that delivers the festival, that women take the lead as powerful, successful role models. Not because they are women, but because they are incredible musicians and festival professionals. As a cultural festival, we need to face and respond to the issues at hand, in this place, and establish a new paradigm. This is the magic of culture.

Which bands are playing?

Almost too many to mention. Thirteen international artists and something like twenty-six local acts complete the line-up. Take a listen to the playlist – that’s only fifteen of thirty-nine bands on display, not to mention the after parties and spin-off gigs. We’re working hard to bring a unique vibe to Durban. We’re not just going to hit the city with music, we’re going to flood it.

Where's the venue?

Battery Park is just behind Battery Beach on the Durban Beachfront's Golden Mile. It’s the big piece of land earmarked for Anant Singh’s film studio development. We’ll be the first festival to use the space for live music.

How is this festival different to all the others in SA?

As I said, there is nothing like it in SA. The Francophone elements, the pan-African and international artists we can bring to South Africa through our Reunion connection are incredibly eclectic, diverse and interesting… but underpinned by a common denominator of exceptional quality. The idea is to match interesting global artists with interesting South Africans and Africans, and create a space where they come together, play and enjoy themselves. We want to present something different to the SA public, in Durban, SA’s third and most underrated city – because we’ve been fed a lot of formulaic crap for many years. Now, there is a real opportunity and desire amongst audiences to experience something kiff, surprising and different that's also relevant at the same time and will help strengthen creative, cultural and artistic communities.

Which bands are you most excited to see and why?

Sheee-it! What a question. Amongst the internationals, I’m dying to see Malian desert rockers Songhoy Blues and Ghanaian hip-hop maestro Blitz the Ambassador. I’ve gotten into both Sauvage and Kid Francescoli’s SoundClouds and can’t wait to see what they bring. I’m amped to see Too Many Zooz, the New Yorkers who became an internet sensation with their live brass house sounds, busking at Grand Central Station. Australian reggae and dub outfit Kingfisha are going to be incredible and they’re in good company with Mozambique’s Gran’mah and Reunion’s Ti Rat, so reggae is globally represented. Not to mention home-grown bands like The Rudimentals and Tidal Waves. Cold Specks from Canada and Estere from New Zealand will definitely bring something different, dark and funky. Then locally, I’m amped to see this Cape Town neo-folk band Native Young (I just made up that genre), I’m loving their vibe and those sweet, sweet falsetto harmonies – like the Bee Gees with a banjo. I’ve heard such good things about BCUC and it’s good to welcome The Brother Moves On back onto a big local stage. I’m keen to see Mix n Blend’s big band show and not to mention the electronic Gqom sound rep’d by Mashaybhuqe’s digital maskandi, Maramza & Moonchild, DJ Lag... Did I mention Sibot?!

I’m literally going to have to figure out a way divide my cells so I don’t miss any of these acts. By Sunday 29th, Comrades Day, I’m gonna be flippen' poked.

What's the current creative scene like in Durban?

Durban has a motto, “why try harder”. It’s all here man, the weather, the warm water, the laidback vibes, the natural mixing of demographics on the beachfront – hands down South Africa’s most democratic public space – IMHO. But Durban also suffers from a bit of neglect and lack of relevance when it comes to the South African national conversation… and culturally, while very cool stuff happens all over the place, it blooms and dies without ever really getting the recognition it deserves. And we as a festival, or cultural platform, want to respond to that. I think by producing a bonafide centre of excellence and excitement, that coalesces all the different pockets of creativity around the city, it’ll be a relatively short hop, skip and jump to national and global recognition for a little Indian Ocean, tropical gem of a city. 

Describe your dance style. 

Amphibious. Sometimes I flow, sometimes I'm the running man.