The annual Solo Festival, conceived by music legend Oliver Mtukudzi and bankrolled by the corporate sector always brings Norton to a standstill as fans from wide and far descend on the town transforming it into a carnival city.
What makes the festival extraordinary is the concept where artists, who usually perform with their groups, Alick Macheso, for example, is invited to play all by himself – just his bass guitar, voice and song. The same goes for dancers, dramatists, instrumentalists and various other art forms.
Mtukudzi said, in a statement, he conceived the festival because of a desire to mentor artists as individual entities and demonstrate the power and relevance of solo performers.
“The whole idea is to demystify the notion that individual artists have no relevance when they are away from their regular groups. The festival proves that solo artists can be mentored to have the confidence to perform singularly and still entertain and make a living,” Mtukudzi said.
This year the festival taking place at Mtukudzi’s own state of the art academy of Arts, Pakare Paye, has an international feel with artists Steve Dyer coming from South Africa and music diva Suzanna Owiyo travelling from Kenya. Several youths from arts centre in South Africa are also performing.
Local top drawer artists expected to headline the festival, on Saturday 3 December, include the doyens of sungura music Macheso himself and Suluman Chimbetu, gospel singer Fungisayi Zvakavapano-Mashavave, mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire, dancers Beatrice Eastwood and Mathias Julius, comedian Kapfupi, Mtukudzi himself and several young artists. In all at least 30 artists are performing solo.
But the festival is not entirely about merry-making and takes a developmental dimension with a day preceding the main event devoted to hands-on training in arts for secondary school pupils.
World renowned Zimbabwean sculptor Dominic Benhura is the patron of the festival now in its fifth year.