A 10-member gospel choir will on Sunday collaborate with a 70-member youth choir from Zimbabwe at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) which is expected to start tomorrow.

The group is being brought by the U.S. Embassy.

 “Songs of Inspiration, Singing in The Homeland: American Soul Meet African Rhythm” will debut on the Telecel Main Stage. 

The Main Stage is the festival’s most prestigious stage with an audience capacity of 4 000. 

“This collaboration is particularly exciting because gospel music appeals to people of all ages and religions,” said Jillian Bonnardeaux, Deputy Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy. 

“It’s a true cultural exchange in that the Americans are sharing their favorite songs to Zimbabwean singers, and Zimbabweans are sharing their local music and language, linking our two countries’ young people through song.”

The award-winning, New York-based Songs of Solomon will visit Harare for one week to collaborate with a local choir assembled especially for HIFA. 

Songs of Solomon is directed by American conductor Pastor Chantel Wright.  Pastor Wright founded the gospel choir in 2001 seeking to encourage young people to feel ownership and pride in their communities and to stimulate them spiritually and intellectually. 

She has won national and international acclaim for her choir’s powerful and moving performances.  In addition to HIFA, the American choir members will participate in outreach to persons with disabilities, HIV positive individuals, low-income students, and out of school high-density youth.

The 70 strong local singing group is led by Choral Director Kundisai Mtero of African Voices, an all female a cappella quintet she founded in 1999. 

The Zimbabwean singers come from different church denominations.

“I think this is a wonderful collaboration for us here in Zimbabwe and a long overdue collaboration with the African Americans.  It strikes a particular chord because our music is similar in many ways: their cultural mix and gentle genre combined with our African rhythm will produce a beautiful, soulful sound,” Ms. Mtero said.

In addition to the youth outreach, the group will visit the Pakare Paye Center in Norton on Thursday, May 2, to bring their HIFA performance to audiences outside of Harare. 

Pastor Chantel Wright has extensive experience working in disadvantaged communities in New York and within correctional facilities. 

HIFA will oversee a community-outreach program that will take the musicians into Harare prisons on Saturday, following the tradition that began in 2011 with Slavic Soul Party.  

“The aim of this show is that American soul meets African rhythm.  It’s a collaboration we hope will leave both parties feeling that they have experienced another culture and grown in their depth and level of singing,” said Ruth Norton, producer of the collaboration.

Since its inception in 1999, HIFA has become the largest cultural event in Zimbabwe and among the top eight arts festivals in Africa. 

HIFA has been recognized for bringing together disparate social and cultural groups, even during times of political and social uncertainty.  This year’s theme, “What’s next?” reflects the festival’s positive growth and future ambitions.