Exploring new sounds at Azgo 2015

By Elang Basadi

Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique was a buzz of activity when the fifth edition of the annual Azgo festival was held there for the first time during the weekend of 22-23 May 2015. The festival brought together about 6000 festival-goers, showing the growing popularity of the event.

Mozambican star Mingas at Azgo. Photo: Elang Basadi
Mozambican star Mingas at Azgo. Photo: Elang Basadi

When selecting the artists the organizers ensured that at least half were from Mozambique, 12 out of the 24 artists that performed this year where locals. Additionally, in its mission of being a truly international festival, Azgo is not restricted to any specific musical genre, which is how it differentiates itself from other festivals in Mozambique. This year there were about 20 different genres on offer. The line-up ranged from the classical sounds of Austrian Matthias Frey of Sweet Sweet Moon and the meditative grooves of Brazilian Sérgio Pererê to hot Mozambican favorite Mingas and Angolan rap sensation Batida.

Despite the strained relations with South Africa over the recent xenophobic attacks, Mozambicans were very welcoming to the South African artists. They sang along with Lira as she gave an impressive performance and danced to Mi Casa as they put on an equally exhilarating show. This forgiving nature proved how much music, and specifically festivals such as Azgo, continue to play a vital role in uniting people. It was difficult to miss any performances as the two stages were placed adjacent to one another in such a way that after each performance, the other stage would kick off immediately. This meant that one did not have to run around frantically between stages throughout the night and get exhausted in the process.

On the reasons why the festival was moved from the Matchiki Tchiki Complex to Eduardo Mondlane University, festival coordinator Jess White pointed out that the move enabled Azgo to be more centrally located and encouraged more students to attend in order to develop the local scene. Ticket prices were also kept deliberately low for students. The University itself was very supportive, lending a hand with festival logistics such as transport and security. The festival organisers aim to further expand Azgo’s socially responsible initiatives as the festival continues to grow.

Jess revealed that Azgo is part of the African Music Festival Network, which links African music festivals together to maximize their creative and economic potential. Azgo is also part of the Firefest route, which was pioneered by Bushfire and includes artist exchanges with the Harare International Festival for the Arts (HIFA), Azgo, Bushfire, Sakifo on Reunion Island (5-7 June 2015) and the recently launched Zakifo festival in Durban, SA (11-13 June 2015). Among those who benefited from this collaboration is Mozambican music icon Chico Antonio, who performed at HIFA, Azgo and Bushfire this year with various musical projects. This reiterates the Firefest goal of helping artists to take full advantage of the available economic opportunities and at the same time providing a platform for artistic collaboration.

Azgo’s activities did not just end at the festival itself. There were also post-festival events like a Sunday event which saw popular live music venues Núcleo De Arte hosting Australian band The Black Jesus Experience and a jam session with the very talented Spirits Indigenous duo from Swaziland. 

There were some minor glitches, however, ranging from a lack of a proper schedule at the media centre to some technical faults with the sound, which sometimes came off too loud. The newly introduced documentary segment was not well advertised, nor very visible to festival goers. Despite these small hiccups, if you are thinking of travelling to Mozambique - especially for the first time - it will be well worth ensuring that your trip coincides with Azgo in order to get a feel of arts and culture in Mozambique.  

Azgo was founded by Paulo Chibanga, former drummer of the bands 340ml and Tumi & the Volume and producer of artists such as Bongeziwe Mabandla. Artist applications for Azgo start in August and close in December each year. 

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