KWAMASHU comes alive with the arts this weekend when the inaugural KwaMashu Africa Festival kicks off.

The event will display music, film, art and fashion, with a major highlight being the world premiere of music legend Ray Phiri’s The Man, The Music, The Friendships concert.

Tonight touched base with festival director Moses Mkhabela, who explained how the event came about.

“The festival is part of Celebrate Durban and is a pioneering township event that showcases a multi- cultural line-up of music, fashion, film and crafts. It will provide local artists with exposure to significant local audiences and give them the opportunity to interact with world-class international performers.”

Linked to this, Mkhabela said, is the additional focus on social cohesion and the creation of a significant number of jobs.

“Of importance is the stimulation of ‘cultural and township tourism’ drawing visitors from international and local markets,” he said.

Asked how it came about that the world premiere of Phiri’s concert would be launched at this fest, Mkhabela said Phiri stayed in KwaMashu. “And what better place to launch his premiere than at the place which he holds dear to his heart? Ray Phiri is one of, if not the leading, South African songwriters, musicians and producers of our time, who has been making music for almost 55 years. The overall aim is to honour the life and times [of Ray] and pay tribute to an icon and outstanding person,” said Mkhabela.

After KwaMashu, the concert tour will travel to a host of countries including London, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and New York (where it will be hosted by Paul Simon).

The concert, together with The Graceland Band, will also feature Themba Mkhize, Bakithi Khumalo and Isaac Mtshali and special guests Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) N’Faly Kouyate (Guinea), The Drummers of Burundi and Sacred Drummers (Reunion Island).

A supporting cast including Selaelo Selota, John Ellis, Lendel Moonsamy, Holly, DJ Black Coffee, Zakwe, DJ Siyanda, DJ Happy Girl, DJ Tunner and DJ le Soul are also on the programme.

• The festival takes place at Freedom Valley in KwaMashu. Pre-festival bookings are R70 at Computicket and R100 on the day. Call 031 504 6970.