American Hip Hop Group Concludes Zim Tour

two men dancingVisiting American hip hop academy, Next Level, concluded their tour of Zimbabwe after staging two cross-cultural shows at the Book Café’ and in Glen View last weekend. The visiting Americans were impressed by the level of performances of Zimbabweans who they said had already mastered the hip hop music genre like their American counterparts.

“I came to Zimbabwe to bridge what I thought was a gap, but there is no gap, the only thing that’s separating us are miles,” remarked Jaci Caprice Clark, a beat maker with the group. “The energy, the fusion I saw happening was just phenomenal and the heart and the spirit was like there was a connection there. It was incredible and mind blowing,” said Jaci who is also a member of Detroit-based ‘5e’ The Foundation’ whose goal is to celebrate women in hip hop.

Jaci demonstrates to Zimbabwean students during a workshop
Jaci demonstrates to Zimbabwean students during a workshop

Jaci and members of the Next Level hip hop academy spent two weeks in Zimbabwe facilitating workshops on elements of hip hop. Other members of the tour are team leader Paul Rockower, Kane Smego (an MC), Juan Gomez (a DJ) and Ken Fury (a dancer).

Next Level is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in association with the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The team’s visit was implemented with the help of local partners including Magamba Network and Jibilika Dance Trust.

The artist-educators are selected on the basis of artistic quality and commitment to education and cultural engagement through an open competition. The educators then undertake a series of educational tours to other countries.

“We were focusing on the business side empowering folks and in return we are also empowering ourselves,” said Rockower who is the Executive Director of Levantine Public Diplomacy, an independent public diplomacy organization and administrator of Next Level.  “We were trying to promote those elements of hip and expand its reach and in return realizing that that reach has already happened as we are seeing those elements thriving in other countries such as Zimbabwe,” he added.

This group’s tour to Zimbabwe fostered cross-cultural creative expression and exchange.  It also facilitated several workshops at St. Peter’s School in Glen Norah and at the Book Café in Harare. They participated in the show, “Mashoko,” which took place at the Book Cafe on February 28th and in another concert “Peace in the hood” held in Glen Norah.

“We expected just authenticity, bring who they are, what they have done with hip hop because that’s what it’s all about,” said Jaci. “Hip hop allows you the space to tell your story to be who you are. So I have no expectations other than for them to be true to what their story is and to what hip hop means to them in their own journey to discovering it,” she added. In addition to her work as a beatmaker, Jaci hosts an internet radio show “The Soul Studieux” []. She is an accomplished vocalist/producer who released a full-length album entitled “Storms Come” (2007), and an EP entitled “LoveLikeWater” (2012)

Local dance and music groups hailed the visit by NextLevel.

“The experience was first of its kind for the participants, it stretched their limits, widened their creative abilities and greatly inspired them,” said Plot Mhako, director of Jibilika Dance Trust. Jibilika mobilized dancers for Next Level Harare Academy which was held at the Book Café throughout last week. “We had 22 dancers taking part in the program, six female and the rest male…and their experience was career changing. It will go a long way in positively transforming the face and future of dance in the country,” said Mhako. – ZimPAS© March 6, 2015