U.S. Brings Hawaiian Musical Ensemble to Zimbabwe

Keola Beamer, and Jeff Peterson with Moanalani Beamer,
Keola Beamer, and Jeff Peterson with Moanalani Beamer,

The United States Embassy will support the participation of the Grammy-nominated Hawaiian musical ensemble Keola Beamer, and Jeff Peterson with Moanalani Beamer, at this year’s Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) scheduled for April 28th to May 3rd. The group is travelling to Zimbabwe under the broad theme “Aloha meets Ubuntu” and their visit to Zimbabwe will see them collaborate with local culture groups to create the Aloha Zimbabwe Project.

“The Aloha Zimbabwe Project will aid a deeper cultural exchange to discover the similarities within the Hawaiian philosophy of “Aloha” with that of the Southern African concept of Ubuntu,” said Karen Kelley, Counselor for Public Affairs at the United States Embassy in Harare. “We see this as a great opportunity for local artists to create and interact with the world where Hawaiian Hula dance will meet African dance styles; and Aloha meets Ubuntu.”  Aloha in Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. Since the middle of the 19th century, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello.

“Aloha” is also included in the state nickname of Hawaii, the “Aloha State”. As such, the “Spirit of Aloha” is very much akin to the Southern African concept of “Ubuntu,” which expresses notions of humanity towards others.

brings together Hawaiian legend Keola, who has stretched the boundaries of slack key guitar music while remaining true to the soul of its deeply Hawaiian roots, with a rising star of the next generation of slack key players Jeff Peterson.  Both are featured on the soundtrack of the film The Descendants, starring George Clooney.

In addition to performing at HIFA, the United States Embassy has partnered with Bulawayo’s Sabela Music Projects & Siyaya Arts to coordinate workshops and produce performances that will be showcased in a series of concerts and collaboration performances. The visiting group will also conduct Hawaiian slack key guitar master-classes workshops, African music, hula & Ndebele dance workshops. Their “Ubuntu” counterparts will comprise artists from Siyaya and other Bulawayo acts. Based in Makokoba, Bulawayo’s oldest township, Siyaya (meaning On the Move) Arts is a literal description of our journeys all over the world, playing at the major venues and festivals of this world, as well as of an identity, an ethos and a heartfelt belief, the name could not be more apt.

“The cultural groups will work to share the Spirits of Aloha & Ubuntu and teach about the ephemeral meaning of Aloha & Ubuntu as a form of nation building, musical and cultural healing,” said Kelley.

The visiting American’s group’s traditional Hawaiian instruments like the Hawaiian slack key guitar, ukulele, nose-flute and calabash drum is expected to complement traditional Zimbabwean music and instruments of ngoma (drum), ingungu, Hosho, Amahlwayi & Mbira. Furthermore, traditional elements of Hawaiian chant would create a dynamic cultural interplay with Southern Africa’s own chanting traditions of Amabutho.