The month of May holds a special place in the heart of Eritreans, as it is the month that brought about liberation after decades of war. And every year, as this glorious month comes around, the nation as whole embarks on a celebration spree that spans over a 10-day period.
The shows at Bahti Meskerem square and the halls of Cinema Roma and Asmara Theater this year featured diverse performances by Eritrean artists in all national languages as well as guest appearances from different African countries.
The shows at Bahti Meskerem square and the halls of Cinema Roma and Asmara Theater this year featured diverse performances by Eritrean artists in all national languages as well as guest appearances from different African countries. a one-hour solo at Cinema Roma last Wednesday, Panaibra presented a beautiful performance that “deconstructs the cultural representations of a ‘pure’ African body.”
Accompanied by a guitarist, Panaibra dances and speaks about today’s African body: a post-colonial, plural body that has absorbed the ideals of nationalism, modernity, socialism and freedom of expression. His own body…
This complex history is carried in the marrabenta, a musical form born in the 1950s from a mix of lo -cal and European influences.
Panaibra’s research is based on the history of former Portuguese colony Mozambique and the country’s social and political situation. His accompanying musician played live “marrabenta” music an urban style typical of Mozambique usually associated by the Portuguese with revolutionary ideals.
The show kept the audience enthralled for the entire length, with a roaring applause and a standing ovation to the performer at the end.
I had the opportunity to ex -change a few word with Panaibra in an exclusive dinner party after the show. He said that the message he tried to get across though his routine was, in essence, the African scenario today.
“Most African nations have been victims of colonization and have been forced to live by ways imposed on them by colonizers,” he said, explaining that as Africans we should be able to look inside our hearts and listen to our inner voices.
Talking about the origins of themarrabenta, he spoke how the mu-sic genre, which became popular in the 1960s during the colonial period, maintained its popularity. Before the popularity of marraben-ta, Portuguese musicians in Mozambique played fado, a type of traditional Portuguese folk music. These musicians introduced the traditional orchestration and other influences of fado, such as the use of guitars, mandolins, drum sets, and other conventional Western in -struments, to Mozambique where local musicians combined these influences and African rhythms to create an entirely new genre.
Dance rhythms are a primary feature of traditional African music. In trying to duplicate these traditional sounds on new western instruments, Mozambican musicians created a new style of dance music as well.
Today, Marrabenta reflects glob -al influences, including rhythm & blues, reggae, and blues. This has led to the emergence of a number of sub-genres within Marrabenta, including pandza, which is a mix of reggae and Marrabenta and is currently very popular among the Mozambican youth. Marrabenta has also spread to other parts of Africa and the world.
“In the few days I’ve been here in Asmara, I’ve come to realize that all of us as Africans identify culturally with Marrabenta…” were his words as we parted company.
Panaibra was born in Maputo and studied theatre, music and dance. He received additional training in contemporary dance in Lisbon and Lewiston in Maine. He embarked on his own artistic projects in 1993, setting up Culture Arte in 1998, and working on projects that include creations, showcases and training to encourage the development of local dance. He also works with artists in southern Africa and Europe as well as collaborating with artists from other disciplines. His work has been performed in Africa, Europe, USA and Latin America.
The founder of Mozambique’s first contemporary dance company, Panaibra Gabriel Canada is one of the artists working towards developing autonomous choreographic creation in Africa.
The show was presented to Eritrean audience courtesy of the Alliance Française of Asmara, in connection with the 23 rd anniversary of Eritrean Independence.