Imbongi, South Bank, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"Welcome to Zimbabwe!" , booms Albert Nyathy, self-proclaimed "dub poet" and Imbongi's leader. "You are here to dance, isn't it?"

The laid-back London crowd of commuters and mothers with children are unimpressed, being more inclined to recreate Seurat's La Grande Jatte on this sunny early evening than get up and boogie. We are sitting on a bristly square of faux-grass watching an African band in faux-animal skins, wondering who is exploiting whom. And what is "dub" about Imbongi is never made apparent - they are essentially a fairly generic, guitar- and keyboard-driven Highlife band with a strong influence of township jive.

Pretty soon Albert gets a sense of his audience and drops the Lion King "chattering monkeys and laughing hyenas" stuff in favour of meditations on his discomfort at American domination of Zimbabwean youth. Then his eagle eye spots a trendy punter toward the back of the crowd wearing a T-shirt bearing the post-ironic slogan "Kill All Artists". Considering Zimbabwe is a country where such statements - when made - are probably meant, it's impressive to witness Albert's response, delivered through, I'd like to think, gritted but grinning teeth: "You may be able to kill us, but you cannot kill our words or spirit."

This is the turning point, as a won-over audience finally get to their feet to do the grape-treading dance so favoured by the reluctant hoofer. And the children loved it.

Comments