Oregon State University Hosts 28th Annual Zimbabwean Festival

Zimfest returns after 10 years with artists from all over the world to perform and host workshops
Oregon State University Hosts 28th Annual Zimbabwean Festival

Zimbabwean culture and music are the features of this Thursday’s Zimfest, a three-and-a-half-day event featuring trained local artists and masters coming all the way from Zimbabwe. 

According to their website, both new and returning artists will be welcomed to the festival to celebrate Zimbabwean culture with free afternoon concerts and a marketplace set in McNary Field. Zimfest will host workshops in traditional dance and musicianship with instruments like the mbira and marimba.

The first time Zimfest was held at OSU was in 2010, when Alex Weeks, now on the Zimfest Association Board of Directors, organized it. Weeks graduated from OSU two years later with a computer science degree. 

“It’s really nice to be coming back after all this time,” Weeks said.

Weeks is most excited to see the performers coming from Zimbabwe. 

“A lot of this music goes back to traditional music, specifically using the mbira. Dance music. High energy. Stuff you can get up and dance to,” Weeks said. 

Mbira.org says the mbira is an instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, a wooden soundboard often made with metal keys. 

According to their website, Zimfest offers both paid and free workshops tagged ‘by donation,’ but asks that participants in free workshops donate the amount they would pay for others. 

Weeks became interested in Zimbabwean culture through classes in the African instrument, marimba, playing for a long time and bouncing between a couple bands of which have played at Zimfest.

“I like the fact that it’s memorized music,” Weeks said. “There’s a lot of improvisation. You have certain sections that are pretty standardized, and then a lot of it is the artists putting their own spin on it that’s completely unique and different every time.”

According to Weeks, Zimfest was held online in 2020 and 2021, with pre-recorded performances streamed over YouTube. This will be the first year since 2020 that Zimfest is fully in person. 

“It’s a great opportunity for Corvallis and OSU students to participate in Zimbabwean culture and experience some music from artists who have actually come up here from Zimbabwe,” said OSU Director of University Events Shelly Signs. “It’s a once-in-a-decade opportunity.”

Registration for workshops can be done in McNary Hall’s main lounge. You can find a map for the festival on their website, with a page for donations.

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