“Hakuna Matata” African Jamboree

Smilebox slide show thanks to Elma D’Costa. 




BY Armand Rodrigues

Going back in time, the natives were getting restless with anticipation. The village “ngoma” beats coming from the nearby “shamba”, sent a call to one and all to participate in a “pombe” party that day.

The analogy holds true of the “Hakuna Matata” African Jamboree held on September 7, 2015 at the Kalyan Centre in Mississauga. The drumbeat came from the Goan Overseas Association (Toronto),that organized the show. It was of particular significance to old-timers who had spent some glorious years within ear-shot of the “ngomas”, at their own clubs. They turned out in a huge number. To their credit, many rummaged through their wardrobes and came out donned in African garb. These Africanders were transported back to the halcyon days before political turmoil rudely uprooted them and they were able to find welcome refuge in Canada. The clarion call also reached the ears of non-Africanders. The verdict was that they enjoyed the show immensely.

The interpretations and depictions at the Jamboree had an air of vibrancy. The mood was set by quaint African proverbs displayed at the entrance to the hall. To remind people of the street-vendors in Africa, everybody got “karanga” in a newspaper cone. They also got “ugali” with cooking instructions, in individual jars. There was a fashion show where, Joan Rosario, the narrator, gave the audience the low-down on each of the colourful African costumes shown off by men and women, in a parade down the middle of the hall, that served as a runway of sorts. Noteworthy was the “Gomesi” (or “busutti”) of Uganda. It was created by Goan tailor Gomes of Kampala, about seventy years back, and named after him. Uganda even had a postal stamp dedicated to him. Another standout was Fabian Correia as a Masai warrior in the proper regalia, including a freshly defleshed rib of a large animal, and not forgetting the traditional Masai dance of bouncing higher and higher. The goings-on were punctuated by other party games and a raffle with prizes sporting African themes.

Bingo became a memory test. People had to go back into the rewind mode. The numbers were first called out in Swahili ! People had to jog their memories to figure out what “kumi-na-moja’, “shirini-na-bili” or “arbaene-na-tanu” meant. Delphine Francis, an accomplished singer, fronted a trio with her husband, Errol, and brother-in-law Tom on his guitar. The Swahili/Konkanim songs they entertained the crowd with, were composed by Ishmael Francis, the family patriach, some seventy years back, in Uganda, and included “Toto na lia” and others. DJ Dennis D’Souza and son Sheldon provided music that was relevant to the event. “Chakula” came in generous portions of “nyama ya kookoo”, “mogo” and “kasorri”. This was followed later by “biryani” and mutton curry, hulva from Malindi and “mandazi” prepared by Edith Dias. Fr.Hilario of the Pillar Seminary in Goa, said the grace. A while later he surprised everybody by stepping on to the stage and belting out familiar “dulpods”.

Elma DaCosta was in evidence everywhere, as the designated videographer, capturing the subtle nuances of the day. As a seasoned emcee, Linda D’Sa was articulate and in her element. When all is said and done, Greta Dias , the Director of Cultutal Activities, emerges as a paradigm of efficiency in organizational skills and motivation. Teamwork and the army of skilled helpers she had, made for a seamless and enjoyable function. The revelers lived up to the African spirit of live for the day, eat, drink and be merry ! (Imagination may be required to decipher the Swahili words used above)