THE STATE broadcaster ZBC and the two “independent” broadcasters licensed two years ago, rightly or wrongly, stand accused of shunning Bulawayo-based musicians.
But the city has talent. Here is my top six young musical picks out of Bulawayo based on originality and giftedness:
- Djembe Monks — a percussive dance music/DJ collective
Djembe Monks, a Bulawayo sprung tribal house music group’s star is on the ascendance following high profile performances alongside the likes of South African songstress Zahara and at the inaugural Nama event in Bulawayo which was beamed live and streamed online to millions of viewers on the February 16 2013.
The group took to stage collaborating with Khuxxman on his hit song Vumelani Sangoma at the glitzy Nama awards ceremony and showed why dance music is potent right now. The group gained so much traction last year to the point of attracting and enduring unscrupulous promoters who falsely advertised shows in the group’s name. Established in 2011, the band is made up of Ndumiso “Black Cee” Tshuma, Emmanuel “Rootz Kolossal” Nkomo “The Rabbi”, Ngqabutho “Slimzar Wa Africa” Ncube and Khotso “TortureDrum” Nare. The group has two percussionists and two disc jockeys.
The Djembe Monks perform live tribal house music. The sound of the Djembe Monks can be described as experimental and frantic. The percussive element of their sound gives the music a tribal quality. Zimbabwean radio is yet to pick up on the group.
- Family Voices – an eight-member a capella outfit
The energetic performances of the group have endeared them to audiences and helped them carve a niche in a genré which used to be owned by Shower Power.
Family Voices is made up of Tinashe Chitsaka, Luke Kamanga, Ronald Sithole, Bobby James, Bazel Mafu and Brighton Ncube. By now the a cappella ensemble has shared stages with artists such as Harare gospel group Zimpraise and the don of Zimbabwean music Oliver Mtukudzi.
Whereas Shower Power are a gospel group that sticks to what is considered Adventist music, Family Voices tend to reference a lot from right across the denominational divide and exhibit a canny grasp of Zimbabwean gospel music.
Typically, Family Voices can riff through Vapostori, ZCC, Methodist and imbube vocal traditions effortlessly. Led by a one time A Academy singing competition finalist Tinashe Chitsaka and fellow church member of Idols winner Eric Moyo, Family Voices always deliver standout performances.
- Nobuntu — a female imbube ensemble
The music business in Zimbabwe is largely male dominated, but Bulawayo has been an exception somewhat, having had spurts of girl groups emerging from the shadows. One calls to mind the likes of Amavithikazi, Amakhosikazi and Intombi Zomqangala. A recent addition is one highly gifted all-female, a cappella/imbube group going by the name Nobuntu, whose consummate professionalism and delivery on stage is mind-boggling for a one-year-old group.
They have come together from such male-led groups like Siyaya, Kwabatsha and others to forge this potent quintet of strong black women which a singular musical vision. Currently, the group comprises of Claire Dangarembwa, Heather Dube, Joyline Sibanda, Bridget Dube and Duduzile Sibanda and claims legendary singers such as the Mahotella Queens as influences. Their debut 12 track album titled Thina was launched at Indaba Book Café in Bulawayo in 2013.
- Pronix and the Harmonic Rhythms — a young Afro-soul band
Pronix and the Harmonic Rhythms, an Afro-soul boy band on the rise in Bulawayo owned the stage with ease last year running the gamut on numerous stages including Miss Bulawayo and Intwasa Arts Festival. Deftly packaged in urban chic sometimes complete with shades and led by singer/songwriter Prosper Ndebele, aka Pronix, Nkosiphile “Philekeyz Nino” Sibanda on keyboards, Lungile “Luwiji” Ndlovu on drums, Kelvin “KK” Katongo, and Muziwandile “Fresh” Mdlongwa on acoustic guitar, the group exhibited superstar qualities on stage and handled the stage like veterans.
Outfit Jazz Band — soul/funk/Afro-jazz retro act
These young cats have a musical sensibility that harks back to the soul, jazz, funk era of the likes of George Benson, Earl Klugh, and Jonathan Butler. They are led by Sam Siwela on lead guitar and vocals, Blessing Sitotombe (23) on bass guitar, Obey Mudiwa (23) on drums and Julius “Justo” Phiri (23) on keyboards. The band was formed in 2007 while they were in high school and it has been honing its skills since its first appearance at a Harare music contest.
Having staged shows at the Churchill Arms, Bulawayo Sun, Harare Gardens, and The Book Café, Outfit Jazz Band does renditions of songs by Judith Sephuma, Dudu Manhenga and Mark Vidima among others in their set mingled with own compositions. The band opened for celebrated South African songstress Zahara when she came to Bulawayo. The band currently does backing work for Beitbridge-born gospel singer Takesure Zamar Ncube in Harare. Harare is their new base incidentally, and they are happy with the fact that there is more work and better pay there.
- X-Mile — solo Afro-soul singer/songwriter
Vocally, few can touch this Cowdray Park boy Xolani Ndlovu, aka X-Mile, in terms of the vocal gymnastics his voice is capable of. His debut offering is called Bangaxabani and it has been featured on national radio. I don’t get why it is not on the charts as yet. As far as promise and potential is concerned, the young man is a highly gifted vocalist in the mould of Brian McKnight, Boys II Men, legend Stevie Wonder, Tevin Campbell and many of the global greats.
Where can you buy this music? Well, that there, is the current problem with local artists. Their music is neither on the dwindling shop shelves nor on radio playlists.
Hopefully, Emion Sibindi of Metro Studios based in Harare can make good on his pledge to visit Bulawayo in order to proposition local artists concerning his company’s plans for a distribution deal.