The resurrection of Book Café in Bulawayo
by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Jun 4, 2017
Arts Focus, Raisedon Baya
I DON’T really believe in the idea of dying and then coming back in some other form or as something else. I don’t believe that a dog can die today and come back as a goat or pig in its next life — if ever there is a next life. I didn’t believe in this kind of mumbo jumbo until this past Africa Day when I attended the launch of Bluez Café at Youth Contact Centre near Egodini terminus. Before this launch I honestly believed that when things died they went for good. But not anymore and here is why.
Years back, 1993 to be specific, the Book Café was established in Harare as a platform for free cultural expression and it immediately became the “centre” of creative expression and public entertainment hosting over 8 000 concerts, around 700 discussions and workshops centred on performance and creative entrepreneurship, hosted about 150 international artists before it died suddenly and unexpectedly in June 2015. When Book Café died it did so with a lot of young artistes’ dreams and ambitions. Obviously, its demise left a big hole on the cultural life of Harare, and Zimbabwe at large. But behold, barely two years later, a café motivated by the same concept and driven by the same drivers that drove Book Café, pops up more than 400 kilometres away from Harare. If this is not a resurrection, then what is?
According to the speeches read by the director of the initiative, Josh Nyapimbi, one of the board members of Nhimbe Trust, Munyaradzi Chatikobo, and even by one of the managers Ian White, Bluez Café will be “a vibrant and multi-dimensional space and cultural hub, a space for artistes to create work, a space for free expression, cultural identity, tolerance, inclusion, unity, respect, dialogue and compassion.” It is also hoped that the space will also be a point of interaction between the arts and civil society — something that has been missing in Bulawayo for a long time.
The launch was something warm and cosy — not a loud and showy affair. It was a near perfect event for winter. The crowd was mixed — a couple of whites here, some coloureds there and blacks all over the place. (I could see the space becoming a unity space for proper intercultural dialogue in the future). The speeches, when they came, were not too long or boring. And the crowd feasted on the performances, a clever mix of a variety of genres. There was Tellers — the musical — now a band that plays beautiful music taken from the stage play of the same name. The band, and their songs were fresh and capable of enticing anyone to the dance floor. There was also the new all-female band, Afro Queens — formed this year to encourage young women to take up musical instruments playing and performance. They came to the party, playing a variety of traditional songs that had part of the audience on their feet and eating from their hands.
Then there was K, The Soul Prince. Kay is exciting. (No doubt about that) His music is infectious and speaks more to those that want their eyes opened, those that want truth packaged nicely, liked wrapped in a sweet voice. The man is a conscientious singer who believes music should not only be enjoyed but should mean something to both the musician and his audience. Give me K, The Soul Prince anytime and I will jump to my feet and do a couple of James Brown moves. Kay, The Soul Prince has the voice and the intelligence to take his music to greater heights. After Kay’s performance the audience had the pleasure of witnessing one of my favourite female performers on stage. Dudu Manhenga came on stage and serenaded the crowds with super rich songs from her collection. It’s a public secret that Dudu is a born performer — perhaps one of the best female stage performers alive.
Standing in the audience, watching all the amazing performers I had a feeling of déjà vu. Like I had been in a similar situation before and many a time. I had the feeling that Book Café had come back and I was inside it and watching great performers do what they were born to do and enjoying it in the process. With Bluez Café now launched Bulawayo’s night life and cultural landscape will not be the same again.