Meet Nhlanhla Nkomo: The man who gives people what they want

Langalakhe Mabena

Music is a universal language that can be understood and cherished by any being despite racial, ethnic, religious and tribal lines.

It is culture. It is part of our humanity. It tells us how our yesteryear kind lived, it also speaks of how the current generation lives from day-to-day and the next generations will always learn a lot from the music, as it passes important knowledge from one generation to the other.

Zimbabwe, Bulawayo to be particular, has its own music culture that can be similar or different to other parts of the nation and the world. Common music in Bulawayo derives from many genres. Many identify with Lovemore Majaivana’s music and even that of Jeys Marabini. 

With the city also a cosmopolitan, there are those who appreciate other creatives, be it your Oliver Mtukudzi or James Chimombe.

Emakhandeni Cricket club
Emakhandeni Cricket club

When South Africa catches the cold, Bulawayo sneezes and it can’t be taken away that Bulawayo has adopted South African culture and its music.

Soul Brothers, Hugh Masekela, Dan Chanda, Platform One, are some of the yesteryear Mzansi musicians that are cherished in Bulawayo and they tell a lot about the way of life for locals.

To preserve such culture and make sure that the people’s identity is not lost, a local businessman Nhlanhla Nkomo has invested in leisure spots that “strictly” plays yesteryear music that resonates with the people.

He is the proprietor of Stunts Pub also known as “The City Shebeen” as well as the Emakhandeni Cricket Club. On both these joints Soul Brothers, Oliver Mtukudzi, Splash, Hugh Masekela, Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens are some of the artistes who enjoy heavy rotation on the decks as their art is “people’s” music.

The above kind of music used to be played at the shebeens by the yesteryear folks and shebeens were part and parcel of a black man’s culture, a public sphere of some sort where people could engage in their social discussions.

As a way of preserving such a culture, Nkomo created Stunts as an alternative to shebeens and allow patrons and tourists to have a feel and experience the lifestyle of a shebeen.

The spot is common to even young people and they love it as it brings back their childhood memories.

“From Friday to Sunday, this is my favourite spot to attend because I feel like it always cultivates my culture and how I was raised. I grew up in the dusty streets of Iminyela. My grandmother used to own a shebeen.

“Every song that plays here, be it Soul Brothers or Splash, always makes me remember those days back then. Besides, my father was a staunch fan of Ogandaganda and Ofeleba. Every time I hear such music I always feel like my late father is next to me. You will never find me anywhere, I am always here, reconnecting with my roots and identity,” said Mandlenkosi Nxumalo.

Despite the place being intimate, accommodating a reasonable number of revellers, Stunts is always at its full capacity. How has Stunts managed to maintain its shebeen status and attract almost the same crowd day in and day out at the same time playing old school music? Its proprietor Nhlanhla Nkomo reveals.

“It’s simple, give people what they want. In whatever we are doing, it still remains a fact that shebeens have and will always be part of our culture. Some of us grew up emalokitshini and we resonate very well with shebeens. This is a place where our parents, uncles and aunties used to go and have a drink because it was a place where they could discuss their everyday lives. 

“Songs that promoted Ubuntu were played at shebeens and this is what we are trying to revive here as Stunts, by giving people the feel of how life was and how it should be like,” said Nkomo.

He said the quality of music they play at the joint has kept them going as many can identify with the sound culturally.

“Stunts has managed to remain true to its culture and ethnicity over the years. We make sure we are consistent in our music genres and that is the heartbeat of our business. We are also looking for ways to continuously improve customer service and strive to grow our patronage. 

“Ubuntu is also something we personally believe in and we will always instil. Many people, when they are here, get time to reminisce on their past, that of their fathers and how life was like. We are a place of therapy to many through the music we play as well as our services,” said Nkomo.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is on record saying it is high time the country promotes township tourism as it has emerged as the fastest growing tourist activity in Africa.

Nkomo conquers with the concept of township tourism as it presents an untapped market that has enormous potential to boost revenue inflows. He said township tourism has the potential to grow the tourism sector in Zimbabwe and augment the existing tourism products.

He said he refurbished the Emakhandeni Cricket Club as a way of promoting township tourism by providing a leisure spot that will identify with township people, at the same time giving tourists a glimpse of what life is like eKasi. At Emakhandeni, the music policy is also old school.

“Ekasi we are rich with many township stories. Every western suburb in Bulawayo has its own history be it Makokoba, Iminyela, Njube, Nkulumane and even Emakhandeni.  We have tourists and even local people who have never visited eKasi, and they wish to taste the culture and identity of the township, this is where I come in.

“At Emakhandeni Cricket club we are a reflection of the township life as we offer traditional means, a tshisanyama and all this is complemented by strict old school music that complements the township life at the same time allowing old folks to chew nostalgic bones courtesy of our yesteryear playlist.

“I wish to collaborate with other players who can be able to identify vital points of Emakhandeni township that are rich in history, so that whenever we get people from other places they can learn and appreciate the township culture,” said Nkomo.

Both at Stunts and Emakhandeni Cricket club, Nkomo has provided employment to twenty three young people, who are able to sustain their families. Apart from investing in leisure, Nkomo is also a farmer with interests in cattle breeding. 

 

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