BULAWAYO – The City of Kings, while boasting of massive talent and having groomed hordes of successful artistes, is dead when it comes to quality showbiz.
Night life is usually dull, particularly compared to Harare, which kicks into the early hours almost daily.
A phenomenon too peculiar in Bulawayo’s arts and showbiz industries has been that while the city’s arts promoters identify young talent, nurture and develop it, these artistes make a beeline for Harare or overseas as soon as they become popular.
Dubbed KoNtuthu Ziyathunqa, Bulawayo’s showbiz circuit has not been vibrant as during the heyday of music maestro, Lovemore ‘Majee’ Majaivana.
On his all-time hit song Umoya Wami, Majee sings passionately about his love for the City of Kings.
The clarion longing for the city expressed in Umoya Wami however, now contradicts a rising passion among Bulawayo-bred artistes who are fast deserting the city for the so-called “greener pastures” — Majaivana himself being one of them.
Before he went to the United States, Majaivana had abandoned Bulawayo for Harare where he ended up plying his trade.
Harare has benefited more as artistes from Bulawayo troop to settle there in anticipation of “lucrative” work opportunities.
Prominent musicians like Albert Nyathi and Dudu Manhenga now call Harare home.
Cont Mhlanga, who runs Bulawayo’s artistes factory shop, Amakhosi Cultural Centre, said the trek to the capital was a worldwide phenomenon.
“Big cities always offer better opportunities and that’s how it is all over the world. Here in Bulawayo, there are not much of these opportunities therefore we are just a skills centre where talent is churned out and we expose it to the world. Infact, we are actually happy because it shows that we are doing something for the industry,” Mhlanga said. But it has not been all rosy for those groups that troupe to Harare.
Bulawayo-based female dance group, Girls La Musica at one point relocated to Harare only to return a few years later after the going got tough.
Blue Virgins, arguably the first group to shift away from the common rhumba dance routines to introduce dancehall moves permanently relocated to the capital and so have Banyana Bafana, Amavithikazi, Explosion, Casablanca, Malaika and Magesh. They admit they get more work in Harare, but earnings are not as lucrative.
The Daily News caught up with popular dance queen-cum-songstress Sandra Ndebele, founder and director of an all-female dance group called Intombi Zomqangala who pointed out two factors pushing dancers out of Bulawayo.
“The truth is when you talk of artistic talent, it is found here in Bulawayo but unfortunately our market is not sustainable, so the girls are forced to relocate to Harare.
“At least in Harare people there appreciate art as compared to those in Bulawayo where the night clubs pay $30 or $40 to a dance group comprising six or more members. It is an insult,” said Ndebele.
“Secondly, we have a challenge where some of our dancers hide behind the dancing profession when in actual fact they are into prostitution. Most of them have found it lucrative and comfortable in Harare where they are not recognised by people,” she said.
She expressed concern at the age of some dancers, who upon entering the profession, abandon their parents or guardians to lead solo lives which exposes them to sexual abuse and diseases like HIV/Aids.
Some groups, such as Iyasa and Siyaya, have stayed and still work in Bulawayo, but for many, Harare remains the ultimate destination.