For musicians that have existed in Bulawayo since the 1950s, they are the best window to mirror the state of the arts industry in Bulawayo from the past till the present day, but the Cool Crooners resonate with the saying that people hate their own.
By Sindiso Dube
They are undeniably the oldest and still active group in the country and despite trotting the globe for decades, the Bulugwe Lami hit makers insist they have not received due respect and support in their city, where they started from and still trading in — Bulawayo.
The troop of Lucky Thodhlana (original member), George Salimu, Timothy Mkandla and Mike Magwaza, who replaced the late band leader Abel Sithole who passed on last year, have maintained an energetic sytle on stage that defies their ages.
When The Standard Style visited the group on Wednesday afternoon at Stanley Hall in Makokoba, the group was about to rehearse as they prepare for a jazz concert in Victoria Falls on October 20 and then another one a week later in Harare.
Salimu (75), who now leads the group, said “outsiders” recognise their art more than locals.
“Why can’t the people of Bulawayo support their own and be proud of what they have in their midst?” queried Salimu.
“It’s like the Cool Crooners are dead to them, they have killed us before our time. We don’t get booked in Bulawayo, our own city, but we get booked in other cities.
“Some people even say that we have long disbanded or we are too sick to perform yet we are fit to perform as you can see.
“We are the oldest group in Bulawayo, but never have we been included in their (promoters) events, they should be proud to have people like us as part of their works, we are a rare troop. Sometimes they advertise with our name, but come the day of the event, we won’t be booked.”
Mkandla chipped in and said outsiders always asked them why their own people were forsaking them.
“We have been in contact with many renowned artistes, the likes of Sam Mataure and Oliver Mtukudzi, who always make an effort to visit us whenever they hold shows in the city and they always ask why we are not on those shows too and why we always get outside gigs, but never get something in Bulawayo,” said Mkandla.
The group says in Sithole they lost a pillar of strength, but that did not weaken them.
“We lost Sithole and remember him, but this did not weaken our movement. Many thought with the death of Abel we were going to disband or retire, but we are still here. As you can see, we have replaced him with Mike and he is doing quite well. We also have another member that we are mentoring, soon you will see him performing with us,” said Salimu.
The latest member of the Crooners, who replaced Sithole, said he had learnt a lot from his seniors.
“It’s only a year into my journey with the Cool Crooners and it has been a fruitful one and full of lessons. I have followed the group since my childhood, but I think my real journey started last year when I was roped in to replace Sithole,” said Magwaza.
The Cool Crooners have two albums under their belt, Blue Sky, which came out in 2001, and Isatilo, which was released in 2007. They are working on their third album, which will be released next year.