The Book Café was an iconic live music and entertainment venue in Zimbabwe’s capital. Respected for their unwavering stance on freedom of expression, The Book Café became an important hub for the arts, providing a platform for live music, spoken word, film and discussions for nearly two decades. The venue first opened its doors on Harare’s Fife Street in 1997 and for two decades was host to regular open mic nights, some of Zimbabwe’s iconic musicians, as well as the country’s first stand up comedians. Sadly due to economical pressures The Book Café, which had then relocated to 139 Samora Machel closed its doors in 2015. Tomas Brickhill, now Director of the Zimbabwe TV series ‘Battle of the Chefs’, took over as Managing Director after its founder Paul Roger Brickhill passed away. With his initiative The Book Café continues in weekly and monthly Pop Up events that take place at live music venues around Harare.
It was a huge compliment to learn that after my performance at Miombo Magic in 2016, Tomas was inspired to host a ‘Blues Night’ at a Book Café Pop Up event. The event took place a month later at Pariah State in Avondale, Harare. I had the pleasure of meeting the soulful Tarimari, then at the start of her successful career, who opened up the evening supported by Tomas himself from Luck St Blues. I was also fortunate to have saxophonist and jazz artist Vee Mukarati, already a legend in the Zimbabwe music scene, accompany me on the night. The result was electric, and the crowd responded with much dancing and rowdy applause.
The Book Café Blues Night was a tangible step into Harare’s vibrant music scene and it helped me progress as an artist in the capital city. I’m sad to have not experienced The Book Café in its full glory, but happy to have had a taste of their style: their support and respect for the artists with whom they work, the fun, inclusive, slightly mischievous atmosphere that they create, and overall their love for the music and the freedom that it represents, are characteristics that set the Book Café apart, and have earned it the title of ‘home of the artists’ in Zimbabwe.