About this time last year, an opportunity came up to work in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s iconic tourist town, performing five nights a week at the busy Shearwater Café for Victoria Falls: The Thunder. This was thanks to Angus Ross (aka Goose), bass player and supporting vocalist of Zimbabwean roots and reggae band, The Harare Collective. I was lucky to have Goose accompany me during our six-week stint in the Shearwater Café, bringing a smooth reggae-roots feel to my folk and blues. It was an eventful six weeks to say the least, from an unforgettable show at the monthly Vic Falls Thunder event to a quirky little festival on a white sandy beach at the bottom of the Zambezi gorge. Though relatively unknown to each other at the start, we left as great mates with many a tale to tell.
Victoria Falls town is perched on the banks of the Zambezi River within the boundaries of the National Park. Year round baboons and warthogs are found roaming the streets and it’s not too unusual to see the odd wildebeest or elephant strolling through town. It’s a stone throw from its namesake, the majestic Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders, where the entire volume of the Zambezi river plunges down a 110m drop and tears its way for kilometers down a series of gorges, which make up one of the most thrilling white water rafting courses in the world. When the river is at its highest, the falls send up an enormous cloud of spray that hangs hundreds of meters up in the sky and can be felt showering over the town during certain months of the year. As for the locals, they’re some of the most relaxed, friendly souls you’ll find in the country and the atmosphere is one of contagious, even riotous fun. I have planned many a weekend trip to the ‘Falls’ only to find myself there two weeks later, up to my eyebrows with ridiculous stories and wondering how exactly to extract myself, half convinced that I don’t really need to do so. I’m not trying to sell it or anything, but you should probably just go there.
It was one such ‘weekend’ away that I first met Tinashe (Nash) Maoneni, songwriter and lead vocalist of afro-fusion band Flying Bantu and vision behind the hit monthly event Vic Falls Thunder. Born out of a tangible need for live music in the town, the show aims to create a well supported platform for artists, as well as a top night out for ticket holders without having to break the bank. The venue: Shoestrings Backpackers, a landmark hostel and bar, which for decades has been the starting point of many a memorable night in the town. We were lucky to be in town for a Vic Falls Thunder event, so when Nash asked us to play, we were happy to oblige. Goose and I opened up the evening with drummer Reuben Connolly, whose high energy and mad skills brought a banging percussive element to the rootsy-blues and folk sound that had emerged over the past month performing at Shearwater Café. Flying Bantu headlined the night, rocking original tracks such as ‘Stop The Bus’ and ‘Cease Fire’, whose irresistible beats and poignant lyrics they have since put down in the studio and released on their debut album Cruising Attitude.
Later on that year I returned for another Thunder, this time with the Djembe monks, DJ and percussion trio from Bulawayo, who brought their signature ancestral tribal house ‘teachings’ up to the falls for what was an epic night; so epic that I remember ecstatically hatching a plan with Nash and Djembe monk Emmanuel to one day take the show on the road: Amy & The Calamities, Flying Bantu and The Djembe monks; Folk & Blues, Afro-fusion and Deep House – a killer combo, and one that I have no doubt will materialize sometime in the future (watch this space.)