The Reno(vation) Revolution… how a high school dream is shaping Bulawayo’s club sound

19 Mar, 2023 - 00:03 0 Views
The Reno(vation) Revolution… how a high school dream is shaping Bulawayo’s club sound

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter

THIRTEEN years ago, two former Mzingwane High School lads decided that they had had enough of the music that they used to hear played in clubs and pubs around the City of Kings.

Back then, as it is still largely the case now, house music was a staple on the Bulawayo club scene, with night loving revellers usually subjected to the same monotonous dance hits largely imported from north of the Limpopo dominating playlists.

The DJ sets were mostly the same regardless of whichever bar or club one chose to spend their time and money. Before commercial house music was replaced by Amapiano, this was usually the order of the day, and night, and those with a good ear for music felt that even though they left a spot with memories they would treasure in future, house music was a genre that left a lot to be desired.

However, while some listened, and under the influence of the wise waters, even started liking the same songs that they would have derided earlier on, a pair of Bulawayo boys, Nigel “Mdast Khalfala” Mathonsi and Thamsanqa “Omllet” Bhebhe, decided to take matters into their own hands once and for all.

Not only would they start their own careers as professional DJs, they would totally renovate the sound coming out of speakers in Bulawayo night scene. It was then that Renovation Boys, now Reno Life, was born.

“Basically, Renovation Boys, which was our name initially, started when we used to hang around a friend’s backroom during the times when we were at school,” one-half of the duo, Mdast Khalfala, told Sunday Life.

“During varsity when we came home for holidays, we just used to hang around this other friend of ours’ backroom and listen to some music. For us to even begin to think about being a duo and doing house music, we thought, we had a dissatisfaction around the club scene in Bulawayo. The duo came about because we wanted to renovate the club scene in Bulawayo, hence the name Renovation Boys.

We were dissatisfied because most of the music that we used to hear was music that we didn’t like and music that we didn’t relate to as Bulawayo guys. So, we hoped that by introducing our own duo we would “renovate” the Bulawayo club scene at the time because we were still boys.”

According to Mdast, the duo felt that they were not the only ones that deserved to listen to the refined and matured version of house music that was being cooked in studios in Mzansi and elsewhere around the dance music loving globe. Since then, they have gone on to open for such heavyweight house music acts as Black Motion, Scorpion Kings, JazziQ and Sun El Musician.

Black Motion

“We always had love for house music, an alternative type of house, whether its deep or Afro-tech hence we wanted to renovate the club. We wanted to give a new taste of music to Bulawayo that wasn’t common in Bulawayo. We thought this was the direction that we could take because this was music that we had loved for so long, even from our days in high school.

We didn’t hear enough of that kind of music and so we thought we needed to introduce it to the Bulawayo club scene, the Zimbabwean club scene. Not much of that music was played but this was music that we loved, listened to and so we wanted it to be music that the rest of the country could hear as well,” he said.

Nowadays, the commercial house music that used to dominate nightspots has largely been replaced by a similar brand of amapiano that gets played religiously around most nightspots. However, a deep house revolution has also taken place in the city, with the genre’s heavyweights usually hosting well-attended gigs that no other genres in the city can pull without foreign acts on line-ups.

The likes of Nite Freak continue to shine on international stages while cracking playlists of the world’s best DJs. The revolution that Reno Life dreamt of has not been televised but it is surely being posted, liked and retweeted. For the duo, this is all part of the dream that started way back at Mzingwane High School 19 years ago.

It is this almost two-decade long dream that has given them chemistry on the decks that few can match in the city.
“We met in high school, some 19 years ago I think it was around 2004.

We just created a bond from there which we didn’t think would come as far as it has. Initially it was just a bond from school and nothing more than that. It was just a matter of knowing each other and socialising while at school back then.

“Later on, after high school, we met up and became friends, first of all. We built on the friendship that we have started building when we were in high school. That’s when we decided to form our duo, as I highlighted, which was all an idea that started from a friend’s backroom when we came on holiday from university,” he said.

Share This: