Blessings Nqo Nkomo was born and brought up in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo, although a reasonable chunk of his childhood was spent at his rural village in Matopo, some 40 Kilometres south west of Bulawayo.
It was in Matopo that Nqo's singing instincts were first realised when he was a member of the primary school choir. Although for the other students participation in the choir was to merely pass a duty, for Nqo it was an opportunity to realise his dream. It was an opportunity to prove to his family that he also had what it takes to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Thomecki Dube, an internationally acclaimed vocalist with Black Umfolosi, one of the leading Imbube groups in Zimbabwe.
At the very tender age of 12, Nqo had established himself as one of the key members of the school choir, helping the choir become a key contender for inter school awards. As a member of the school choir, Nqo performed at a number of functions both at school and in the community, taking part in such events as speech and prize giving days, as well as weddings. He did all this in an outstanding manner that not only saw him becoming one of the most popular members of the choir, but also helped his talent to continue to grow.
During his two years in the school choir Nqo worked on polishing his vocal prowess. In those days, he also established himself with the outstanding manner in which he would imitate and make renditions to such groups as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Grammy Award winning group from South Africa, as well as Impiyosiko, a Zimbabwean group that was making waves at the time.
On completion of his primary education, Nqo moved back to Bulawayo where he enrolled for his secondary education at Sobukhazi High School.
Although it was not disputable that Nqo was fast emerging as a musician of a rare calibre, his professional breakthrough was in 1994 when he joined Insingizi Emnyama Performing Arts Project, which later changed its name from Insingizi Emnyama, and then to the present Insingizi.
Joining the group marked the opening of a completely new chapter for the youngster. Having been with the group for barely two months, Nqo started touring Zimbabwe performing at different venues, mostly schools and social gatherings like weddings. During the tours, they would also hold workshops with school children on such traditional dances as Idlamu, Isitshikitsha and Amabhiza. Having spent a better part of his early years in a traditional rural setting, Nqo was very much conversant with these traditional forms of art, making him a valuable asset in the group.
In his second year with the group, in 1995, Nqo was part of the Insingizi contingent that toured Europe for the first time. The group toured such countries as Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Austria.
They became very popular in Eastern Europe and this subsequently led to their relocation to Austria in 1996.
A decade of professional musicianship
Since relocating to Austria in 1996, Nqo has been exploring every avenue that could help him develop into the professional musician he has always aspired to be. His ten years in Austria have helped Nqo attain unmatchable intellectual and artistic qualities.
Nqo's quest for professional musicianship in Austria started the very year he relocated to the European country when he enrolled for a four-year-course in music theory, piano and drums in the City of Graz. This has contributed greatly to developing him into one of the best dancers, choreographers and lyricists to emerge from Zimbabwe. Together with his two colleagues at Insingizi, Vusa Mkhaya Ndlovu and Dumisani Ramadu Moyo, Nqo has been active in the revolutionisation of African music to make it more palatable to members of other communities.
As a professional musician, Nqo has been able to work with other professional musicians from across the globe and has taken part in some of the world's most acclaimed cultural festivals.
In addition to the many albums he has released with Insingizi, Nqo also has his own solo musical projects. So far, he has released two albums and the third one will be out in 01/2009. The first solo project was Isimanjamanje, released in 2001.
In 2001 he recorded his first solo album called Isimanje manje. In a bid to ensure that his music is also available to his followers back home, Nqo contracted Moonlight Studios to distribute the album in Zimbabwe. For reasons that we have not yet established, the album did not do very well in Zimbabwe. This however did not deter Nqo from working on his second album, Nomathemba, which was released in 2004.
The album is currently being distributed in Zimbabwe by Ingwe Studios. In this project, Nqo featured Lee Xanadu, a Jamaican musician based in Austria. The album exhibits a unique fusion of Zimbabwean and Jamaican sounds to come up with a new genre. The album fuses Rhumba, Kwaito, and a number of traditional Zimbabwean sounds with Reggae and other sounds from Jamaica and Eastern Europe.
"We decided to collaborate on this project, fusing Zimbabwean and Jamaican dance styles with a touch of European rave and trance. The result is this CD," reads a message on the sleeve of the CD. The album carries a vast array of rhythms that are popular all over Africa. For example, the track Malume has an Afro-Jazz and Reggae flavour, while Imbube sounds more Rhumba. In the track Tshelamina, Nqo combines Kwaito with Reggae.
One feature that defines a professional musician is the ability to work with other musicians in those areas where you think you cannot go it alone. This is exactly what has kept helped Nqo and his colleagues maintain their relevance in Austria, in the process becoming part of the musical revolution not only in that country, but all over the world.
As an individual, Nqo has collaborated with artistes from virtually all parts of the globe. Being the kind of professional he has become, Nqo likes sharing his music with different musicians from all over the world. He has successfully established links with musicians who at first would appear to have nothing at all to do with Imbube or any traditional form of African music.
One of the many such collaborations is the involvement of Lee Xanadu, a Jamaican national in Nqo's second album, Nomathemba. Lee is a multi talented artist who has worked with such artists as Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat and the Sagittarius Band, among others. In the ten-track CD, Xanadu composed the song track One life to live and teamed up with Nqo in Dance all night and the title track Nomathemba, where his Jamaican accent is highly prominent in the lyrics. Nqo has also been working with Lee in an attempt to add a Zimbabwean flavour to his music. All this is an attempt to modernise and give an international face to traditional Zimbabwean tunes.
Nqo has also been fortunate to work with Hans Theessink, an acclaimed Blues musician from the Netherlands. Being afforded a chance to play with Hans is certainly a great honour for Nqo, as it would also be for any other musician. Working with Hans, a legend of blues and soul music, has helped Nqo and Insingizi to establish new contacts all over Europe and of late, Canada.
Other artists Nqo has worked with include Willie Resetarist, Madrigaia, the Afro Vibes, Roland Guggenbichler, as well as his colleagues at Insingizi, Vusa and Ramadu.
Nqo is advancing efforts to open a recording studio in his home town of Bulawayo, where he hopes to record and produce music for talented upcoming musicians who are restrained by the high charges of commercial studios. He is also working towards returning to his roots to record some traditional songs sang by our forefathers, which are fast being forgotten and as such, threatened with extinction. These would include traditional songs to celebrate good harvest, good rains and other traditional ceremonies.
Although nothing much has been finalised in this regard, Nqo and his colleagues at Insingizi also hope to embark on a tour of Zimbabwe to meet their supporters. Nothing concrete has been finalised in this regard, watch this space.
Nqo has performed in virtually all the parts of the world. Over the past 12 years, Nqo has performed in Zimbabwe, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, England, Scotland, Denmark, Canada, Luxembourg and Sweden.
He has been to most major music and cultural festivals in Europe and Canada. In 1995, during his first tour of Europe, Nqo performed at the Linz Festival Austria. In 1996 he performed at the Sura-za Africa Austria. Nqo also performed at the Multicultural Ball Austria in 1999. The other festivals he has performed in (year shown in brackets) are the Donau Insel Festival (Austria, 2000), Voice Mania Festival (Austria, 2002). In 2003, Nqo took part at the Vocal Musik Accappela Festival in Germany.
He also participated at the 2004 and 2005 Celtic Festival in Glasgow, Scotland. In Canada, Nqo performed at the Canmore Folk Music Festival, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival Canada. He has also participated in the Tonder Festival in Denmark, the Lent Festival Maribor Slovenia, SWR Blues Festival in Germany and Wiesen Sunsplash Austria.