Mkhululi Ncube/Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Reporters
When members of trailblazing Zimbabwe rhumba music group Ndolwane Super Sounds saw South Africa’s South Brothers immaculately dressed on one of their many record covers in the 90s, it gave them the impetus to also try and emulate them.

This was after seeing Black Moses Ngwenya and the late David Masondo appearing on album covers with Soul Brothers in sleek, trendy outfits that matched. The duo looked like the music stars that they were in any LP or CD sleeve.

This made the four-member Ndolwane Super Sounds take up the idea of rebranding their appearance on album covers in order to be presentable to their fans. The group then comprised of Martin Sibanda, Charles Ndebele, Abson Ndebele (the late) and Collen Moyo.

For Ndolwane Super Sounds, this was to make them outstanding from the others because not many bands during their time cared about their appearance.

Artistes’ popularity then, hinged on the message of their music, rather than trendy clothes or hairstyles they put on when they presented their music on CD covers.

It was a time when there was no Internet or social media for fans to keep in touch with their icons at any time.

The only time when fans would see their icons was at a show or when they bought an album or saw the CD sleeves at music stores, showing why it was important for artistes to look their best on the sleeves.

A look at Ndolwane Super Sounds CD covers over the years reveals a trend. The coordination of their dress code shows in their debut album, Africa (1997) where the group donned matching red golf shirts and black trousers for their album cover. In Sunduza (1999), they wore a predominately black viscous outfit, with black longs, while on the Donsa album (2001), they donned tailor-made outfits.

The trend continued in other albums such as Izambane likapondo (2005) where they wore leather jackets and white shirts with pinkish looking trousers. The group, for most of their cover photo clothing, was following the fashionable trends that were dominating in the days their albums were released.

A thing to note though is that Ndolwane Super Sounds and other musical groups during that time were not privy to having brand managers or stylists so they had to wing it from the onset, with Soul Brothers being their template.

All this was a bid by Ndolwane Super Sounds to look presentable, professional and to show that they took their art seriously.

Speaking to Saturday Leisure, one of the surviving members of the group, Martin Sibanda said they had the vision, but did not have any one dressing them.

“We grew up admiring ama Soul-Brothers but we didn’t have anyone dressing us. We wanted that smartness as it determined smart thinking,” said Sibanda from his South Africa base.

The Big Boss, as Sibanda is known, said they used to buy clothes at one shop to look the part.

“At first, we would all go shopping (the four of us) and help each other pick the outfit, but as time passed by, I was the one who dealt with the uniform. The fashion that hooked us though was the viscose one which we donned on the Sunduza album cover, otherwise, we believed in being smart and relevant,” said Sibanda.

At first, he said, they were more concerned with their message than their dress sense.

“We never believed in outfits, but focused mostly on the message in our songs. I on the other hand, believed in dressing as an artiste, that’s why I ended up taking it as my duty, sometimes buying with my money,” said Sibanda.

From that experience, Sibanda who split with the group, has carried this trend as he values the importance of being presentable as an artiste.

“To all rhumba guys out there, in whatever you do as artistes, you must be presentable. Dress smart and respectable,” said Sibanda.