Friday 3 October 2014

Paul Brickhill - Do not think of this as a goodbye

 On August 1 this year, Paul Brickhill wrote to me. One of the paragraphs which draw tears into my eyes is where he says: Do not think of this as a goodbye; I am sick but also just updating those friends who may not have known the dramas that unfolded over the last 3 weeks, from 24 July, and changed my life. 

My mother said almost the same when she died of cancer in 2012. I spoke to her over the phone the night before she passed away. I offered to come to Harare and see her. But she told me: Kana wakauya, ndiwe unoita sei? Ndichiripo. 

Rest In Peace Paul Brickhill. One of very few good men who meant well. If running this communication between Paul and I is in bad taste, I apologise in advance. I am sharing this to show how big Paul's heart was.

Paul Brickhill

Dear Wonder,
On Friday 1 August, after 8 days in intensive care diagnosed with strep pneumonia and laryngitis - I underwent emergency surgery to open an airway into my trachea after unexpected discovery of a tumour pressing my windpipe causing huge distress; a biopsy diagnosed anaplastic thyroid cancer, the least-known cancer, its causes unknown, and the most aggressive. I will soon head to home based care, the relief of sky, trees, flowers, birds, music, family (and real coffee!). I have started radiation therapy.
It was a close thing that night. I am lucky to be alive, thanks to quick thinking both by my brother Jeremy and the specialists who saw me that day.
A 33-year era has – for me – ended, abruptly and dramatically, the next journey of my life already begun. It all started as an outcome of the liberation struggle on our return home in 1980, I was 22 years, heady early days of independence, and promise of our future. Grassroots Books (est. 1981), transformed into the Book Café culture centre (1997) that paved the way for Pamberi Trust (2002), and in turn helped set up African Synergy in 2005. Related and memorable arts included Solidarity Band (a forerunner of the Bhundu Boys) and Luck Street Blues in music, and African Publishers Network APNET and ZIBF, and Anvil Press in books. 

Needless to say, Book Café and Pamberi Trust have united leadership , competent and dedicated management, and all will operate as normal. It is also not easy for my colleagues and comrades.  
Virtually my entire close and extended family was either with me or flew to Harare and mounted a 24 vigil at my bedside. Overwhelming really! I find it a little strange to be saying this, but it is true, I feel myself utterly blessed, and in many ways too; this extraordinary, rich life, an African life, so many wonderful, loved people and happenings, my life brim-full with goodness, love, beauty, music, books – and laughter!!! - a new sunset every night, and the majesty and enormity of Africa, place, peoples, and the “idea”, the strong, vital and decent people whom I have known, who bear all that life offers with grace, time longer than rope.
Now each day for me is lived simply as it should be, alive and happy to see what the day will bring, the miracle of life, it is not over!
I find myself so fortunate to have been in situations where I could do something. I fight on. Aluta continua! African struggles, emancipation and life itself!
And this I read just before I became ill: “Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is”, to paraphrase Albert Einstein. I am intrigued that a scientist could think like that, Einstein was clear the path he had chosen, life without wonder and imagination does not exist. The choice is ours. For me, everything that has taken place in my life appears to me as some kind of impossible, yet it happened, none more so than our beloved Book Café, its artists and life, histories and soul! 
Do not think of this as a goodbye; I am sick but also just updating those friends who may not have known the dramas that unfolded over the last 3 weeks, from 24 July, and changed my life. 
I wish you well.
With love,


I had forgotten my password to this account. Luckily, yahoo now has a mobile phone password checks.

I heard about your condition but nobody said what exactly it was. Glad, you made it.

We have a history going to back to the 90s, Paul. I learnt a lot from you.

I pray that you live longer to open up new paths.



Paul Brickhill

It’s good to hear back from you Wonder. Yes, we have that history, the respect is mutual; you have been the writer who, for me, set an uncompromising standard of integrity. I bumped into your music blog over the years; I wish it could reach the mainstream media (or maybe that is asking too much!!).
Years ago you asked a question as we sat in old Book Café that to this day I recall, which says much about your understanding of culture, and a searching attitude to journalism I admire (one we find, tellingly, more in sports than cultural journalism). To paraphrase, since I can’t recall word for word, you asked: “Paul, as far as The Culture Fund is concerned, could you tell me, amidst the millions of dollars disbursed, of just one ‘great’ or ‘notable, long lasting’ result, like an award winning film production, an award winning book, a cultural landmark of some sort, short term, like a production – or long term, like a programme, and so forth”. Naturally, the question could not then be answered at all, and perhaps not today. For sure I could not answer it easily; nothing obvious comes to mind. And how much has been disbursed. Not less than 10 million? 15?
I found the question said profound things about cultural development, the risk to cultural progress when the ‘populist approach’ or is it ‘political expediency’ overtakes a bold vision of what culture can undertake in society. I have often used it.
I am in Jozi now, receiving a battering of radiation. My cancer is inoperable and incurable, extremely aggressive; the prognosis is not good, months rather than years being the norm, but I am in good shape relatively and I have a positive outlook. The approach in my case is palliative from the start. I am happy with that. I had hoped for years to do more writing, and have now started the daunting task or writing my life’s work, in a format that is very different, more novel than autobiography. Ironically, I found it was the only way I write with absolute personal honesty, and greater accuracy.  
My warm regards to you Wonder.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Tuku disowns 'biography'

I have been reading with great dismay the excerpts from a so called ‘biography’ of me by Shepherd Mutamba who used to work with Tuku Music as a documenter for our website and other publicity materials.
About two years ago Mutamba came to me and told me that while he was working for us he had been simultaneously writing a ‘biography’ about me, and wanted to publish it. I was taken aback as he had never mentioned this to me before, but I said to him that if he was going to publish a book based on intimate information he had acquired while working with us, some of which he had acquired in confidence, during conversations with members of my family and team, he needed to give it to me to read first. He agreed to this and said he would bring the manuscript to me when it was ready.
Shortly afterwards he started becoming more and more distant and then announced to us that he wanted to take a year ‘sabbatical’ to study and write exams. We agreed happily and that was the last we saw of him. We invited him to several Tuku Music events, including our Tribute dinner at the Rainbow Towers last year but he did not respond.
Then two weeks ago I started reading with utter amazement the excerpts from his ‘biography’ that the Daily News started to print. I felt betrayed by a man I had trusted so much and brought into my inner circle.
As a man, I am not perfect. I have my strengths and weaknesses, like anyone else, but why would anyone write a book, which from what I have read so far has so many made-up ‘facts’, half-truths and false interpretations of my life? Why would someone who was warmly welcomed into our camp and treated with great respect want to pull me down like this?
Everything about the book that I have seen so far is an attack on me. Nothing positive at all. Is that Mutamba’s summary of who I am as a man?
You can imagine the distress that this has caused my family. If he wanted to pull me down, why attack my family too?
Our conclusion so far is that Mutamba is simply trying to generate sales for his book using a sensationalised form of journalism that is best suited for tabloids.
We are currently consulting with our lawyers on the action to take but we are moving on with our vision as Tuku Music and won’t let these recent developments slow us down.
I would like to thank everyone who has sent in messages of support and solidarity during this time. Thank you.
Other biographies will be written and may history judge us all fairly.
Oliver Mtukudzi
14 September 2014

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Pah Chihera - Once in a while stars emerge

Pamhidzai Tracy Mbirimi’s soulful Afro-Jazz music has a unique freshness that stands her out as a natural singer. Known by her stage name ‘Pah Chihera’, she has just released her debut album, Runonzi Rudo, which has love birds in Zimbabwe all singing along. The title track features the slick Prince K Musarurwa who seamlessly complements her authentic voice for a heart-warming twosome:
The Truth About: Pah Chihera

Home Town & Current City: Harare

Current City: Harare

Age: March 6, 1991

Marital Status & Children: In a relationship

Genre: Afro Jazz

How did your career start, and where are you projecting yourself with all the talent currently coming out of Zimbabwe?
Music is something that I was born doing, although I had a strong passion for modelling when I was younger. I began as a backing vocalist for my Uncle Kudakwashe Prince, who is featuring in most of my tracks.
My uncle then decided to wean me and let me to record solo, with Runonzi Rudo as my first Album. I have always believed in quality and not quantity so I have taken my time to polish this album and I see myself growing and becoming a better artist .
Have you found Zimbabweans supportive?
Kusatenda huroyi chokwadi. I would like to say I’m really humbled with the warm responses I’m getting since releasing my album. Zimbabweans are really supportive and I’m very grateful.
I’m ever learning and I take praise and criticism as part of the constructive process to only make me better. As they say, 'akubaya zanhi ndewako'.

What do you consider your greatest musical strength?

Stage performance.
Are you currently signed by a record deal?
I’m not signed with any recording company, but I am considering Chigutiro Records. These guys are really assisting me a lot, especially Shayne Dingz, he has been supportive and I can never thank him enough for the marketing and exposure he’s giving me. I think and feel Chigutiro Records is my home.
Do you write your own songs?
Yes, I am involved in the song writing. I’m inspired by real life experiences and tell stories from it. My uncle Prince K Musarurwa has also written some of my songs and we’re a great team.

If someone picks your CD from a record bar for the first time, what should they expect?
I want to think that my music is value-laden, conserves traditional values and contributes to our heritage. Most of my songs carry a message on life in marriages, respect for husbands and maintenance of their positions in the home and that is part of our culture.
I must emphasise that giving men the respect they deserve and being submissive doesn’t mean women have to put up with oppression. So my music tells life stories in an entertaining fashion, which I believe will go a long way and change the lives of many people.
On the respect theme, I also sing about the use of totems – itself a sign of respect and pride in one’s identity. I believe this should not be done away with by trying to westernise things.
What is your favourite musical instrument?

Easy, it’s the mbira.

Do you have a day job?
I don’t have a day job, but I have recently been indulging in selling imported shoes and handbags as part of my income generation project. Soon  will set up my own company, Pah Chihera Fashion.
Which schools did you go to?
Zvaramba Primary School and Mufakose High 3. I then enrolled with ZDECO College for a reception management course and then Herentals College where I received a diploma in hotel and catering management.
What is your guiding philosophy?
I believe we all learn from mistakes. You fall at some point, if not many times, but the most important thing is you get up and dust yourself and soldier on being careful not to fall in the same pit again.
You have released a video for ‘Runonzi Rudo’, tell us more about it?
It’s my first ever video. We had a small budget but I’m pleased with what we came up with. Asthey say, the first cut is the deepest and I’ve a feeling it will be my greatest, though there’s a lot more in my tank to do better.
The video was shot in Harare Gardens. There’s a myth that the park is where all the romance emanates from, so we decided to shoot it there. Runonzi Rudo tells a story of a girl and a boy who meet in the park and both happen to be listening to the same song through their earphones. Mesmerised by the song, they both fall into a trance, seeing themselves in love and having fun.
The boy, to his great disappointment, later comes to his senses and realises it was all a daydream, to the embarrassment of the girl. Thumbs up to Slimaz Production the brains behind the choreography for a splendid job!
Which song by any other artist holds special memories for you?
Dance with my Father Again by Luther Vandros. My father has always been my hero and every time I listen to that song, all the memories flash back and I can never have too much of that song.
How do you spend your free time?
I’m usually with my mum, who is my best friend, if I’m not in the studio or running around trying to make ends meet through marketing my new range of shoes and handbags. On an important note for me, I don't miss church on Sundays. I’m a Christian, though I wouldn't want to call Christianity a religion but rather a way of life. I wouldn't want to trade my Jesus with anything.
What is your definition of love?
Being there for one another even when you have differences – poor or rich, with or without. Understanding and respecting each other.
Do you have any Zimbabwean role models and who is your international role model?
Oliver Mtukudzi is my role model without doubt. Internationally, I’ve so much respect for Zahara. Those two have set the standard for me.
How do you manage emotional situations in your life?
In the face of criticism, I’ve learnt and taught myself to always look at the positive side. Never take everything personally. I’m motivated by Luke 12: 25 which says "Which of you by worrying can add an hour to your life?" So I take emotional situations as a stepping stone to yet another step in life and rather smile instead of crying.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ve a lot of gas in my tank so expect a lot from me. With time, I hope to not only be on awards lists but more importantly being recognised for positively influencing a lot of people through my music. I want to thank all those who have supported me so far. I promise them that Pah Chihera is here to stay and entertain. -

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Elijah Madzikatire says father Safirio destroyed his musical career

Elijah Madzikatire

I met Elijah Madzikatire years after he had hung up his guitar. 

He had also left Gramma Records where he had produced the late Paul Matavire’s debut single VaJiri

At the time, Elijah had acted in the movie Everyone’s Child and had a comedy Bhero Mukadota running on ZBC TV.

We met at club in Hatfield one evening in 2004. He lumbered into the club about an hour after the appointment.

I had had the opportunity of attending a show in Mvurwi where the whole Mukadota Family turned out in 1979. I was a small boy then and during those days, Mukadota, who drove a BMW, travelled with a big troupe that included actors and musicians.

At the time, Elijah had released quite a number of songs. I recall very well his song about karate where he would imitate a karateka on stage.

Being the days of Bruce Lee movies, that song was very popular with boys.

Surprisingly, Elijah did not mince his words when he spoke to me about his days in the music industry and how his father treated him.

In some way, he revealed the other side of Mukadota who is regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest comedians and musicians.

Elijah started his career as a doorman for his father’s group, the Afrojazz Fiesta.

Note: When the story ran in The Herald, Elijah refuted it after he realised the possible damage it would cause to his father's reputition. 

 The interview

Had it not been for his father, Elijah Madzikatire would not have ventured into the world of music in the 70s and 80s.

And again had it not been for the same inspiring father, who later put stumbling blocks onto his path, Elijah would not have left the world of music.

But in a case of a hen that eats its eggs, Safirio, arguably one of the best celebrated artists, destroyed his son’s career.

‘The main reason why I left music was because of endless arguments with my father. I had grown tired of his sketches and wanted to play music alone but he could not have any of it. As a result, and since i had no instruments of my now, I abandoned music,’ Elijah told me.

Elijah still remembered in 1980 when he was chosen to perform during Mozambique’s independence celebrations.

‘My father was not billed to perform but he followed us and had the programme changed to accommodate him. Well, that was done but because of the language barrier, people were not pleased with his performance. They demanded that I should play music for them.’

Elijah said there were times when his father would cause the cancellation of a show if he was not on the programme.

‘There were times when I would organise a show and when everything was going on well, my father would have it cancelled. He owned the instruments and so had every right to do whatever he wanted,' he further said.

But their problems were not only in shows but money too.
‘Whenever we held a poorly attended show, all the other members would be paid first. In case there was no money, father would not pay me.'

This, coupled with ill-treatment from his record company, ended Elijah’s promising music career that had started way back in the 70s when he used to work as a doorman for his father’s band – the Afro-jazz Siesta.

‘Father had joined the Afro-jazz Siesta after many escapades with musicians such as the late gospel pioneer Jordan Chataika,' he said.

Even with the Afro-jazz Siesta, Safirio who was also known as Baba Warwizi from his TV comedy, concentrated more on sketches. After playing with Afro-jazz Siesta, Safirio managed to buy some instruments and, together with Elijah, formed the Ocean City Band.

The original line-up had the late Tobias Areketa, saxophonist Phillip Svosve, Nicholas Hamwala and Elias Bokosha. The group was based at Paul Mkondo’s Hideout 99 in Lochnivar, Southerton.

When financial problems hit the group, the members walked out on the Madzikatires.

At the time, the late James Chimombe was working for Chitungwiza Town Council after leaving the OK Success. He was also planning of forming a band. At the same time, Chimombe met his saxophonist Daram Karanga in Chitungwiza who had also left the Chicken Runn Band. Since they were looking for instruments, the two approached Mkondo who told them about Safirio’s departure. 

Svosve, Himwala and Bokosha gladly welcomed Chimombe and Karanga as members of the band.

Abandoned but not completely marooned, the Mukadotas formed another group the Brave Sun. This was the group that discovered the late Elizabeth Taderera who was seen dancing at a pub in Mutare.

Katarina was to become the centre of the Sea Cottage Sisters, a vibrant dance troupe that made Safirio’s act a superb one.

But the 80s saw both Safirio and Elijah’s fortunes dipping. The Brave Sun disbanded. Katarina left to join Cde Chinx’ Mazana Movement and a come-back by Safirio with a new group, the New World made no impact.

It was with the Brave Sun that Elijah recorded his first single Ishe that went gold in 1978. The single was followed by Vana Vevanhu, Pasi Hariguti and an album Gukurahundi in 1980.

‘Our music was liked by many people. And it was because of this fact that Webster Shamu picked me for the Mozambican tour.
‘People also enjoyed the antics of Chibhodhoro, John Muyambo, who played congas. I had seen him playing with a rumba outfit and poached him when we introduced congas,' Elijah revealed.

The same Chibhodhoro was Elijah’s other half in their TV comedy Bhero Mukadota. Today, he plays with Tanga Wekwa Sando.

When he abandoned music, Elijah, who acted in Everyone’s Child, also took part in the series Mhuri yavaMakore with Safirio and Susan Chenjerai.

He worked for Gramma Records as a producer and produced Paul Matavire’s first song VaJiri. He also worked with Leonard Dembo and Lovemore Majaivana.

Backed by the Bhero Band, Elijah launched a come-back in the 90s and released a tribute song to his father called Tinokurangarirai but it did not do well.

Thursday 31 January 2013

The Carol Chivengwa-Mujokoro & Ivy Kombo-Kasi Egea puzzle

I have always wondered why Egea Gospel Train super brands, Ivy Kombo-Kasi and Carol Chivengwa-Mujokoro, rarely acknowledge each other's contribution to their careers.

I interviewed Carol via written questions some time in 2006 and the Ivy Kombo-Kasi part does not come out. I also spent a day with Ivy and Kasi some years back, the name Carol did not come out. 

All what Kasi said when I asked him why there were rumours about an affair between Ivy and him was that there were some gosple musicians who wanted to be like Ivy spreading rumours.

It appears as if there is some discomfort when they talk about the Pastor Kasi-led Egea Gospel Train because most often it's mentioned in passing.

Maybe it could be true that it was Carol who spilled the beans of the Ivy/ Kasi affair.
I still wonder . . .  

I could not meet gospel musician Carol Chivengwa- Mujokoro when I asked for an interview.

Instead, I was asked to send questions which were then responded to. In stating how she rose to prominence, Carol does not mention Ivy Kombo’s name.

That too is the same with Ivy - she does not mention Carol as a former partner. Maybe it's not important that they acknowledge each other's contribution to their success or they were well rounded musicians when they sang together at Egea.

That was around 2006/ 7 long after Carol had left the Ezekiel Guti Evangelistic Association (Egea) Gospel Train to pursue a solo career.

Egea, formed and led by Pastor Admire Kasingakore (Kasi) who was then a top pastor in Ezekiel Guti’s Zaoga, groomed some of Zimbabwe’s biggest names in gospel music.

Apart from Carol, there is Ivy Kombo who is now Kasi’s wife but was his adopted daughter. Then there was the late Jackie Madondo.

Carol’s facebook page says the gospel diva was born in Goromonzi, Zimbabwe and grew up in Chitungwiza.

She then started singing before crowds at a tender age of eight before becoming a member of her church's Praise and Worship Team where she was the leader of the Praise and Worship.

Together with her sisters, Carol formed a family band which was known as The Blessed Sisters which was invited to minister at many church conferences and this encouraged Carol to do even better.

At the age of 16, Carol recorded her first work with Egea Gospel Train - the album Mufudzi Wangu and three others - Ndinokudai Jesu, Vimba NaJehova and Kutenda.

Carol had Ivy Kombo, Mono Mkundu and Annie Kombo among others in the band.

By 1996, Egea was no more and Carol pursued a first solo which her releasing the album, Ropa RaJesu.

Between 1999 and 2011, Carol had released seven albums. To date, she has released 12 albums.

She is to date the only Zimbabwean gospel musician to record a live album, Carol Mujokoro in the Holy Land, in Israel in 2003.

She has also won several awards among them the 2000, Tinotenda Siyabonga Annual Music Award (TSAMA) for Best female artist as well as the 2012, ZimPraise legendary award in recognition of her contribution to Zimbabwe gospel music since 1992.

She graduated from the Africa Multination for Christ College (AMFCC) as a pastor and is in full time pastoral ministry.

But there is one thing that Carol does not seem to mention in her profiles – that she shared the stage with Ivy Kombo at Egea and that they sang as a team in most of the songs released by Egea.

Although Egea died when Kasi left Zaoga, some people say the actual reason why he left was his involvement with Ivy and that it was Carol who first spilled the beans.

There was a time when rumour circulated about Kasi’s romantic eye roving over Carol but was turned down.
The same rumour further claims that this resulted in Carol leaving to record her album elsewhere and the subsequent death of Egea.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Blessings yet to arrive for Noel Zembe

Noel Zembe
The name Noel in Hebrew means Arrival of God just like the angels said to the shepherds whom they found sleeping in the fields.

There is even a song that goes like:  Shepherds, the chorus come and swell! 
Sing noel, noel! 
Shepherds, the mighty chorus come and swell!
Shepherds, shake off your drowsy sleep!
Rise and leave your silly sheep.
Angels from heav’n around are singing,
Tidings of great joy are bringing.
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

Hark! Even now the bells ring ’round!
Listen to their merry sound:
Hark! How the birds now songs are making
As if winter’s chains are breaking.
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

See how the flow’rs all burst anew,
Thinking the snow is summer dew: 

See how the stars afresh are glowing,
All of their brightest beams bestowing!

Cometh at length the age of peace,
Strife and sorrow now shall cease!
Prophets foretold the wondrous story
Of this heav’n-born Prince of Glory!
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

Shepherds! Then up and quick away.
Go seek the Babe ere break of day;
He is the hope of ev’ry nation,
All in Him shall find salvation!
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell,
Sing noel, O sing noel!

Yet for gospel musician, Noel Zembe, God does not seem to come. 

There is something of the late Pio Farai Macheka in Noel Zembe.

Pio Farai Macheka committed suicide citing failed music career. He made it just with a few great songs but then fizzled out thereafter.

He also had his dread locks shaved off by unknown people. But he accused Thomas Mapfumo for this. Until today, nothing much is known about what exactly happened with and to Pio's dreads.

After years off the music scene, Pio came back but it was too late. He had lost the zeal and zest for stardom.

This is the slowness, some unwillingness to go ahead and make the best out of his talents I saw in Noel Zembe when I met him. It's a hesitance that borders on ‘confusion’.

It hit me first when I ran into Noel Zembe first at Gramma Records in Masasa when he was chasing after his royalties.

He was dressed in a yellow soccer jersey and faded brown pair of jeans and some ‘tackies’ that were falling apart. I did not speak to him then because somehow he reminded me of my meeting with Pio a few months before he committed suicide.

Later, I would run into Noel Zembe at a newly-opened Artisan Recording Studio when its offices were along Chinhoyi Street in Harare after the owner, Allen Dzobo had invited me.

Again I sensed this shadow that hovers over him. Somehow, Noel Zembe is different in his videos where he is alive and can take the viewer high and low emotionally.

Again just like Pio who became a fishmonger, Noel could not make much from his music.

This is what I gathered from Emmanuel Thomas about the formation of the Frontline Kids, the group which made Zembe and others.

Noel Zembe started in 1985 as a member of Scanners International together with Emmanuel Thomas, the late Primrose Sithole, Jivas Dzotizei, Philbert Marowa, the late Bob Manwere and Wellington Masvosva.

Based in Dzivaresekwa Suburb, the youthful group released the single Chauya Chauya in 1986 before meeting Professor Fred Zindi, also a musician during the 1987 Independence Day celebrations at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.

Zindi adopted the group and renamed it Black Fusion, but when the then deputy minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Ndlovu (now Webster Shamu) saw the group, he suggested that they should be called Frontline Kids because they were young and represented the African Children living in the Frontline States.

In 1992, the group changed its name to the Frontline Krew because the members had grown up and so could not pass for kids.

But like the Jackson 5, age brought with it, the desire for freedom to discover new horizons. While others sought their own dreams, Noel went into chemical manufacturing and later returned to music and recorded the single Baba Thoko with High-Density Studios under the Zeal project. 

Later, he turned to gospel and recorded Ndaiwana Hama, Ndega Ndega and Pinda Mudanga. Noel  managed to introduce a fresh gospel beat with inspiring lyrics.

Zindi’s version as he wrote in The Herald was:
‘It was on April 17 1987, on the eve of Zimbabwe’s seventh independence anniversary when I was Director of Ceremonies and stage manager of the Independence Celebrations at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. 

The celebrations began around 6pm. At around midnight, The Rusike Brothers, Lovemore Majaivana, Paul Matavire, Robson Banda, The Four Brothers, Ilanga, Talking Drum, Comrade Chinx and Simon Chimbetu had done their performances.

I was just about to introduce Thomas Mapfumo on the stage when I was suddenly interrupted by this young man who jumped onto the stage before the bouncers could stop him. 

He said: 'Mukoma Fred tiri chikwata chekuDzivarasekwa. Tine shungu dzekuridzawo nhasi. (We are a group from Dzivarasekwa and we want to be included on the bill tonight).'

I politely thanked this young man and told him that the show had been organised months before tonight’s event and there was no way we were going to interfere with the programme to accommodate his group.

However, I gave him my telephone number if he wished to participate in the following year’s celebrations. 

I forgot about this incident until three months later when I received a call from Bob Manwere reminding me about my promise to include his band in the following year’s independence celebrations. 

I asked him several questions about his band and whether they could play. He told me they did their rehearsals in Dzivarasekwa and that I was free to come and listen to them.

I made an appointment for the following Saturday. On arrival, I learned that the band comprised school kids and was called Scanners International. A gentleman called Tedious was managing them. 

Their lead singer was a 17-year-old chap called Peter Tembo and the backing vocals were supplied by another 17-year-old called Jevas Dzotizei. 

The rest of the band consisted of Manwere aged 17, who played the bass, Emmanuel Thomas on lead guitar and Philbert Marova on rhythm guitar, both aged 16. Then there was Wellington Masvosva, aged 14, who played the drums.

They were playing on some battered acoustic guitars and a makeshift drum kit with torn skins. Together, they could hardly play, but I saw the passion they all had for wanting to be something in the world of music.’

Noel Zembe could be struggling but his music is a legacy which uplifts the soul. There is no doubt that for him to be still going when most of his band mates have gone quiet is a great feat.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Tedious Matsito determined to walk - physically, musically

Tedious Matsito

He lost his two brothers when the band was at its zenith, but Tedious Matsito was determined to go on even after death had visited him again and snatched away his other brother and band members whom he said understood his music. Today, because of that kombi accident, Tedious has lost a leg and his career took a hard knock. Still he is determined to rise and walk again - physically and musically.

Tedious Matsito, the now disabled leader of Ngwenya Brothers, is a shy man. Almost unsure, uncertain of himself. Just like the late Pio Farai Macheka.

He appears to be overwhelmed by people around him. And he would keep his eyes on the ground/ floor when talking to you.

But once on stage, he would emerge from his shyness to deliver some of those unforgettable shows.

So in July 2006 when he had just returned from a three-week tour of Mozambique, he called me for the first time. He said he would like to meet me and talk about his Mozambican tours.

I had enjoyed Ngwenya music before. Their song Madiro that was popularly known as Gede Mwana Gede was a hit when I was a teacher in Zimuto area in the mid 90s. 

It was one of those songs which kept us company at Chirina rural township where we retired everyday after school for a game of draughts and for the famous scud peppered with cream milk.

Despite stiff competition at the time from the late Leonard Dembo’s Chitekete and Leonard Zhakata’s Mugove, Gede Mwana Gede had its own share of the market.

But what made Gede Mwana Gede and the Ngwenya Brothers stand out were their live shows which featured the ‘dwarf’ character as a dancer.

The brothers were the second group after Kasongo Band to popularise chibhasikoro or kabhasikoro dance.

The dance originates from east Africa where it was brought by rumba musicians fleeing from Mobutu Sese Seko. This dance was known as cavacha in the Congos, Tanzania and Kenya.

This is the dance popularly known today as Borrowdale after Alick Macheso’s modifications and improvisations. Before he broke away from Nicholas Zakaria, Macheso as a member of the Khiama Boys used to dance kabhasikoro just as Ngwenya Brothers would do.

The beginning
There were three brothers – Jabulani, Mike and Tedious. The fourth brother, Albert, the oldest one, was a musician but not an active one.

Although the Ngwenya family hails from Chipinge, the brothers found themselves staying on a Mazowe farm around the same time when Nicholas Zakaria was also plying his trade in the area.

Albert was the first to travel all the way to Harare and found work at Glenara Estates just outside the capital along the Bindura road. He worked there as a carpenter for years before he was joined by his three siblings for whom he fashioned guitars.

With the crude homemade guitars, the nameless group consisting of Tedious, Jabulani, Albert and Mike toured surrounding farms entertaining farm workers for a fee.

Tedious left the farms to seek employment in Harare because the money their brother Mike made and whatever little they earned from their performances was not enough to keep them going.

Once in Harare, Tedious went to stay in Dzivaresekwa (known as Gillingham then) while working as a garden-boy in Mabelreign. Gillingham was the common starting point, some kind of a way station, for virtually every sungura musician who came from the farms.

This is where Simon and Naison came to from a Chegutu farm; Zakaria too sojourned here before he went to stay in Epworth; even Alick Macheso was brought here by Shepherd Chinyani when he was fetched from a Shamva farm; the late John Chibadura honed his musical career in Gillingham when he came from a farm in Centenary.

It was here where Tedious sought Chinyani, just like many others before and after him, to understand the urban music scene. Before Tedious, Zakaria and Chibadura too had sought Chinyani to dust up their careers. 

Soon after, Jabulani came to stay with Tedious. At the time, Mike was at a school in Mutoko but when he was done, he also came to join his two brothers in Gillingham.

With the help of Chinyani, Tedious teamed up with his brothers to start what would become a glittering musical career that would see them topping up charts with great songs which made them a group to reckon with.

This journey, however, would start with an attempt to record a single titled Zuvaguru in 1990 but with no instruments and money, the task was abandoned.

Here Chinyani came to help them with instruments and playing drums even. This, Chinyani would do for the brothers’ first four albums.

With so much talent, the group’s debut album Nyaradzo was a massive hit which earned them so much money such that they resigned from their jobs to become full time musicians.

To do this, they had to put together a group and they brought in Taimon Gandi, the late Levison Chakanyuka and the late dwarfish dancer, Godfrey Mhere.

Success brought problems resulting in Mike and Taimon leaving to form Ngwenya Young Brothers but Mike would return while Taimon left for Mozambique.

Death too visited the group – Jabulani passed away and then two other Matsitos, Luckmore and Domingo came on.

In 2008, death visited again in form of an accident while the group was coming from a Mozambican tour. It snatched away Domingo and Godfrey Mhere leaving Tedious seriously injured. The injury has since seen his leg amputated and the group’s drive slowed down.

The meeting
The Tedious Matsito who came to see me before the accident was a shy calculative man. He sat looking out the window at the blooming jacarandas in Africa Unity Square. 

Since it was my first time to meet him in person, I too tried hard not to make him see that I was studying him hard.

He had come to tell me about the success of their Mozambican tours and that they would go back in a week’s time.

I took the opportunity to ask him about how the group had started and the hardships they were encountering. Among some of the problems Tedious spoke about was the death of his brothers leaving him to run the band. He also complained about poor marketing and how piracy was eating away at the group’s earnings.

I did a piece for file check, the Wednesday column I ran in The Herald then.

That first visit would see him calling or passing-by just to say hello. I recall that I would also write about their Mozambican tours on three other occasions before the accident.

The accident
A day after the accident – they were in a kombi from Mozambique – I went to see him at Parirenyatwa where he had been hospitalised. It was a sad sight and he was in great pain.

He told me that the kombi was over-speeding and that their pleas for the driver to slow down fell on deaf ears. But what made him angry was the fact that all their stuff – groceries and money they had made from the tour – went missing at the accident scene when they were taken to hospital.

They had invested so much in the tour but the loss meant they would need time to recover.

At the time, Tedious was not aware that his brother, Domingo had died on the spot. Of course, he knew about Godfrey though and another female dancer's death.

Ever since that day Tedious was admitted in Parirenyatwa Hospital, his fate had been sealed – he would live a beggar’s life.

Indeed, until today, Tedious has to beg for money to buy an artificial leg. Although he is trying hard to come back, Tedious admits: “My greatest grief is on the accident. It really brought me and my band down.
"I lost some colleagues who really knew what my music was all about. People who could easily adjust to anything we did as a band.

“I could not stage shows because of the injury and also that we had no instruments. I, however, managed to recruit other members but it takes time to make people perform as the ones you would have stayed with for a long time.”

He has not given up though:  “Being a person who was involved in an accident that caused injuries and claimed the lives of my colleagues, I need a lot of things to cover up for lost time.

“My greatest wish is to perform at each and every gala so that I regain my status and that people recognise that we are still there as Ngwenya Brothers. I believe that will promote the name that had faded into oblivion.”

He misses the good old days when things were good and shows well attended, “But I cannot complain really because it is getting better as compared to the last few years.”
(additional reporting from several sources)