Friday 30 September 2011

Jordan Chataika's backing sisters so humbling

The late Jordan Chataika’s song Ndopatigere Pano was released when the war of liberation was drawing to an end. It was around 1979 in the dying minutes of a brutal war that had left the country scarred and its people traumatised.
I remember the year. I was staying in Mvurwi then. The same week the song was released, an army land rover hit a landmine not so far from the township along Guruve road.
The song was about homelessness and desperation. I remember part of it says: Ndopatigere pano/ ipo pamakatisiya mambo/ netuhupfu twedu/ netumapoto. Later, Chataika moved on to pure gospel after independence.
Together with his two sisters, Edna and Molly, the trio was just good. Even today whenever some of their music is played, one feels blest.
As fate would have it, I then attended school with one of Chataika’s son – Peter. We could not believe that he truly was the gospel musician’s son. Peter is a friend unto this day.
So in 2005, I started hunting down the Chataika family. I went to Mbare where the elder sister sells her stuff in the market. She then directed me to Domboshava where Edna and Molly stay at Mungate.
I met their mother too who was 91 years old at the time. She was glad to tell the story of her son who grew up a weakling but became a musical giant.

Read the story below.
Edna and Molly Chataika, the late gospel trailblazer’s Jordan Chataika’s sisters and his backing vocalists, have one wish – to be given another chance to let their voices be heard again.
“Jordan had introduced us to his good music and together had blazed a trail that all these gospel musicians are following today but with him dead, we sit by watching and hearing even some people who can’t pass as gospel artists. It pains us,” said Edna, the young sister who was first recruited by Jordan back in the 70s.
“His death was a blow to us as it also jeopardized our singing career,” added Molly the elder sister.
The two, who used to travel from Domboshava to Harare for practice and recording with their brother, are proud farmers and parents who look at life as both a blessing and a challenge.
Married to Mungate brothers – Edna is married to the elder Mungate while Molly is married to the young – the sisters now in their 60s still remember how their late brother started singing.
“Jordan started way back in the early 50s. He used to wake us up early every Christmas while mother was asleep. He would then lead us in choruses meant to wake up mother,” Molly reminisced.
Most of the times, he would lead the whole family during the evening in singing hymns from the Methodist hymn book.
“We used to singsongs such as Jerusalem Musha Wakanaka, Garai neni and any others. Our mother was a great choralist. I would like to believe that Jordan took from her,” explained Molly.
Over the years, she added, Jordan was to fashion s guitar from a long stick onto which he stuck some twine cordage. An old cooking oil tin that he improvised as an amplifier was then nailed to the wooden stick.
When Molly left for boarding school at Usher Girls’ High, she lost contact with Jordan but Ambuya Chataika, Jordan’s 91-year old mother, who still looks strong, said her son never stopped working towards being a musician.
“Jordan had cancer on the legs from an early age,” she said, “and so he could not leave the village like any other youngster of his age for distant schools. His early days were then spent practicing music.”
She revealed that Jordan’s first popular song was taken from a folk tale about an orphan whose parents’ wealth was shared unequally leaving him with an egg.
“Jordan used to sing the song Zaiwe at the time. It used to be very popular with the people in the village but he left for Harare where he meant to study through correspondence and find a job,” she explained.
Jordan later recorded the song in 1978.
In 1960, he moved to the then Salisbury’s Kamfinsa area as a petrol attendant and befriended a white man whom he taught how to play the guitar. In return, the man’s mother bought Jordan a guitar as a token of gratitude.
According to Mbuya Chataika, his guitar playing skills were perfected during that time. She also believed that it was at the same period when Jordan met Safirio Madzikatire with whom he recorded three songs.
Safirio’s influences were apparent in the earlier versions of songs done by Jordan that were full of humour. One of the songs was called Mufana Ndiri Dhiraivha which was about a young man who carried car keys but could not drive.
In 1961, he recorded his first seven single Vana Va-Israel, probably with Safirio’s help. Both his sisters and mother believe Safirio helped on the song.
“If you listen carefully, you will hear Safirio’s voice on that song,” Molly said.
Maybe because of this, whenever one listens to Jordan’s guitar, they will hear traces of Safirio’s earliest hits such as Ndarohwa Negogo. Then years of searching for the right formulae came when he worked with the Great Sounds. At that time, he changed jobs too from being a petrol attendant to working for Nield Lukan, a carpet merchant company and then to window dressing for several fashion houses.
Jordan’s final break came when the late poet-cum-radio presenter for the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation, Wilson Chivaura noticed his talent. Chivaura used to recite poetry on radio and he asked Jordan to provide music to his recitals on air. With this confidence, he needed assistance and thought of his sister Edna who had been married then.
“He came for me and said that he wanted me to back him. But he said whether you can sing or not, and whether you want to or not, you are going to,” laughed Edna. “Then he played me South African music and said that I had to produce a voice that was close to the women who had sung the music.”
According to Edna, she managed to satisfy him and together they formed the group Highway Stars that released the single Ndipo Patigere Pano.
The song came in the 70s when half of the black population was in protected villages and others in squatter camps such as Chirambahuyo in Zengeza 4 and Epworth.
He also released two more singles – Amai VaChipo and Muchechetere as well Muponisi Wangu, Mudzimu Mukuru and Vakomana veWenera that came in 1977.
Later, he went back to recruit Molly as a vocalist thereby making the group s upper gospel powerbase.
More songs came. There was Tichanoimba Hosanna, Seri Kweguva and Hatina Musha Panyika.
“We know that the role we played in popularizing gospel is unprecedented. We are glad that we did it for the sake of gospel and not money or fame,” Molly put in.
“Ours was gospel steeped in belief and not what we see these days when one sings gospel and dances ndombolo. I do not believe that God wants to see such kind of dance accompanying his music,” added Edna.
The women have great respect for Oliver Mtukudzi though., “He is such a great man. In fact, he provided us with his drummer and Pikcy Kasamba was also there.”
They also spoke glowingly about Baba Mechanic Manyeruke ho entertained mourners at Jordan’s funeral.
With Jordan gone, Edna and Molly teamed up with his son Ronnie and released an album called Iwe Rega Kuchema. “Ronnie has a voice as good as Jordan’s but his problem is with the guitar. He does not take any advice from us. We love to work with him very much and when we practice, we do everything well but the finishing touches are atrocious,” laughed Molly, a former teacher.
“He does not want to be advised,” added Edna.
“If there are people out there willing to back us, we are ready to provide our melodious voices,” said Molly again.
Jordan who passed away in 1990 was born in Bulawayo in 1939. His father worked for the Cold Storage Commission but left work in 1940 when Jordan was a small boy.

My student Mercy Mutsvene surprised me by becoming a gospel 'star'

I knew there was something familiar when I saw Mercy Mutsvene’s video on ZTV's Ezomgido around 2004. Having been a teacher, my mind raced trying to place her. It did not take long to know who she was and where I had taught her – Highfield 2 High. The school was also infamously known as Gorongoza after the Mozambican place where the Zimbabwean army routed Renamo rebels.
I taught Mercy English language and History at O level. She was not an imposing girl but one of those who can slip in and out without being noticed. She kept a small group of friends who also shared some of her character traits. It was a group that stuck together without much interaction with the majority of other students.
That is how I got interested in the group and eventually got to know Mercy and her friends. I made sure everyday that every student has said something in class. And this group sat at the back of the classroom. But everyday I would walk over to them and prod them to answer questions or to show me their books for home work. Then I would check one by one just to make sure they did the work assigned.
With time, the group would start missing class or one or two would attend especially when it was time for History. Then they would take notes on behalf of the other group.
I remember one day when the whole group attended and I used my belt to punish them. Yes, my belt. That is what I used and my students never got angry with me.
Being a small girl, Mercy dodged and dunked but I made sure I delivered whacks. From gossip, I learnt that Mercy had a child.
I would like to know whether Mercy passed but I am not sure because her group did not only bunk my lessons but other teachers’ as well.

But years later, there she was on ZTV’s Ezomgido floating gracefully and singing like Rebecca Malope of South Africa.
I called her the next day and introduced myself. Expectedly, she denied any knowledge of me and of having been to Gorongoza. I expected it because very few pupils want to identify themselves with Gorongoza despite the fact the school has been transformed into a great institution.
Then we met in 2008 at 7 Arts Theatre when I received the Nama award. She was one of the girls who ushered winners off the stage. It was backstage and when I staggered there, it was Mercy who received me with a huge smile saying, “Nditicha vangu ivava.”
It was largely because of this relationship that I never wrote or interviewed Mercy but I assigned reporters on my desk to do her stories. Then controversy after controversy hit her.
Mercy Mutsvene’s story is a very simple one. She is a pastor’s daughter. Did some singing in the church with the choir and never thought she could become a musician one day until her ex-husband, Simbarashe Ngwenya unemployed at the time, realised that his wife has a sweet voice.
At the time, Pastor Elias Musakwa had founded Ngaavongwe Records and Simba referred her to him for trial. She went and Musakwa took her in and created a Zimbabwean Rebecca Malope.
In the early days, Mercy made people believe that there was a working relationship between her and Rebecca. She claimed too that Rebecca knew about her music since some of it was recorded in SA.
It has turned out that this was not true. When Rebecca toured Zimbabwe Mercy was not on the line-up. She was told about Mercy and her music, Rebeca confessed ignorance asking, “I don’t know this person you are talking about. In fact, I wish I could meet her. If indeed we were working together then why is she not here?” queried Malope. “I am definitely going to inform my record company and they will deal with the matter appropriately.” Some of Mercy’s songs such as Handingabvumi and Muri Mutsvene are direct translations of Malope’s songs Mangingavumi and Ulilanga Lelanga.
All what Mercy could say was, “I was not in the country when she (Malope) came to perform but I heard that she made such utterances. I will not comment on that issue. Get in touch with my record company.”
Then marital problems and controversies came when she walked out on Simba and married a Zambian bishop in 2008. Her parents said then that they had no idea where she was staying and denied knowledge of her new marriage.
“We have been staying together and it is true that I am expecting his baby. Our marriage is genuine because he paid lobola to my parents. He has a child from a previous marriage but I am his only wife at the moment,” Mutsvene said.
But his father, Pastor Mutsvene denied this saying, “I am the father and there is no one better to tell about the marriage. I have not received anything from anyone with regards to Mercy’s marriage since the divorce with Ngwenya. As far as I am concerned, she is staying with a female business partner in Highlands and all this talk about the apostolic bishop is new to me. If there is anything like that, it is not legal.”
Mutsvene admitted that she was pregnant then.
She gave birth later to baby number three and she says about the baby, “Yes, I was blessed with a lovely baby girl. She is almost a month old now and I am very proud of her. Her father’s identity is not important. What is important is that I am now settled and moving on with life. I am expecting more than one baby in this marriage.”

Thursday 29 September 2011

The day Thomas Mapfumo told me that tokurova nechipepa chako ichocho

The call from Dr Thomas Mapfumo came around 8pm. I was still in the newsroom and one of the sub-editors had called me for the call.
I had expected Mapfumo to call after a story I had written where I pointed out that his claims for asylum in the US were based on untruths. I remember the headline of the article was The Truth Shall Set You Free. It was not the first article I had written castigating Mapfumo for exaggerating his situation.
I am convinced even today that Mapfumo was and is never under threat from Government. Since he went to the US, he used to come for annual shows in Zimbabwe and was never harmed. One of such shows was held at Boka Tobacco Sales Floor on Christmas Eve 2001.
The last time he came to Zimbabwe in 2004, he stayed longer than usual and even performed at growth points. Most of such shows were dubbed farewell concerts. But such farewell concerts became many.
This was the second time I had spoken to Mapfumo. The first time was when his Zimbabwean manager Cuthbert Chiromo met me one afternoon and took me to Masasa at Gramma where Mapfumo’s album was being packed. It was in late 2004 and Mapfumo had promised that he would be home in April 2005 for his annual shows.
So I expected Mapfumo’s call and the vitriol that would spew. I expected it because he has a history of beating up reporters. My brother Shepherd Mutamba will have a story to tell about Mapfumo.
“Tokurova iwe nechipepa chako ichocho,” he said the moment I said hello and before I asked who it was on the other end. “Unofunga kuti uri chii iwe?”
I tried to interject but he gave me no chance.
“Ibvapa!” he shouted but I stood my ground and pushed him further.
“Mukanya matengesa,” I interjected.
“Ibvapa unoziva chii?’ He shouted at me.
“Munonyepa Mukanya. Hazvina hunhu,” I hit back.
Then his brother Lancelot came on the phone, “Nyarara tokurova! Unonyora nhema sei?”
The vitriol went on until (thank heavens) the phone went dead. I did not tell anyone about it that day. I was not shocked either. Later, in an interview with a Globe & Mail reporter, Mapfumo said he had to cancel his annual trip in 2005 because of my article. (See interview below)
I stand by what I said on that day. I don’t regret saying it and I would repeat it if I am to meet Mapfumo face to face.

I love Mapfumo’s music. I grew up on it. My late brother had all his vinyl LPs. I recall the day he got drunk and played Africa.

He cried while singing along to the song whose lyrics talk about returning to Africa where there is paper money. But then while there is paper money in Africa, there is famine, there is war and there is death. Yes, one can go back to Africa but they should remember that some went and never came back while others went and brought wives and children.

This song came during the last days of the war. It captured the mood of most youths who did not go out to war but stayed home. There were many other such songs like Pfumvu Paruzevha and Chiruzevha Chapera which made Mapfumo stand above other musicians.

By 1989, Mapfumo had become brave and his album Corruption proved that he was a man of the people. I remember when I was on teaching practice at Glen View 2 High School. I was based at the annex, Glen View 8 Primary School. I used to crawl down a drain to get to a shebeen where they played Chigwindiri (chimunhu chisina hama). That song drove me to tears.

One day, my deputy headmaster followed me to the shebeen and he saw me busy on the dance floor.

Then I could afford to attend Mapfumo’s shows and Mushandirapamwe Hotel was a favourite venue. I remember many times escaping from Mapfumo’s shows when empty beer bottles started flying across the room. One such incident still vivid in my mind was the day when a man was hit with a bottle on the face. I am sure he lost one of his eyes. We left when blood started pouring out. But we would still go back to watch Mapfumo.

I still have such love for Mapfumo and when I wrote about him lying, it was from my heart.

I feel Mapfumo left a yawning gap in Zimbabwe. I am also quite sure that even if he returns, Mapfumo will not command the same following he had before he left. This is because the new generation does not connect with him. Mapfumo has also failed to adapt to the changing musical trends in Zimbabwe. Oliver Mtukudzi has done so and in that stride took along the youth.

Mapfumo was trained by Kenneth and Laina Mataka when he moved to Mbare aged 10 from Mabvuku.

According to Laina, Mapfumo had tried music with the Zutu Brothers but failed before he approached them for help in 1962. (See the Mataka story). When he left, he joined the Cosmic Four Dots playing rock and roll music after Little Richard and Elvis Presley and then moved onto the Springfields in 1966 with which he recorded songs at the then Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation until 1973 when Daram Karanga headhunted him for the formation of the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band in Mhangura (See the story Meet the man who set up Thomas Mapfumo and James Chimombe).

Although it is widely believed that Mapfumo started singing traditional songs with the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band, most of the songs he recorded were taken from the public domain. His first song was Chemtengure. There is also Shungu Dzinondibaya and Kunaka Wakanaka done on a rock and roll tip.

But it was with the Hallelujah Chicken Runn band where his traditional style became real traditional by the inclusion of guitars that produced mbira sounds.

When he left Mhangura, Mapfumo had no band and would hang around until he met the late Jonah Sithole at Jamaica Inn. Jonah was leading the Drifters, a band he had brought from Mutare in 1974. The band had changed its name from Pepsi Combo to Vibrations and the Drifters.

Mapfumo got the contract to play at Jamaica Inn ahead of Jonah but he had no group since he had just left Mhangura. So they agreed that they play together. For two months they worked together before Mushandirapamwe convinced them to relocate to Harare. Jonah left for a few months and when he returned, they formed the Black Spirit in 1975, but when Jonah left for the second time, Mapfumo disbanded the Blacks Spirits and formed the Acid Jazz Band while Jonah had the Storm in 1977.

In 1978, Mapfumo disbanded the Acid Jazz Band and together with Jonah formed the Black Unlimited. It should be noted that there are erroneous reports that Mtukudzi and Mapfumo once played in the same band. Mapfumo once had a band called the Black Spirits which was disbanded and then Mtukudzi took the name up. The two only toured together once but were never in the same band.

It was with the Blacks Unlimited that he solidified his foothold as both a social, economic and political commentator.

First, it was against the Ian Smith regime through songs such as Hokoyo, Pfumvu Paruzevha, Kuyaura, Shumba, Chitima Cherusununguko, Bhutsu Mutandarika, Chauya Chiruzevha, Dangurangu and Chipatapata.

Second, it was against the rampant corruption that plagued the new Zimbabwe through songs such as Varombo Kuvarombo (1989, Gwindingwi Rine Shumba (1980), Chimurenga for Justice (1985), Zimbabwe-Mozambique (1987), Varombo Kuvarombo (Corruption, 1989), Chimurenga: African Spirit Music (1995) and Roots Chimurenga (1996).

There is no doubt that most people especially the older generation respect Mapfumo for all this.

One would say that by seeking exile, Mapfumo lost the plot. Was he pushed or he jumped? Maybe, to understand this, one has to go through a lot of interviews, most of them conflicting, which Mapfumo has given over the years.

But first, let’s hear him talk for himself on who he is and where he came from. Below he spoke to
Legendary Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo believes he is one of Zimbabwe’s most understood celebrities. Fiercely private and loyal to his friends, Mapfumo has turned his back on Zimbabwe to live in Oregon, the United States, – fearing his life may be in danger “not from the big politicians, but their shock troops who have no qualms with taking a human life”.

This is The Truth About: Thomas Mapfumo

Born: July 2, 1945

Home Town: Harare

Marital Status: Married to Verna

Children: Two daughters Janet and Charmaine from his first marriage live in England. He has three other children from his second marriage to Verna –Chiedza who is studying Economics at the University of Oregon, 12-year-old daughter Matinyanya (she’s into all sorts of sports, particularly gymnastics, and can play the piano and trumpet) and son Tapfumaneyi (he’s starting in music)

Can you give us a brief history of your early years?

I grew up in rural areas. I was a herd-boy – herding cattle and goats. My grandfather was a musician, so playing music was natural for me. I want to think of myself as someone who was born a musician, because I just loved music.

Me and my brothers started off learning the guitar, not playing any particular tune but just playing around, always thinking about music.

I got my first break to perform music with a quartet called Zoot Brothers in Mabvuku. I was still at school, and they brought me in to sing some rock and roll.

I left them when I changed schools to Chitsere in Mbare. In Mbare, I was hooked up with the Mataka Family who were quite famous then. They had a kid by the name Edison (‘his father was a great entertainer and a magician’), he was just a genius. He played the piano very well, he could play the guitar – he was so good groups would come from Bulawayo and elsewhere without a guitarist and they used this youngster, he was a great musician. In my early years, I didn’t know my timing, so he would stop me in the middle of a song and say 'Mukoma Thomas, you are not supposed to come in at this part'.

Together with Edison, we formed a quartet – the Cosmic Four Dots – and we used to sing very well, performing rock roll songs. Our group also had Bernard Marriot who played for Dynamos and earned the nickname, Magitari.

Later, I joined the Springfields which was a rock and roll outfit. This time things had changed, quartets were phasing out. I then performed with the Halleluya Chicken Run band in Mhangura (given the name because most members of the group worked at the chicken run).

After Halleluya, we formed the Acid Band and recorded our first album, Hokoyo, in 1977. We would change the name of the band a year later to Blacks Unlimited. Our first album as Blacks Unlimited was Gwindingwi Rine Shumba (There Are Lions In This Wilderness).

You had a famous uncle, Marshall Munhumumwe, who got fame with Four Brothers. What role did he play in your early career?

He was part of the Springfields; I invited him to be part of the group. I taught him how to play the drums, that’s where he started playing music. After that, he joined Elijah Banda who sang the rhumba song, Connie Wadarirei. That was my song. Marshall later broke away and they formed the Four Brothers.

Which schools did you go to?

Chiwonana School in Nyandoro district, Marondera, then I came to the city and went to Donnybrook School in Mabvuku and later Chitsere in Mbare.

How do you prepare yourself for a show? Do you perform any rituals?

I don’t do that, I just pray to the Lord and say please lead me in whatever I’m gonna do right now.

Which music instruments can you play?

Drums and guitar. The guitar is my favourite. I also play a bit of piano.

Which musicians have inspired you?

A lot of names, top among them Bob Marley. His music inspires me; there are also other guys like Sam Cook, a black American. I listen to a lot of his music. And Otis Redding too. I am inspired by music that has a message.

I see there are no African names there?

I was inspired by Fela Kuti, I listen to Johnny Clegg, I also listen to my own fellow countryman Oliver Mtukudzi and a friend of mine Mzwakhe Mbuli, I like the message in his music.

Talking of Mtukudzi, your relationship has been the source of endless rumours. In your own words, how would you describe it?

We have a very good relationship; we grew up together and play music together. We are just good friends, he’s a musician like me and we enjoy music.

What’s your favourite movie and why?

I’ve watched a lot of movies, some of them really impressive like Sometimes In April which reminds me of our situation in Zimbabwe where we are at each other’s throats, it really touched me. The movie is about the genocide in Rwanda and I don’t wanna see a situation like that in our country.

What are you most afraid of?

I am afraid of God. I am very much afraid of God. Oh, and snakes!

What’s your attitude toward life?

I am actually someone who likes to keep to himself, I don’t go out so much like a lot of other people do, where they go to clubs and enjoy other people playing music and dancing. I go to church and keep to myself, always writing music, and talking to the group and my brothers who are my good friends … we are very close. I don’t forget all my friends I grew up with, no matter how poor they are. When I meet them we still talk, have a drink and reminisce.

Which song holds special memories for you?

There’s no particular song which I like, every song that I have written is special to me.

If your house caught fire, and you had just enough time to retrieve two items, what would those be?

My piano and guitar. The guitar is my life.

Have you ever been bitten by an animal?

I was actually gored by a cow. I was a young boy, I didn’t know this cow was just something wild. I was trying to go near it and it charged at me.

If you were to be invisible for a day, what would you get up to?

I would go back home (Zimbabwe) and try to feed the people who are suffering. Nobody is gonna see me!

You have travelled the world on tour, is there still any place that you still wish to visit?

Yes, Brazil and some other South American countries, and a few Asian countries. We’ve been everywhere in Europe, but haven’t been to South America.

What do you think of piracy?

It’s bad, it’s really damaging because musicians are losing a lot of money to piracy. If you deprive musicians of their income, it’s not good. The music industry needs to find a way to deal with piracy, like when they make a CD, they must find a way to stop people from downloading it or make them buy the music.

What was the craziest rumour you heard about yourself?

A friend called me and said ‘Mukanya, are you there, somebody told me you are dead’. When somebody tells you something like that, you get slightly worried and say ah, how come? You start pinching yourself just to be sure they are wrong!

When are you releasing your next album?

The album is ready, the title is Exile. We will finalise it when we go back to America and if all goes well, it could be out in December or early next year. –

There is talk today that Mapfumo is running away from the police over a case involving stolen cars. But in this interview Guy Nixon of the Globe & Mail, Mapfumo claims that the Government is after him and that although he returns home sometimes he is ‘invariably harassed’ by Zanu-PF youths.

Freedom fighter cries out for home

Thomas Mapfumo's music helped fight white rule in Zimbabwe in the 1970s. Now, the Globe and Mail's Guy Dixon writes, he's a marked man for protesting the iron rule of Robert Mugabe

The man sometimes described as Zimbabwe's Bob Marley answered the telephone cautiously.

A singer whose protest music pushed for independence against the white minority government of what was then Rhodesia; he has since been forced into exile by the authoritarian rule of President Robert Mugabe. "Thomas Mapfumo?" I asked after getting past a call-blocking device. "Who's this?" Mapfumo responded with a low rasp from his home in Eugene, Ore., where he now lives.

The interview had been prearranged, but he was careful. Fame isn't his only reason to be cautious, even though Mapfumo comes as close to legendary status as anyone in southern African music, specifically Chimurenga music. It's a music he largely created, the deceptively light, polyrhythmic pulse of political struggle, and based on the cyclical patterns played on the traditional, metal-pronged mbira. Mapfumo, who is in his late 50s, is also undoubtedly cautious because of Mugabe, who swept last month's elections despite widespread accusations by the West that his ruling Zanu PF party once again stole the vote.

Whenever he returns to Zimbabwe, Mapfumo is threatened by government thugs. When he's away, the Mugabe-aligned press attacks him. Yet, Zimbabwe's economic devastation under the government's tight fist has only strengthened the protest message in Mapfumo's new album Rise Up, currently available in North America only as a digital download at "When you are fighting against oppression, there is no difference. It is the same thing we were fighting against in colonial days. And now this man is in power; he is black like me, and he is still doing the same. The message doesn't change at all," Mapfumo said. "The first song on the CD is Kuvarira Mukati," which Mapfumo said means "silent suffering." "A lot of people have hated inside, but they are afraid to stand up and say something. So we are saying to them, you shouldn't just keep quiet. You have to say something. This has been going on for more than 20 years now. How long are we going to suffer?"

Mapfumo's music is banned from Zimbabwean radio, although some of his old material is more or less sanctioned. A disc of his liberation songs from the 1970s with his group at the time, the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, was recently reissued; harking to an era Mugabe continually celebrates. It was a time when guerrilla fighters were listening to Mapfumo shift his music away from heavily Western-influenced rock and incorporate traditional instruments and lyrics in the language of his Shona people. It became an act of protest against the Rhodesian government, just as the roots movements in reggae and rock around the world were similarly laced with politics.

Mugabe would like to pretend that Mapfumo existed only in that era. "I'm in the history books. Schoolchildren learn about me. They talk about me, what I did during the liberation struggle, the part my music played," Mapfumo said. "They tell the people that kind of history. And yet they don't want to play my music on the radio." It seems no surprise, then, that Mapfumo has had problems getting his latest album pressed and sold in his country. To Western listeners, it may be hard to appreciate how the lilting harmonies, the plink-plonk of mbiras and skipping beats can cause such opposition. The reason is in Mapfumo's moral messages. Zimbabwe's Gamma Records has had mechanical problems getting the CD manufactured, or so Mapfumo was told when he contacted the company. Only a few thousand copies have been pressed, a tiny fraction of what the singer believes he could sell if the administration wasn't trying to sabotage his album anyway it can, Mapfumo said.

Since moving away, he has continued to return to Zimbabwe to perform. He is allowed in the country, yet he is invariably harassed. "The last time I was there, I was in the countryside. I went to see my folk there in the rural area. I went into the shops to by some meat - from the butchery. And there was a group of youth. When they saw my car, they were coming for me. My brother saw that we needed to drive away." The group followed them and eventually stopped Mapfumo's car. "When they approached us, they said they wanted to see our membership cards, political cards for the Zanu PF party. I said they have no right to ask me about that. They were just trying to make problems. And then I pulled out my pistol and they ran away."

Meanwhile, the press attacks continue. The Herald, a Zimbabwean newspaper, has claimed that Mapfumo exaggerates his popularity. "Mapfumo . . . now spends much of his time spreading falsehoods about alleged threats on his life while his music career is on the slide," a Herald article last December said. This was around the time when the singer had hoped to visit, but cancelled his trip after being told it was too dangerous for him during the run-up to the election. Citing a list of allegations, the article also repeated claims that Mapfumo's cars had been connected to an auto-theft ring.

The singer scoffed at this in a grandfatherly way, his heavily accented words occasionally rising above his normal baritone. "I don't want to talk to that paper, because they want to bring me down. Everything they say about me is suspect. That paper is for the Zanu PF."

In trying to understand Mapfumo's story from so far away, so utterly removed from Zimbabwe and his experiences, I mentioned a quote attributed to Nigeria's late musical-great performer Fela Kuti that "in my society, there's no music for enjoyment. There's only a struggle for people to exist." I asked Mapfumo if all music in Zimbabwe under the Mugabe government is inevitably political. "No, I don't think so," he answered to my surprise. "It depends on who they are what their music is all about. My music is different than the rest of music in Zimbabwe." Oliver Mtukudzi, another leading Zimbabwe musician, appears to be striving for apolitical ground, although this only seems to draw him deeper into controversy, particularly after performing at a Zanu PF function shortly before the election. "It had nothing to do with politics," Mtukudzi is quoted as saying in a Zimbabwe Standard article. "I have relatives everywhere, in the [opposition] MDC and even in Zanu PF." Still, one of the singer's hits was also used in a government election ad. His manager described both moves as "business suicide" for Mtukudzi. "I'm sure he's trying to be good so that these people won't come after him. But that's not the way. If you're a freedom fighter, you have to stand with the poor people, stand with those who are suffering," Mapfumo said.

Then there are other musicians who are berated for blatantly pandering to Mugabe, such as the singer Tambaoga, who had a sensationalist hit using a play on words likening Tony Blair to a toilet. Blair has been a regular target of Mugabe's rhetoric. These musicians "are not popular with the people," Mapfumo added. "They are just being used for propaganda purposes." Yet for a sensationalist song like Tambaoga's to become a hit in a country so musically rich suggests an artificial vacuum, a hole caused by the absence of stronger cultural forces such as Mapfumo. The situation, he said, is only getting worse, although he insists his music still has an impact on Zimbabweans. "They go for my music. They are buying my music. And this is why they are trying to sabotage this CD." - Globe & Mail.

Despite his claims, Mapfumo had another interview with Banning Eyre of Afro-pop on his return to the US after his first performance in Zimbabwe in 2002.

Shortly after Thomas Mapfumo returned from Zimbabwe in February, 2002, Banning Eyre reached him at his home in Eugene, Oregon. They discussed Mapfumo's first performances at home in almost a year, his new album Chimurenga Rebel, and prospects for Zimbabwe's immediate future.

BANNING EYRE What was it like getting back to Harare after such a long time away?

THOMAS MAPFUMO: When we arrived, a lot of people welcomed us at the airport. There were the guys from the TV, from ZBC television. They were by the airport, and they interviewed me. After that, we proceeded home. Well, it was quite a good visit, and a good experience.

The first show that we played, it was in Bulawayo at the Large City Hall. There were many people there. The other one, which was on New Year's Eve, was at Boca Tobacco Auctions. Nearly 10,000 people turned up. We had another one in Mutare. It was a house full, at the Queens' Hall. And then we had another one at the Sheraton, at the conference center in Harare. We had over 3000 people there. And the next day we had another one a Mushandirapamwe, which was house full. I think the Mushandirapamwe was the last show that we did.

B.E.: You told it like it is when talking to the press. Were you worried about your safety in doing that?

T.M.: Well, I was a bit concerned, but I wasn't afraid. I knew a lot of ears were listening. A lot of people liked it, though as you know, talking of this recently released music, Chimurenga Rebel, it was banned from being played on the radio. And this, I can confirm with you, because I spoke with one of the DJ's who is working with ZBC, and he said they were called to a meeting by this Minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo. They discussed about my music, especially this recently released one, Chimurenga Rebel. He was saying a lot of things about the music. "This is why this guy named his music Chimurenga Rebel, because he's a rebel. He's just like a terrorist." They were trying to deny, saying that the music was not banned, but it was banned. They never play that music on the radio.

B.E.: But people bought the record.

T.M.: That's right. They're buying the record. They love the music, and they think it's quite a good record.

B.E.: Tell us about some of the songs on Chimurenga Rebel.

T.M.: "Marima Nzara" is about the way the farmers are being treated in that country, the way they are chasing them away. They are actually inviting hunger. That's the meaning of the record. I think the rest of that CD is full of what is happening in that country, like there's another song, "Huni, Huni." It's about that other guy who was causing a lot of problems with the farmers, Chenjerai Hunzvi. Huni is just a name. It's like firewood. So we are saying, "Huni, huni. Do not play with the people. Don't mess around with the people. Because the people can actually put you out of power. You will end up living in exile." He [Hunzvi] died. Because he was playing with the people.

B.E.: So did that ZBC television crew ask you about these songs?

T.M.: Yeah, they did. I told them that my music was for peace, and what I'm actually singing about is a reality. It's about things that are happening today. So they cut it off. [LAUGHS] They had to keep some good parts, where I said a lot of good things. And then where I was a bit critical, they had to just leave that out.

B.E.: Did you ever have the sense that you were in danger?

T.M.: When I went to my home area in the rural areas, Guruve. We were going there to perform some certain ceremonies. So we were there and when we got home, there was not enough meat for the people to eat, so we decided to go to the shopping center to find some meat from the butchery. So when we were there, there were these youngsters. They were being addressed by a policeman. When they saw my car, they came to my car. Of course, William [Thomas's brother] was driving and there were four of us in the car. The other three guys had just got out of the car and I was alone in the car. William was standing outside the car. These youngsters approached them and said, "Are you the owner of this car?" William said, "Yeah, it's our car." These youngsters said, "Can you give us a lift?" William said, "Going where?" [LAUGHS] They said, "Ah, we want to go where we want to go." William pointed to where there were some ETs carrying passengers, and he said, "Why don't you just go to the ETs and get a lift from them? This is not for carrying passengers." Then they said, "Ah, well, we thought that maybe your car was cheaper than them."

So we actually realized that these people were looking for trouble. We drove off from that place and went to a different butchery. They followed us there. We drove off again from that second place and they were watching. We went to another butchery and there was no meat. We had to go to the other butchery. When we were there, these youngsters came. I had my pistol in the car. William was outside the car, and the other two brothers of mine were inside the butchery.

So they came over to me and said, "Good afternoon." I said, "Good afternoon." They said, "Mr Mukanya, can you show us your ZANU-PF party card." [LAUGHS] So I said to these youngsters, "Who are you? How dare you ask me about a ZANU-PF card? What sort of a person are you talking to? Do you know me?" Then I actually produced my pistol, and these youngsters ran away.

Well, we finally got some meat and we drove back home. After a while, there was a truck full of policemen. They came after me. They said, "We heard you pointed a gun at someone at the shopping center." I said, "I never pointed a gun at anyone. They were threatening us, so we just drove off. We actually left them there by the shopping center." Then they said, "Have you got a license for this gun?" I said, "My license is at home." Because I hadn't brought my license with me. So they took my gun. They actually took it to a police station.

After the ceremonies, I followed them and I explained everything to them. So they said I should actually go back to Harare to get my license. I went back to Harare, and the next morning, we came back--me and William--and we showed them the license. The gun was licensed until 2003. So they gave me my gun back. That's the story. You know, a lot of things are happening there. They go around in the townships beating up people, those who are suspected to be MDC supporters.

B.E.: So what happens if you don't have a card?

T.M.: They beat you up. You might just be kidnapped and be killed. There is a lot of chaos. People are being beaten nearly every evening. The soldiers and the policemen they just go into the pubs and start beating people and accuse them of supporting the MDC. There has been a lot of chaos in that country. It's unbelievable.

B.E.: It must have been great to perform there when people are so hungry for some kind of hope.

T.M.: Ah well, I think it was quite exciting. The situation was quite exciting, but also at the same time, there is a lot of misery amongst our people. People are not happy, Banning. They are being suppressed by the ruling party. Like I said, they go around beating up people, stopping people, erecting roadblocks in the rural areas, those militias. It's just no good.

B.E.: So what do you think will happen in the March presidential election?

T.M.: If Mugabe doesn't rig the election, he's going to lose, because a lot of people are very disappointed about him. He has to do a lot of rigging. It's going to be very difficult for him to do that. [LAUGHS] Everyone is saying, "We will meet at the polling station."

B.E.: You really get the feeling that people want to vote, don't you?

T.M.: Yeah, yeah. People want to vote. They would like to vote him out. A lot of them have been saying that.

B.E.: But I understand that you cannot actually vote because you won't be in the country, right?

T.M.: Yeah, I cannot vote, because they actually passed some new laws. They are trying to actually suppress the opposition party, but it ain't going to help. It ain't going to help.

So angry can Mapfumo get such that in one interview, he called for people to take up arms against Mugabe’s government.

Mapfumo calls for armed struggle

In sign of how bad things have become in Zimbabwe, Chimurenga music icon, Thomas Mapfumo, has called for an armed struggle to topple Robert Mugabe.

Mapfumo who was in the UK recently for the Live 8 concerts says the white regime of Ian Smith did more for the welfare of Africans than Robert Mugabe's government has.

The title of his new CD, 'Rise Up' has a song entitled 'Kuwarira Mukati'. In the song he calls on Zimbabweans to rise up and not suffer in silence.

Mapfumo says the government has banned his music on the state broadcaster because of the political content. The ban is now so broad they will not even play any of his love songs. He had a very good relationship with government before independence but this gradually deteriorated as Mugabe became more dictatorial, he said.

When people elected Mugabe they thought he would be their saviour, but Mapfumo believes he has been a big let down.

Pressed on what he meant by rise up, he said 'if we say enough is enough, the gun is the answer.'

He told SW Radio Africa: "The suffering in the country has gone on for far too long and people just have to do something to effect change."

But whatever Mapfumo says, the police insist that they will pick him up for an unclosed docket involving allegedly stolen cars.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Zimbabwe is like a holed bucket because of corruption

‘Zanu-PF haina ma-enemies but it is its own enemy. Dambudziko riri mumba mavo saka President vakagadzirisa vana vavo hapana chokutya.’
Chipanga says Zimbabwe does not need political parties to solve its problems today but thinkers and honest people. ‘As politicians, we have failed and what is needed now are people of substance to stand behind the President. Zimbabwe is a rich country. There is enough for everybody. We should all be living comfortably here. But because of corruption, Zimbabwe is now like a bucket with'a holed bottom. No matter how much we work hard, ordinary people's lives would not change for the better.'

Who exactly is Hosiah Chipanga?

He’s been called madman, musician, prophet
Who exactly is Hosiah Chipanga? Is he a madman, a musician or a prophet? Does he believe in his music or he makes it for the money?
"Ndiri parwendo basa rangu harisi rokuimba. Ndiri muparidzi anoshandisa music as a way of reaching out to the people," Chipanga said, mixing vernacular and English - typical of VaManyika.
Today, he can safely say this, but when Chipanga started his musical career, his dance and lyrics that were considered contradictory made people mock and call him bad names.
Many asked how a normal human being would sing about the beerhall as an innocent place. They also asked how such a man would sing about bringing Jesus Christ to court to answer to charges of deserting people when they needed Him most.
They also wanted to know this man, who danced as if he was stepping on live embers and when they could not get an answer, Chipanga was dismissed as a madman.
‘I was a madman to the people because they had not seen the importance and depth of my music. The lyrics did not mean anything to them. Take for example the song Hove Dzemugungwa that I sang in 1992 - some 13 years back. It says much about what is happening today. But then people did not understand what I meant.
‘That is why they ended saying zvake uyu hazvitevedzerwe," Chipanga, who claims to receive messages from Musikavanhu (God), explained.
The album Zvichandibatsirei that spawned Hove Dzemugungwa carries another equally prophetic song titled Cost of Living.
"Sometimes I think I should have released my old songs today because they are still very relevant," he added.
Hove Dzemugungwa is about problems that affect everyone regardless of social status and age.
Because of a communication gap, Chipanga was a lonely voice in the wilderness for years until a few people realised that his music had a message. The lyrics seemed to strike right into their hearts.
It was essentially music that spoke about their problems.
Most of Chipanga's songs articulate the causes of disempowerment, bitterness, incest, homosexuality, artificiality, retrenchment, social decadence and a whole host of other problems that affect people today.
‘Thus Shinda Isina Tsono, Pasi Rinso Raipa, Mombe Yevhu, Kwachu Kwachu, Makomborero, Ivhu redu Nderipi, Ndafunga Zano (Ndagaya) and many others brought Chipanga from the wilderness into the homes of many people.
To them he was now a competent musician whose message was strong and meant for the voiceless.
“People are now looking for solutions to solve problems they created in the first place. My music comes in as part of the solutions. I ask questions that concern people.
“In 'Ivhu Redu Nderipi?,' I sing about the most precious gift from Musikavanhu. Man was created from earth and water. But what does it mean for a municipality to sell land and water? Isn't it like selling human fresh?
“This has caused all the problems we are facing today. Mutare can go without water for days yet Pungwe River is taking water to Mozambique.
“What I want to know is the wholesale price municipalities pay for taking water from Pungwe River or Hunyani Dam.
“I also want to know the wholesale price they pay for land.
“The truth is that poverty can never be alleviated unless water and land are given free of charge. Our problems are not about money.
“Money cannot buy us everything. A good example is now when people cannot get what they want despite having large sums of money in their pockets and banks.
“We are fighting against nature and as long as we do not realise this, our problems will persist,” he claims.
But can he really say he is a prophet?
"I communicate with Musikavanhu. I forewarn people about problems just like what Noah did when he built his ark years before the great flood came, long before there were signs of rains.
"My songs talk about symptoms. The kind of knowledge I have cannot be taught at universities.
Chipanga says beer if left in a bottle does not affect anyone.
"Beerhalls do not 'visit' people but people go to beerhalls. That is the same with food. It is what you do with food or beer afterwards.
“In the case, munhu chete ndiye aneproblem. All our problems are man-made. Of course, there are other natural disasters like Cyclone Eline, which are attributable to Musikavanhu. We have no solutions to these, but I have solutions to all our problems.
"If it was possible, I would open a workshop for solving people’s problems,” Chipanga proffered.

I work with God – Chipanga

It’s not every day that a Head of State can acknowledge the work of a musician, whose lyrics border on what others would call controversy and anti-establishment.
It is not every day that a musician can deliver his concerns in a polite and constructive manner.
Again, it is not every day that a society can have honest musicians who see and sing about a country's problems without fear or favour.
So when Hosiah Chipanga, who calls himself Mutumwa waMwari, started singing about Shinda Isina Tsono, Zvichandibatsirei and others, no matter how telling those songs were, the society dismissed him as another good-for-nothing musician trying to eke out a living.
When they saw him leaping about in his white shoes, some in the same society considered him comical.
And for years, the "madman" wailed in the "wilderness" without anyone noticing and caring because he was like any other poverty-stricken musician until about two years ago when the voiceless identified him as their spokesman.
But the voiceless, powerless, as they are could only listen and so the ‘madman’, had to wail and stomp spme more without any recognition until this February when he was approached to sing at President Robert Mugabe's birthday bash in Mutare.
‘I was an idling engine now I am running,’ Chipanga remarked soon after performing at the Independence gala held at the Harare International Conference Centre on Monday night.
Explaining how he composed the song, which takes a swipe at corrupt members of the society, Chipanga said:
‘I was asked on a Wednesday to sing at the 'President's party. I was also asked to compose a special song for the occasion. Since I was not prepared, I was dumb-struck.
‘But I remembered a vision in which I had seen the President sitting alone and I had cried for him. I realised that there was something wrong. Ndakati zvangu President vari patight.
‘I knew then that the vision was the answer to the special song and I told myself that it was my job to let him know about people who have brought suffering to the nation by their crooked ways, people who surround him."
The song Chipanga had in mind is the famous but unrecorded Gushungo (Havana Chavanotadza) that takes a dig at those who purport to represent the President when in actual fact they are making misrepresentations and taking advantage of his generosity and trust.
‘Zanu-PF haina ma-enemies but it is its own enemy. Dambudziko riri mumba mavo saka President vakagadzirisa vana vavo hapana chokutya.’
Chipanga says Zimbabwe does not need political parties to solve its problems today but thinkers and honest people.
‘As politicians, we have failed and what is needed now are people of substance to stand behind the President.
‘Zimbabwe is a rich country. There is enough for everybody. We should all be living comfortably here.
‘But because of corruption, Zimbabwe is now like a bucket with'a holed bottom. No matter how much we work hard, ordinary people's lives would not change for the better.
‘The song calls on the President to check the leaking bottom because there are people here who own more than what they need. How can one person own 10 or more properties as if he has 10 souls?
‘Tiri kutambura because hatina njere. Njere dzinodiwa iko zvino hadzisi dzeku-university kana ku-college but from God. The President needs men who are honest.
‘This is probably why the President is finding it difficult to quit because there is no one to fill the void. The power he has is not just electoral but spiritual. Hapana substitute kwayo saka chokuita hapana, so the President will be in the game for a while longer," Chipanga said, his voice breaking with emotion.
Chipanga, who declares Zimbabwe can never be a colony again, explained that when he composed the song Zvandakarota, he had had a vision in which the whites were trying to return to the country.
‘We fought for the land. It is ours. But why are we being sold the land when it should be given for free? Nature is angry with us for this because it is like selling us our own flesh.
‘That is the same with water. Why are we paying for what nature gives us free of charge? As long as people do not have free land and water, no matter how many aeroplanes they own, in real sense, they own nothing."
Recalling the day before he performed in Mutare, Chipanga laughed nervously saying: ‘"During rehearsals in the presence of offiicials from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, one of my cockerels came closer when I was singing and every time I sang out the words "Gushungo vane 'munyama" it crowed. Then one of the people asked me whether I would take the cock along to the stadium."
Then on the day of the performance, Chipanga was supposed to entertain the people after the President's speech but he was asked to go on stage first.
"I was not sure how the President would take the message in the song but I was not afraid because I was not lying. I was not singing to please anyone," Chipanga, who now resides in Chitungwiza, said adding that although people do not believe, he composes all his songs in tears.
"I have direct access to God and all my songs are inspired by visions."
After the performance, Chipanga said, he realised he had detonated a bomb when residents of Mutare told him that he had been singing about some people who sat beside the President during the celebrations.
"I am not afraid of anyone. Once in Mutare, some people were sent to beat me up but they came and confessed about the plan. I work with God. He is the reason why people are now waking up to my messages.
"Even the President's acceptance of my song 'is not because I am good, but God has spoken.” Maybe, Chipanga is right as shown by the lyrics of the song below.

Gushungo vane munyama!
Kupuwa mhosva isiri yavo I
Zvinhu zvaoma moti Gushungo matirasa'
Gushungo vanopa, njere ndodzatisina
Pawaiba mari kubhanga
Wakange watumwa nani?
Hupfu muchitengesa KuMozambique
Wakange watumwa nani?
Chibage, sugar kutengesa kuZambia
Wakange watumwa nani?
Dhiziri wopuhwa wotengesa
Wakange watumwa nani?
Mapurazi mashanu mashanu
Wakange wapuwa nani?
Gushungo vanopa, njere ndodzatisina.

I have met and spoken to Hosiah Chipanga on several occasions but one meeting stands out clearly in my mind. It was the day he came to Herald House on a Sunday in May 2007. I had done a review of his album Sahwira Wenyika.I was sorting out some pictures with one of the photographers in the dark room. He was ushered to where I was breathless. He had his trade mark black leather on and a viscose shirt underneath.
“Chikurubi toenda tose chete (We will go to Chikurubi together),” he said when he had sat down and rested. My heart broke and my mind spun.
“Chikurubi?” I asked him.With his head in his hands, he said, “Zvamakanyora nezuro iChikurubi chaiyo.”
Then I realised what he was talking about – the review! I remember the headline – it said Chipanga Tackles Thorny Issues in Jest. He had, somehow, got the hidden message in the review.
We laughed it off though but it set me thinking. There were times when such reviews would go into the paper without anyone noticing.
It was only later that I understood the whole scope of things. His music is not very well understood. But I knew that it would not be long before

somebody read between the lines.

And they did as shown by the story below about his music being banned from radio and TV.

Hosea Chipanga, the prominent and award winning Zimbabwean musician who was set to perform at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)-organised function at Gwanzura stadium today to mark Workers Day will not do so following anonymous threats on his life.
Chipanga yesterday phoned the organisers informing them about his withdrawal from the function. Speaking over the phone the ZCTU general secretary Wellington Chibhebhe told he was disappointed by the politics of Zimbabwe that continue to make the poor workers suffer at the expense of protecting those in power.
“Chipanga had for the past days been receiving threats through his mobile phone and they had even gone physically to his place to warm him to refrain from performing at our functions,” said Chibhebhe. “This is purely dictatorship by Robert Mugabe and needs to be condemned in strongest terms. Chipanga is an artist and artists speak for the voiceless and therefore I feel Mugabe is restricting Chipanga to send the message to the people who desperately need it,” said Chibebe.
Last year the musician was quizzed by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and threatened for playing songs during a state-funded public gala suggesting President Robert Mugabe would only relinquish power through death.
Witnesses at the gala said CIO officers had for the umpteenth time warned the top-selling musician to refrain from his ‘anti-Mugabe songs’ and ordered him to forward to them a list of the songs he was scheduled to play at the next state musical gala in honour of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
The witnesses from other local bands, who witnessed Chipanga’s brush with the CIOs during the gala held in Kwekwe city to commemorate heroes of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war, said intelligence officers dragged the musician backstage and sternly warned him to stop being critical of Mugabe and his government or he and his music would be made to disappear.
Chipanga, who sings in Shona and whose music is laden with social and political messages, confirmed the CIO had confronted him about his music but downplayed the matter which he said had been resolved.
The song that appeared to have irked the state police the most was a track titled “Ndarota Mambo Afira Pachigaro”, which literally means “I dreamt the king had died on the throne”. In a thinly veiled reference to Mugabe, Chipanga sings of an ageing leader of an unnamed country, who vows to rule until he drops dead despite calls by his people to step down because of old age.
After being manhandled in Kwekwe by the CIO, Chipanga could this time not gamble with his life after the persistent threats so he will not perform at the May Day celebrations today.
In a rare display of bravado, the sungura music icon was at it again this year when he mustered the courage to take his crusade against the burgeoning rot obtaining in the country to the highest echelons of government. He sang against corruption in the government at a pre-Independence Day ball thrown for diplomats, the inner circle of President Robert Mugabe and other cherry-picked guests at the Harare International Conference Centre.
The performance by the sungura icon dispelled illusions that the top man presiding over the fate of the country was so insulated from his people that he was unaware of the unbecoming errant behaviour of his cabinet.
The langy musician from Manicaland took his crusade into overdrive with his song Kutendeuka, which is laced with lyrics lashing out at the self-serving reminders of the exploits of those in government in the liberation struggle.
After the reminders of what people on the grassroots level are feeling, Chipanga showed he had actually saved his best for the last in a new song, Gushungo, which opens with praises for President Mugabe who he said is lampooned for other people's sins.
Chipanga takes potshots at leaders privileged to access maize, flour and fuel among other essentials, but who prejudice the country by diverting these to the black market and other markets across the borders. Many such culprits have never been sent to prison, chief among them, Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe and his wife for allegedly smuggling flour out of the country.
Chipanga did not spare the greedy who have amassed for themselves multiple farms in breach of government's stated position and bankers who have since taken flight after their nefarious activities were exposed.
The musician, a rare breed in the face of a deteriorating economy, has been hailed as a voice for the voiceless. And it seems the state security agents could not bear him belting it out to thousands of workers at Gwanzura stadium, reminding them of their continued suffering under a corrupt and inept leadership in the country.
Chibebe said there was little he could at this eleventh hour to persuade Chipanga to come to the stadium since his life was more important.
“In normal circumstances we are supposed to sue Chipanga. We had a contract with him but he has been forced to breach by the regime and we had already paid part of his money to his account. However, this will not dampen our spirits to commemorate the May Day because we understand that it is not his own making but the regime’s,” added Chibebe.
Speaking from Harare Chipanga said: “I was supposed to perform at Gwanzura today but won’t be due to the threats I have been receiving through my phone. I’m not quiet sure who is phoning me but I have been phoned by three different voices warning me not to perform or else lose my life.”
“This is not the first time that I have performed at ZCTU organized functions but I’m wondering why these threats are coming to now. Though I know I would be safe during the performance my life would at stake afterwards this is why I have decided to withdraw.”
It is reported that the CIO told Chipanga at one stage that he would die for nothing if he continued playing anti-Mugabe music, let alone at government-sponsored galas.
“I think who ever had been phoning me meant every word when they asked me where was I losing it. I have heard these words before and they bring shivers to my spine, money is nothing but my life is worth more than everything else,” said Chipanga.
Other planned activities for May Day will go ahead as planned. For the past few years the day has turned from May Day celebrations to commemoration. "We are not in a mood to celebrate, Workers are under siege, and we need to organise, unite and fight on with workers' standards of living continuing to slide there is really nothing to celebrate,” said the ZCTU.
Mugabe and his government, wary of rising public discontent because of the worsening economic and political crisis in the country, have in the past few years been clamping on independent voices in the country and anyone perceived to be an enemy of the state.
The state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, the only television and radio broadcaster in the country, has also banned music perceived as anti-government, especially music by one of the country’s music gurus, Thomas Mapfumo. – By Magugu Nyathi/

As for Chipanga, one can expect such things. He is a jigsaw puzzle which I doubt anybody will ever put together.
Here is a man who claims to be a messiah, runs his own church and then sings about the most basic things. The issue of water for example where he says there is no water in Mutare yet there is a river nearby that flows water everyday. Even the housing stands issue where he says while municiplauties say they do not have space for the living, there is always some for the dead.
What he sings about is basic but true. He sees issues with the eye of a small boy. But then such simplicity does not consider practicality. Maybe this is where, while his music is interesting, Chipanga’s weakness is.
He reminds me of John Lennon after the disbandment of the Beatles when he declared his State of Utopia and addressed a press conference seeking UN recognition. According to John, Utopia was supposed to be a free state where there were no rules, no government just people living together in harmony and peace.
And Chipanga too spoke about forming a political party called Mapipi. Honestly, it makes one wonder whether he is real or fictitious.
What cannot be taken away from Chipanga is his big heart and open spirit. He sang during the Zanu-PF galas and this year he also attended the MDC-T anniversary at Gwanzura Stadium. Unlike Simon Chimbetu who declared his love for Zanu-PF, Chipanga is aware that as Zimbabweans, we should work together.
I have met him for one-on-one interviews three times in four years. Each time, I left more confused. For sure, Chipanga is some kwachu kwachu.

The first interview was in 2005

To say that he is one of the most misunderstood musicians in Zimbabwe is an understatement.
Even the word controversy does not fully justify his music and life styles since on his car – an old Peugeot Pick-up - are written the message: “We can all have our own houses if one man owned one house.
One cannot draw a line between his musical career and individuality. He is what his music is. And to cap it all, he believes that he is God sent to reach out to the millions of lost souls whose bodies languish in beerhalls, prisons and every other place where no salvation reaches them.
But Hosiah Chipanga, the gangling Mutare-based musician who sings gospel on a sungura tip and who recently was awarded the Best Sungura Artiste in the Zimbabwe Music Awards 2004, is such an artist who reaches out for such lost souls anywhere he sees them.
He sings in the beerhalls, at churches, for striking workers… in fact Chipanga fits anywhere and snugly too.
Whenever municipality workers in his hometown, Mutare go on strike, Chipanga spends time entertaining them.
“I perform for them in order to cool their tempers. I do not do so to incite them,” he defended himself.
“I am God’s messenger,” he told me. “I work for the people. And God has nothing to do with those who know him but those who are still lost. One cannot find the lost in church but in beerhalls and such other places.
“That is why I go there in order to sing for their salvation.”
It is not only where Chipanga sings for the people but the lyrics of his songs that show the substance he is made of.
Most of his lyrics are social commentaries against societal evils such as greedy, selfishness and the insensitivity.
In one of his songs he says: If you see how those who have money and power live/ the majority of us would not be alive if God forsakes us/ each one of them has ten houses/ how we the poor will manage to acquire houses of our own? / Their children have five jobs each/ and where are our children going to find jobs?
In another he sings that beerhalls and beer are innocent since they do not visit people but it’s the people who go to the beerhall and buy beer who are guilty.
“My habitation does not matter. It’s there in the scriptures that the gallant soldiers of truth should go to the outcasts as well. Once I have failed to convince and convert the patrons then I am a defeated force.
“I’ve never seen anything bad about beerhalls, but some bad people who frequent them are the ones who give it a distorted image. Some God fearing people can be found in them. And the opposite can also be the case in churches,” he said.
In yet another he rebukes those who destroy public property that was put in order to make their lives simpler and safer.
He has his own way of looking at things and what appears to be normal to all of us today is not normal to him.
Take for example the prevalent use of English by black pastors when ministering to an all-black congregation that understands vernacular languages. To him, the use of English adds more blessings to the whites because when God hears English he thinks it’s the whites who
are praying more than the blacks.
In an interview with this writer soon after he had been awarded the controversial award, Chipanga said that it did not matter to him how his people described his music and what they say about his method of preaching.
“Whatever they say, my music is bigger than any other type of music. Christians know that I am a good preacher as well as musician. Non-Christians too know that I can dance better to their type of music,” he boasted.
His type of dance is has earned him the nickname the Running Man since he appears to be running.
“I used to perform this dance at studios back in the late 70s. Now I merge the jive with my music and the result is entertaining my audience whilst at the same time they get the Lord’s message,” he explained.
He added: “Most of my songs have a fast rhythm, but the message is about good things. I also use my art of dancing to capture the spirit of my audience,” he added.
Originally a member of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect, Chipanga announced that he would found his own church – the Church of God Kingdom on Earth that would double as a social welfare organisation.
Chipanga does not care what pastors and any other such people say about him.
Chipanga believes that an album alone cannot fully accord him all the time he needs to minister to his fans.
“I have too much at heart to convey and share with my fans, but I find that I cannot condense all of it on a record. Holding on to some of these messages may sometimes mean changing the intended message altogether since, like poetry, music has that touch which can easily be lost if delayed,” he was quoted saying some years ago.
Chipanga who is among the top selling artists in his recording stable, Record and Tape Promotions in Harare started his career in the 1970s as a dancer in Mutare.
Then he joined the Livestock Band with which he played before moving to join another band, the Black Diamond from Rusape (a small mining town near Mutare).
When he finally decided to come to Harare, Chipanga formed his own group, the Broadway Sounds with which he still plays today and has released 16 albums, half of which have turned gold.

In 2007 I interviewed Chipanga again at his Chitungwiza home. He had just relocated back from Kutare. The Peugeot had gone and in its place was a maroon 4X4. He was lodging close to Makoni Shopping Centre.
We sat by the car while we went through his new album then especially the song Gushungo. His sentiments were that Zimbabweans do not understand and appreciate what is good. We also discussed Sahwira Wenyika and he said that as a musician, it was his duty to bring together political parties together. He does, he told me, understand why people fight each other.
“Zanu-PF and MDC supporters are neighbours. They are brothers and sisters. Why fight?” He asked.
He also said, I recall, said there was enough for everyone to share only if people can be less greedy.
But there was something he could not real come out clean – is he a prophet?
And then came his other idea of forming a political party!

See the story below

Hosia Chipanga, a popular sungura musician has confessed that he wanted to join the presidential racer in the March harmonised elections. Chipanga only decided to call it quits when he failed to follow all necessary channels to be in the competion as he thought were very undemocratic.
Having failed to make it into the race, which eventually pitted four candidates — President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana — Chipanga now wants the existing political parties to merge and form one party.
He suggests the party be called MAPIPI — which stands for the Modern African People's Institute of Political Independence which will be God driven and have its roots in the people. accesed 19 July 2008
"I wanted to contest as a presidential candidate during the March presidential elections. In fact, I tasked my lawyers to make an application for me," he said.
Chipanga started seeking legal guidance on the 2008 Presidential election in September last year, according to the correspondence he had with his legal practitioners, C Mutsahuni Chikore and Partners.
The Chitungwiza-based sungura artiste only decided against contesting at the beginning of this year when he was advised of the legal requirement that his nomination papers had to be signed by 10 supporters from each of the country's 10 provinces.
Chipanga feels the requirement is autocratic, binding and repressive.
"I felt this requirement was one way of trying to bar prospective candidates from entering the race. I decided not to pursue it further because I felt it was very binding.
"Naturally, as you all know, I have more than just one 'supporter' in each and every province of the country because when I hold my shows there, many people attend my shows and these could have easily signed my application," said Chipanga.
He added that this was not the first time that he had dabbled in politics.
"I was a politician first before I became a musician, but if I tell this to people they won't believe it.
"It started on September 13 in 1977 when I had a vision in which I was told to change the world, just like the Biblical John the Baptist.
"The first and closest political organisation that I formed was called the Organisation for International Peace and those who were there then might remember the time I was arrested by members of the CIO."
For many a Zimbabwean, Chipanga's political ambitions will be dismissed as a joke but he claims to have solutions to all the problems the country is currently facing.
"I wanted to show people the kind of leadership that is divine and God-inspired. All the suffering and problems that people the world over are going through is a result of lack of Godly wisdom. I tell you, I hold the keys to all these problems and I am willing to share them for our nation's good if I am approached.
"I don't have anything against any political party or leader and that is why I sang the song Sahwira Wenyika in which I am urging the ruling party and the opposition to come together as brothers," Chipanga said.
Despite missing out on the 2008 election, Chipanga — who is currently working on a new album — said he has decided to start "laying the groundwork now" ahead of the next presidential elections. –

Now who can we say Chipanga is? It borders on the insane – sorry though.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Where are the Family Singers?

I did not meet Ambassador Jonathan Wutaunashe when I did their story 2006. He was Zimbabwe’s ambassador to India then. I, initially, got in touch with him when we wanted to start a religion column in the Saturday Herald. It was suggested that I got in touch with him and sound out the idea. After talking to him, I realised he had a story. And I asked him to write about the Family Singers.

It’s his story below:

When a project is born out of love, it does not die easily, hence the binding love Christians have had for centuries.
And modelled along the same love, The Family Singers - probably the fourth Zimbabwean gospel group that took gospel music many steps higher brought together Jonathan and Shuvai Wutaunashe (now husband and wife) to sing about love and minister the gospel of family values and ethics.
The two started as a duet singing at youth camps and church conventions and even recorded Zororo and Tenzi, which failed to hit record stores because of financial constraints.
Jonathan recorded vinyl discs titled Chishamiso with the backing of The College Trio comprising Jonathan, Timothy Tavaziva and Sheunesu Matemavi as well as Ndine Shoko with a little help from the late Chris Matema as the nominal producer.
Ndine Shoko was recorded the same day the late Jordan Chataika was recording Shabini (Vanhu Havamborara). Chataika thought it might be interesting to do a duet some day as he thought Jonathan played "like Jacob Mhungu", and the combination might be interesting. Unfortunately, the collaboration never materialised.
Jonathan then recruited Simon Muyambo, Billy Mafusire, Mathias Nkala, Noah Ziumbe, Clinton Muvezwa, Paul Thamaga, Shumirai Chitenhe, Dzidzai Chinouriri and Vanessa Rajah, who were part of the worship team in the Family of God Church to join Shuvai and him in forming an outreach band that would release evangelistic records.
When Reverend Andrew Wutawunashe, the church founder and elder brother to Jonathan, heard that the church band was planning to go public, he suggested name Family Singers, which everyone agreed, captured the character and mission of the group.
Rita Shonhiwa, Lucy Damaliane, Sarah Duro, Shangwa Sithole, Killian Ncube and others were later to join.
Later that year the group had enough songs for an album although the majority of producers did not even agree to listen because their professional opinion was that the market for gospel music was on a gradual decline and would disappear altogether in a matter of months.
One producer observed that even the strongest inspirational artiste in their stable, Freedom Sengwayo, was not selling because the popular mood was swinging away from church music.
Jonathan argued with Matema for over an hour, contending that the industry had no notion of the public’s appetite for message music because the majority of industry executives were forgetting to attend church!
Finally, Matema relented and the Family Singers were booked to record with Teal Record Company.
The group decided to cut Shuvai’s Tarira Nguva as their first vinyl seven single, with Billy’s Rudo on the flip side.
The success of the album surprised industry executives and songs were hits on the then Radio 3 Hitpick programme. While initially a few discs had been produced, the company went into overdrive to meet the overwhelming demand for the record.
It did so well that it was included in the compilation, Take Cover/Zimbabwe Hits, which Teal Record Company licenced to international labels like Shanachie Records.
In tandem with the active recording schedule that followed, The Family Singers embarked on countrywide tours that always combined special singing with the preaching of the Gospel. This formula has been maintained through the years, as the group’s founding vision was to preach the gospel in as many ways as possible through music.
They also received invitations to sing at other churches’ events, civic and national events, weddings, baptisms and funerals, always without charge.
Other initiatives were launched to get people together around gospel music. One of those initiatives was The Family Singers Plate Club.
The Family Singers would book a hotel functions room, pay for three hundred people to eat there on a Friday night, and then pray that their invitation for parents to take their children out for dinner and listen to family values would elicit positive responses.
The group went on to record a number of seven singles and albums which proved very popular with audiences. The albums included Shine On, African Praise, Nditorei, Nguva YeAfrica, Prodigal Son, Thdzoka, Ndasukwa, The Preacher, Minamato and Thurai.
Popular singles included Nditorei (Shuvai), Vana Vanokosha (Jonathan), Ndinokudai Jesu (Simon), Ndasukwa (Shuvai), Komborera (Jonathan), Ipenye (Shuvai), Mitoro (Jonathan) Rudo Rukuru (written by Jonathan for Shuvai), Let The Children Live (Shuvai), Watching Children (Shuvai), Jesu Yindlela (Rita), Simba (written by Jonathan for Shuvai), Ndovimba (Jonathan), Mitoro (Jonathan), Mitoro (Jonathan), Munondichengeta (Billy), Rudo Rwashe (Jonathan), Ndinotenda (Shuvai), Mitoro (Jonathan).
The Family Singers' African Praise was probably the first Zimbabwean compilation of celebratory praise, and continues to be sought-after. Members of the group wrote original material for the album, and then spiced it with familiar public domain numbers.
The album opens with Paul Thamaga's Praise the Lord, followed by a snippet of Shuvai's Ndasukwa, Jonathan's Mwari Makanaka. A number of artistes have, unfortunately, made anachronistic claims of authorship of Simudza Maoko Ako which was actually composed by Rachel Mushosho of the Family Singers.
With many new gospel artistes acknowledging them as role models, the Family Singers have mentored some gospel artists. In 2004, they created Bandstand, a TV programme that showcases gospel talent and offered tips to singers. Producers like Stephen Suluma, Richard and Pastor G were on the mentors' panel of the programme which was presented by Shuvai.

From their Facebook profile

Founded in 1981, the Family Singers are a premier Zimbabwean Gospel group that has maintained a commitment to serious, as opposed to fad, Gospel music. Under the leadership of singer/songwriter/producer/musician Jonathan Wutawunashe, the group is fronted by the gifted Shuvai Wutawunashe, Jonathan’s wife, who sings the lead on most albums and has written a number of popular hits. The group’s workin...g objective is to send out songs that mean so much to so many through the careful crafting of each song to be a vehicle of the message of Christ’s saving grace and the resultant gratitude and joy of the saints.
The Family Singers hold the firm belief that the motive of a Christian music ministry must be to communicate the love of Christ to audiences, and to encourage them to respond to that love by giving their lives to Jesus.
Singing the message of God's saving grace through His son Jesus Christ is a compelling calling for Jonathan, Shuvai and the Family Singers. The events they enjoy ministering at the most are evangelistic crusades, as most of their songs are about God's power to save sinners and to sustain that salvation through the great truths contained in the Bible, which makes believers holy through "the washing of the water of the Word". In addition to ministering throughout the year, Jonathan, Shuvai and the Family Singers devote two weeks in December every year to outreach concerts under the banner "Family Singers and Friends".

Monday 26 September 2011

When the Matakas hit town

I had heard about the late Mudhara Mataka. In fact, when we were growing up we used to hear about the sketches the Matakas did. There was Mataka Comes to Town and many sketches.
But I never thought I would one day write their story; shake their hands and see Laina Mataka shed tears while talking about their 14-year old son who passed away. This was in 2005 yet she wept uncontrollabley.
They had come to Harare to receive a National Arts Merit Award at the Harare International Conference Centre. When they walked up to the podium after their names were called out, most of the people in the crowd were confused.
They were right because they did not know that some of Zimbabwe’s great names in the arts industry today walked through the Matakas home in Mbare. They schooled Thomas Mapfumo and the late Safirio Mukadota Madzikatire, Susan Chenjerai (Amai Rwizi), jazz greats Simangaliso Tutani, Chris Chabuka and Louis Mhlanga.
I met them at their late daughter, Bertha Msora’s Marlborough home. Tete Joyce Jenje-Makwenda linked me up a day after the Nama occasion.
Kenneth was 90 years at the time but he looked young for that age. We sat outside as the pair took me back in time when they met and took it upon themselves to promote arts and culture.

Here is their story

They were complete strangers when they walked up to the podium to receive their Nama Service award last Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers during the Nama ceremony.
The youthful audience stared in disbelief as the elderly couple proudly took their stand to receive the prestigious trophy thereby crowning the glory of having been there when Zimbabwean arts took shape.
Precisely, the audience was right for Laina and Kenneth Mataka despite having been there for most artists who were just crawling into the arts industry and having helped mould the shape of Zimbabwean arts as it is known today, the two are complete strangers to this generation.
Yet this is the couple that nurtured the vast talents in the late Safirio Mukadota Madzikatire whom they literary adopted when he was still a primary school pupil at Chitsere Primary School in Mbare.
“Safirio came to us when he was a child in 1948,” said Kenneth. “He came when he could neither play a guitar nor sing. Together with Susan Chenjerai, we worked to groom them for four years,” put in Laina.
The two admitted that what Safirio later did was from his own resourcefulness.
“Safirio went a bit further that what we had taught him,” said Laina.
When Safirio finally lkeft to do his own thing, the couple supported him throughout. This was also the couple that took in Thomas Mapfumo after his false start as a musician in 1962.
“Thomas came to us for advice after failing to launch his musical career,” remembered Kenneth. “We listened to his problems and then gave him the choice to stay with us for only six months or come on a daily basis. But he chose to stay with us and we helped him find his feet. Thomas was a reserved guy. He seldom spoke. He was such a gentleman. I wonder whether he is still like that today,” said Laina.
Other notable names that are linked to the Matakas are the late Simangaliso Tutani, Chris Chabuka and Louis Mhlanga. Yet it was by sheer coincidence that the Malawian born Kenneth had to stay in the then Southern Rhodesia after finishing school at Domboshava Industrial School in 1933.
“My father fell ill when I was supposed to return to Malawi. As a result, I had to stay on in Zimbabwe. I then got employed as an office orderly at the then Rhodesian Herald,” narrated Kenneth who started singing Christmas carols as well as at weddings in the 1920s.
During weekends, he would visit friends in the police force – Earnest Pamisa, Eddy Kawadza, Solomon Rubatika and Solomon Dzviti – at the Magambuzi Police Station where they would sing for fun.
In fact, Kenneth had been a member of his college choir and before that a leader at Domboshava. But these too left sooner and then came in Moses Muphahlo, Samuel Gotora and Elisha Kasamu with whom Kenneth toured the country between 1939n and 1943 doing sketches and singing.
In 1943, Moses, Samuel and Elisha left to form the De Black Evening Follies resulting in Kenneth bringing in Charles Chijoka, Enock Mtambarika, Clifford Machingura and Sammy Sondo.
The tours resumed in earnest and it was during one of those when Kenneth met Laina in Bulawayo in 1944. Laina was an accomplished chorister and piano player. She had grown up singing at church. At the time of their meeting, she was a member of the Bantu Glee Singers – a group made up of the Stanley Hall staff. When she joined the Salisbury Bantu Actors, the group assumed the name Mataka Family and their act became a variety show where sketches, tap-dancing and singing without instrument were done.
Some of their popular sketches were Mataka’s Bicycle, Ziburi Sketches and Kurutsa Sketch among many others.
Most of these were educative while others were pure humour based.
Based in Mbare, the Mataka home became a haven for artists from all walks of life.
“Our doors were always open for anyone since we did not charge anything for our services. We taught them tap-dancing and stagecraft among many other things,” said Kenneth who left his job in 1939.
“Our aim was to promote local talent and I am glad we did just that as seen in Safirio and Thomas,” he said.
Mapfumo left in 1962 and when he left, he could manage the stage well, according to Laina.
Tragedy struck the family in 1964 when the Matakas 14-year old son who was a brilliant piano player passed away.
“We had put all our faith in the boy but God had other plans. His death left us weak and we had to stop performing,” explained Kenneth who had to snuff back tears.
They then delegated the management of their group to Naison Seke. The only thing Kenneth could do was perform as a magician, an art taught by a Zambian whom they had accommodated when he was touring Rhodesia.
Later, he joined Bata Shoe Company in Gweru as a product promoter but he left to pursue his magician career.
“I have been to every corner of the country performing,” he said with a smile.
In 1974 while they were touring Bulawayo, they came across people who were being allocated housing stands in Pumula.
“We joined and got a stand. We have been staying there since then,” said Kenneth.

Sunday 25 September 2011

She dined with Kenneth Kaunda, Kamuzu Banda and Julius Nyerere

Southern Africa owes me a glass of water. I never held a gun but my voice was as powerful as a gun. It took me a few seconds to send my revolutionary messages home to millions of people.
When I sang Tinogara Musango and Dr Malan, it was like being with the people. I have eaten and stayed with the region greatest – Kenneth Kaunda, the late Julius Nyerere and Kamuzu Banda. It was not fun then – Dorothy Masuku

I have met Dorothy Masuku on four occasions now but the most memorable one was when she was preparing for her 70th birthday celebration in November 2005 at Sports Diner in Harare.
I remember well Masuku, who is now resident in South Africa, declaring that Zimbabwe is her home because her ‘mother’s bones lie here’.
Masuku can be rightly called the daughter of the southern African region because when she was forced into exile by the Ian Smith regime, she found a home first in Zambia, then Malawi before sojourning in Tanzania.
Masuka was born in Zimbabwe in 1935, then called Southern Rhodesia. She was the fourth of seven children and her mother was Zulu while her father was a Zambian hotel chef. Still, she attended a Catholic school deemed good by the standards of education allowed blacks. Her family moved to South Africa when she was twelve due to her health. By the time she was nineteen she was touring in South Africa with singers she had admired as a girl.
Masuku's music was popular in South Africa throughout the 1950s, but when her songs became more serious, the government began questioning her. Her song "Dr. Malan," mentioning difficult laws, was banned and in 1961 she sang a song for Patrice Lumumba which led to her exile. This exile lasted thirty-one years in total. Many of her songs are in the Ndebele language or IsiNdebele languages.
In the 1950s, the jazz age was on in the cities of South Africa, and a beautiful young singer from Bulawayo--in today's Zimbabwe--came to Johannesburg to try her luck. Masuku's father was hotel chef, originally from Zambia, and her mother a Zulu woman whose ancestors had trekked from Natal to Bulawayo around 1875, just as Cecil Rhodes was beginning his fateful incursions into the Matebele Kingdom. The fourth of seven children, Dorothy came of age in Southern Rhodesia. When her father left the family home for Port Elizabeth, South Africa, she was in Catholic primary school, a good turn for her, as many African Rhodesians were denied any real education. Masuku's own move to South Africa originally had nothing to do with musical ambitions. She was in poor health, and the family thought the dry southern climate would be good for her. She was just twelve years old.
At St. Thomas, a Catholic boarding school in Johannesburg, Masuku blossomed as a singer at school concerts. She also discovered popular music, and developed a particular ear for American jazz. Louis Jordan was an early favorite. It wasn't long before she realized that great things were happening in the music scene around her as well. Dolly Rathebe became the rage after her singing role in the 1949 film "Jim Comes to Jo'burg." Masuka managed to meet and impress Rathebe, but her real break came a few years later when she was invited to audition for a new record label called Troubadour. She got the job, earning, as she recalls, five or ten pounds for her first recording.
Launched in 1951, Troubadour was an expression of the new urban black culture that was sprouting through the cracks in the apartheid system. At sixteen, Masuku became swept up in the scene, fleeing the confines of St. Thomas to join Philemon Mogotsi's African Ink Spots in Durban. She was soon apprehended and returned to Johannesburg, but quickly made off again, this time back to Bulawayo, where she struck up with a young jazz group called the Golden Rhythm Crooners, a group would exert a major musical influence on the young Thomas Mapfumo a few years later.
At this point, Masuku's family, school and record label came to an agreement. There was no denying it any longer. This girl was going to be a singer. Troubadour's Stewart Cook went to Bulawayo to record the Golden Rhythm Crooners for the label, and return with the fledgling star in tow. On the train from Bulawayo to Johannesburg, Masuku wrote "Hamba Notsokolo," one of the biggest South African hits of the 1950s, and still a staple in her songbook. In 1954, not yet 20-years-old, Masuku found herself touring South Africa with the likes of the Harlem Swingsters and Dolly Rathebe, and appearing on the covers of magazines. That year, she sang in the Johannesburg concert that led directly to African Jazz and Variety, a hugely successful touring black musical revue that played to both black and white audiences. An article in the magazine Zonk wrote that Masuka could outsell Bing Crosby.
During her years with Troubadour, Masuku befriended and began working with another talented young singer, Miriam Makeba. Masuku saw herself as a composer at least as much as a singer and she naturally began to take on serious themes in her songs. Her song "Dr. Malan"--which included the line "Dr. Malan has difficult laws."--earned the attention of South Africa's feared Special Branch, which paid Masuku a visit and promptly banned the record. When she sang for Lumumba, the fallen hero of Congolese independence, in 1961, the Special Branch seized the master and all copies of the record they could find. As it happened, Masuku had returned to Bulawayo, and the label advised her to stay there until things settled down. That took 31 years.
During those difficult years of exile, Masuku worked in Malawi and Tanzania, singing for independence era presidents Hastings Banda and Julius Nyerere. Her return to Bulawayo in 1965 created a stir, both musically and politically. Ian Smith had just declared Southern Rhodesia's independence from England, and the country was digging in for fifteen years of struggle to achieve real independence. Faced with the prospect of arrest, Masuku fled again, not to return home until the nation of Zimbabwe was established in 1980. At last back in Bulawayo, she resumed composing and recording. Her 1990 album Pata Pata (Mango) recognized new realities, mixing her customary jazz songs with more contemporary sounds, including Shona traditional pop.
In 1992, Masuku at last returned to the city she loves most, Johannesburg. There she found a world transformed in every way, but she set right about fitting into it, producing another ground breaking album, Magumede. In 2001, Masuka released what may be her most mature and powerful recordings to date. Mzilikazi takes its name from the founding king of the Matabele Kingdom, the land to which Masuku's grandfather trekked in 1875. In many ways, it marks both a return and a new arrival for one of Africa's most venerable singers. - Banning Eyre

She left for SA in 1953 (see the Cool Crooners story) when she ran away after a tour of Harare with the Golden Rhythm Crooners band. According to Timothy Sekane, Masuku took along the money they had been paid for their shows and left.
Once in SA, she struck it out

Below she told me about her life
When some people turn 70 they ask for respect, love, care, food and shelter while others ask for tall orders from their children and grandchildren.
This is understandable because when a person turns 70, they would have gone almost full circle back to childhood but one with a difference.
But then what would you do with a 70-year-old who asks just for a quiet place by a river and a glass of water from those whom she helped?
Weird, isn't it?
Maybe if it were not Dorothy Masuku, who still recalls her childhood in Mbare when they used to collect cow dung for their floors in Harare's oldest location, one would see this as weird.
If it were not Masuku who vividly remembers excursions in the Harare Kopje where they picked mazhanje and participated in the fights at the open space where Rufaro Stadium stands today.
“We would gather sand and call them teats. The bully ones would then challenge any two people to kick the small heaps of sand. A fight would ensue until one bled from the nose or mouth. We would then say abuda gold,” she recalled.
She also recalled some of the nomadic musicians who played in the townships from a trailer. But the sound of Nyau drums from Mukuvisi River as different, she told me.
“I remember very well the Nyau drums from the river. They struck right into my soul. But I was told I could not go near the river because I would be harmed. That music meant a lot to me,” she revealed.
Well, if it were not Masuku who celebrated her birthday yesterday in Harare.
But this is Dorothy Masuku who has walked the long journey from those early days in Mbare when she came to stay with her sister and then back to Makokoba, in Bulawayo where the musical career of which she is known today blossomed.
Although she did not perform in Bulawayo at the occasion of turning 70, Masuku or Auntie Dot who says others now call her Mom D was still at home in Zimbabwe, Africa.
"In fact, I belong to Africa. I am an African woman. I am Dorothy of Africa.
In that case, I am still thinking of where I could settle down close to a river. I need a tranquil atmosphere of a small village. I am tired of big cities and all the noise," she mourned.
And this is not just a baseless claim because Masuku stayed in a number of African countries when she went into exile after composing and singing politically incorrect songs.
She sojourned in Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya and Mozambique not as a refugee but as a cadre who fought with her voice.
"Africa owes me, especially this region. They have not said thank you to me for the little I have done.
"Although I was pleased to be invited to the Silver Jubilee Celebrations here last April, they came long after I had wondered when they would come. I had celebrated many (Nelson) Mandela birthday parties but not Zimbabwe's," she said.
Still fit and active, Masuku has won three lifetime achievement awards and is in the Halls of Fame in South Africa and the United States.
Although some of her music was recorded and performed by other great musicians of the time that include Miriam Makeba who is set to retire from active performances any time soon, Masuku does not show it because she says it is the way it should be.
Her wish and advice to younger divas: "They should look at us, how far we have come and then ask why we are still here doing what we are doing.
"They should understand that music is not like any other thing in the world. Music is godly. It demands discipline. It does not need hangovers.
"I pray to God that people like Chiwoniso (Maraire) should not be carried away by drink and smoking. One does not feel happy by drinking or smoking. Music should make them feel happy. Because it is clean. It heals the sick. They should respect it by avoiding doing unclean things," she advised.
She added that she has no regrets with the way her life has been so Jar and hopes the same happens to the youngsters even now when HIV and Aids is taking its toll on musicians and many other people.
"It is possible for the younger musicians to live this long if they try. They should know HIV is incurable. All they have to do is avoid doing certain things, especially the girls since they can abstain easily."
Masuku maintains that she would not retire from active performance like her friend Makeba who has already held farewell performances throughout Africa.
"I will be singing as long as my voice is still good. The likes of Ella Fitzgerald were still performing at 80. Anyway, how does one retire from music?" she asked.
She could be right because one of her grandchildren has just released an album that peaked at number one in some South African musical charts.
In a big way, even if she says she would be resigning from music, her grandchildren would certainly be carrying her voice and messages across. That way, her presence in the music scene remains.
A figure that fits in both South African and Zimbabwean cultures, Masuku whose father was Zambian and mother South African was born in Zimbabwe.
She became an integral part of South African musical revolution where she teamed up with that country's greatest and saw Nelson Mandela emerging as the leader he is today.
"I am happy and thankful to God that I lived long enough to see Mandela come out of prison."
One of the Madiba Legends, together with the late Dolly Rathebe, Abigail Kubeka, Sophie Mgcina and Thandie Klaasen, Masuku's contribution to both Zimbabwean and South African music is immense.