Mbare was a musical hub during Rhodesia while Mabvuku and Tafara spawned actors. Ask most older generation musicians and they will tell you that ndevekuMbare. Thomas Mapfumo, Safirio Mukadota Madzikatire, all the jazz greats, the Pied Pipers and then there was the Tutenkamen Band of Joburg Bound fame. I caught up with Chex Tawengwa
Chex Tawengwa was a real Mbare guy. He had a moustache and drove an old Merc.
Of course, I had to wait for him to pitch up at his home in Beatrice section of the sprawling Mbare Township two years before his death.
He came, a cigarette dangling from his lips and looking at me the Mbare way – suspiciously. At the time, Chex was struggling to get a version of 2plus2 up and going.
Hironimo Homo Ruzive who played with Chex in the Tutenkamen cut a different figure f rom Chex. He had no confidence like Chex. At 60 at the time of the interview, Ruzive still had vivid memories of how it was during the 70s when they were part of the Tutenkamen band.
Unlike Chex, I met Ruzive at Chans Shopping Centre just outside Harare CBD on a Sunday where he was turning up for a blues band called the Cool Action.
I put together the story below:
If the song Itai Cent Cent by the now defunct 70s group Tutenkamen is to be played on the radio today, it will fit snugly into what is happening now because broke as we always are, we real need someone to give us some donation.
In itself, the song is an embodiment of everything that was township music then. It tells a sad story of poverty and depravity when blacks were confined in poorly built and overcrowded suburbs where murder, prostitution and every other social ills occurred unabated.
In a way, the old song is about today, about the problems we face in the ghetto where life is about sharing and carrying each other when the going gets tough. It is about the lives of its members who were born and bred in the ghetto during those dark years of segregation and inequitable sharing of the country’ resources.
It is about the Tutenkamen Band that sprung from the pains and aches of those times to soothe and breathe life into the broken souls of the African in Rhodesia in the 70s.
Filecheck tracked down, Christopher Chakauya ‘Chex’ Tavengwa and Hironimo Homo Ruzivo, two of the surviving members of the group who were there when it was formed and remained after the split that led to the formation of the New Tutenkamen.
Hironimo is now 60 while Chex is just over fifty. Both are still active in music. Chex is still trying to revive 2plu2 while Hironimo plays with the Cool Action Band.
According to the two, in the beginning was the band All Saints whose members were the late John Papas, Amos Chatyoka, ‘Chex’ Tavengwa, the late Elisha Josamu and Heronimo.
During those days they played mainly soul and some rhumba.
‘We were the best soul group at the time,’ Chex said adding that they used the late Kenneth Chogugudza’s instruments when they started.
After playing together for some time, the band started disbanding. First to leave was Elisha who went to Malawi where he joined another band. Amos was next after he had secured employment. Papas, who was with the air force then, also left.
‘This paralysed the band’s operations and we stopped playing,’ said the Mbare-born Chex.
Just as fate would have it, the rhumba outfit, OK Success split and its leader, the Zairean-born Joseph Ngoyi and Godfrey Musambika came looking for Chex. They had a set of instruments.
‘They told me about plans of starting a band and since I was seated at home, I agreed. I summoned Heronimo, Louis Mhlanga’s elder brother Carol, the late Noah Mbirimi, Jimmy Kanyemba, Godfrey Sinkolonko and the late Charles Chidavaenzi. Then there was Joseph and Godfrey and I. Tutenkamen was born.’
Soon after playing together, they won a contract to play at the Mushandirapamwe Hotel, Dombotombo in Marondera. They relocated to Marondera where they stayed at the hotel and played.
It was during the time that they recorded Itai Cent Cent and Torai Kapadza Muchirima, something that put them into the league of the Pied Pipers and Eye Q, the first local groups to record original songs in defiance of the odds stacked against the blacks during the time.
‘We had a contract to play for Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Dombotombo Marondera. When the Highfield Hotel was opened, we moved back to Harare and were the first group to play at the popular hotel which catered for Africans who were not allowed to be anywhere in the city centre after 7 p.m,’ explained Chex.
Just as usual when bands get popular, financial squabbles surface and splits occur. ‘Ngoyi claimed composition fees for all the songs including the ones he had not composed,’ alleged Heronimo. ‘He even falsified information to make him the composer of all the songs.
‘In fact, Ngoyi and Godfrey had cars, which they would use as taxis everyday before coming to play. In their absence, we continued to play but when they came they would make all sorts of demands. They did this because the instruments we used were theirs. This caused discomfort amongst us and the hotel management became aware of it,’ charged Heronimo.
‘Seeing our problems, the hotel bought us new instruments, gave us more money and uniforms,’ said Chex.
This put pressure on Ngoyi and Godfrey and led to their departure and the return of Elisha and John Papas. But Papas was to leave early when he went to join the late Simangaliso Tutani. Jethro Shasha replaced him. It was at this stage the group assumed the name New Tutenkamen.
‘As New Tutenkamen we recorded Jo’burg Bound which was composed by Elisha,’ remembered Chex.
Jo’burg Bound came at a time when a number of Zimbabwean youths were leaving for the liberation struggle and others were crossing into South Africa to work in the mines. They also released an eight-track album, I Wish You Were Mine on which is the single Mukadzi Wangu Akanyengwa naLuwizhi.
They had time to share the stage with the likes of the blind American singer Ray Charles and Percy Sledge, South African musicians Sipho ‘Hotsticks’ Mabuse, Ray Phiri as well as the Hurricanes.
Later, Homo and Carol were to leave after another financial disagreement with the hotel management. It was during this time that Moses Kabubi and a lady Maggie Mbuli joined the band.
Still the band did not stay long at Mushandirapamwe following endless squabbles.
‘We moved to Saratoga Nightclub at Machipisa and played there for a year. From Saratoga we went to the Kambuzuma Garden Party Hotel. Just then the war was heating up in the country.
‘During that time, there were intra-party fighting and in the black suburbs political parties had designated their areas of influence. Patrons stopped coming and our shows were affected greatly. The members started leaving one by one,’ said Chex.
Chex had to find a job with the National Railways of Zimbabwe in Harare where he worked for four years into independence.
Elisha approached me and said that we should form a band. I agreed and we started practising with a box guitar. When we were ready, I asked him what we should call the band and he said that since we were two, we should find two others and then call the band 2plus2,’ laughed Chex as he relived the moment.
The other two were in fact three members. These were the late Andrew Nzimbe and Sam Banana as well as Tendai Chinyani. Phillip Svosve also joined the group.
‘I then asked Elisha whether we were still 2plus2 and he would say, ‘Yes, two plus two is foifi,’ said Chex who recorded Joburg Bound for the second time.
As 2plus2, they released Masimba but death hit the band resulting in the limbo it is in now.
Now over 50, Chex still hopes that 2Plus2 will one day rise and play again.