Thursday 22 September 2011

Cool Action band

When experienced old musicians come together to perform, it's like small streams carrying water from secret springs to a dark deep pool. Listening to the music they play becomes a feet dipping exercise into the cool waters. I stumbled on such a group made up of experienced old musicians who had played in different groups as they charted the country's musical future - Wonder Guchu

At first sight, a bunch of old men playing music on a verandah of a bar at Chans Shopping Center near Epworth about twelve kilometres from Harare, looks like a Sunday rag-tag band out to enjoy themselves and to entertain revellers.
There are so many misleading factors. One, they are all old - around 50. Two, most of them play while seated except the tall gangling trumpeter. And three, their instruments are old and worn out.
But wait and listen to the sounds that are coming from the verandah. If you do not dance, then you certainly find somewhere to sit, buy a drink and while away time with them.
They are old yes, and they use old worn out instruments but they are amongst Zimbabwe's greatest musicians who have been there when the local brand of music was being molded.
They were there when the late Peter Kanyowa led the Epworth Theatrical Stratas into a big thing. They were also there when the late Augustine Musarurwa and his Bulawayo Cold Storage Sweet Rhythm Band released the world famous Skokiaan.
And after all these years, Reuben Mombeshora (59), trumpeter Daram Karanga (60), Andrew Adams (45), guitarist Ignatius Nyamayaro (60), Heronimo Homo (57) and Chains Asani (57) gathered what had left of their musical careers, heaped them onto this thing that they now call Cool Action Band.
They have released an album, Sarah.
Reuben Mombeshora, former businessman who owns the Cool Action band is a great musician in his own right.
He started as a nomadic solo guitarist who played to raise school fees after his father's death.
'When my father died, I had no one to pay my school and I had to leave my Sub A lessons to play the guitar,' he explained.
In 1960, he moved to Highfield from Epworth. There he met Greenford Jangano of Harare Mambos fame. Together with Daram Karanga, Ashton and Andrew Yuda as well as Frank and Charles Chimumanzi, they formed the Smugglers Band.
'In fact, most of us who ventured into music during those days were inspired by the likes of the Epworth Theatrical Stratas and Augustine Musarurwa,' Reuben who late married Kanyowa's daughter said.
Ignatius Nyamayaro's musical background dates back to the early 50s when he was in Standard 4 (Grade 6) in Highfield.
His carpentry teacher inspired him by letting him and his classmates play his guitar. Later they fashioned their own guitar which they kept in a cupboard at school and which they took turns to play during break time.
Some of his classmates included Michael and Tim Makaya who is now with the jazz outfit Jabavu.
Later, he joined the Harare Mambos and played with them for five years when they were the resident band at Hotel Elizabeth in 1972.
When he left them, he joined the St Pauls' Band at the Skyline Motel. Both St Paul's Band and Skyline Motel which is just outside Harare along Masvingo Road were very popular during those days.
Shungu Band was his next stop. There he met and played with Noah Matselele, Tim Makaya, nelson Mapako and Bruce Sasikana.
'We were the first group to play at the now defunct Kambuzuma Hotel and earned it the name Garden Party,' explained Ignatius.
After spending 12 years at the Garden party, the band disbanded and he found himself playing as a session musician until he met by chance, the Cool Action Band.
'Their bass guitarist had not turned up for a show at Captain Dete Restaurant at the National Railways of Zimbabwe Harare main station. I happened to have been there and I asked if I could stand in for them and here I am,' he said.
The third member of the band, Daram Karanga is one who can claim to have seen much of the action in the music industry.
He hit it off with the Locolads together with Reuben Mombeshora, Greenford Jangano and Patrick Chimamuna years back. Then he moved to the Springfields where he met for the first time, Thomas Mapfumo.
From the Springfields, he teamed up with Eliah Banda and John Mlambo (Chibhodhoro) and formed the Great Sounds in the mid 60s.
In 1968, he left the Great Sounds for the Zaire rhumba outfit, OK Success with which he travelled and played in Malawi for about a year.
On his return, he founded the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band in Mhangura. He co-opted Thomas Mapfumo. After the disbandment of the band, he met the late James Chimombe and took over the Ocean City Band after the late Safirio Madzikatire had left. There he met Phillip Svosve.
When monetary problems rocked the band, together with James, they formed the Huchi Band which later backed the late Solomon Skuza.
Heronimo Homo too has great musical past. Having started off with the Mbare based St Peter's Band where he played with Chex Tawengwa, the late John Papas and Amos Chatyoka. Later, they formed their own outfit, the Saints Band which morphed into the legendary Tutankhamen when Andrew Ngoyi and one other member of the OK Success came to join them.
The original Tutankhamen lineup had Joseph Musambika, Carol Mhlanga, Godfrey Sinkolonko and the late Elisha Josamu.
This was the group that release Itai cent Cent and the famous Jo-burg Bound.
At 45, Andrew Adams is the group's youngest. His musical past too is not long. He was a member of the revived Smugglers in 1973. Then he joined the Wild Dragons in 1975 where he played with Rise Kagona, Shack Kangwena and Washington Kavhai. The late Biggie Tembo had not yet turned up on the scene. When the Wild Dragons morphed into the Bhundu Boys in 1980, he left.
Chains Asani is one who has rubbed shoulders with likes of the late Safirio and Fanyana Dube, played with the Acid Band and helped the energetic Boggie dancer, Tendai Chidarikire.
The band has played at the Jazz 105.
In a way, they are the Harare version of the Bulawayo Cool Crooners Band.

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