Wednesday 21 September 2011
The day a woman dropped her pants while dancing with John Chibadura
I recall one Sunday in 1989 when Chibadura dragged a woman for a dance during his performance at Spaceman Bar in Glen Norah A. In an embarrassing moment (it’s not clear what happened) the woman’s black underwear fell.
The late John Chibadura used to perform afternoon shows in Glen Norah’s Spaceman Bar. Harare City Council bars have no designated space for live shows and revelers sit on concrete benches scattered around the bar.
The setup allowed Chibadura and his dancer, Manyowa (real name Bata Sinoio), to dance all over the place. Their afternoon shows were theatrical. Manyowa, dressed in a patched up khaki overall would beg for money.
Chibadura’s shows were popular with aging women.
I recall one Sunday during such show in 1989 when Chibadura dragged a woman for a dance. In an embarrassing moment (it’s not clear what happened) the woman’s black underwear fell.
I also recall the silence that fell in the bar. Even the music stopped and all eyes were on the woman who gathered her underwear and disappeared.
Ten years later, Chibadura died.
The music started and both Chibadura and Manyowa resumed dancing as if the brief stoppage was a bridge in their song.
John Chibadura came to Harare from the Darwendale Farming area shortly before independence in 1980; he sojourned in Dzivaresekwa together with Shepherd Chinyani.
At the time, Dzivaresekwa suburb was home to a number of young people who had migrated from the farms to seek jobs as waiters, cooks or gardeners in the close-by Mabelreign and Marlborough all-white suburbs.
The youths came here because most of their relatives stayed in the township that was known as Gillingham at the time.
With Chinyani, Chibadura who was known as Enock Chimukokoko at the time was part of a group that formed the Holy Brothers Band together with Sam Chikadzura, Fox Maluwa Mutika and Chinyani. This was the group that released the popular song Huri Hwese NaKatsande.
When the group disbanded Chibadura and Chinyani stayed behind to team up with the late Tineyi Chikupo in his Mother Band that produced the song Nguva Dzekuma 4.
Again, Chikupo left and the two found themselves playing with Ronnie Gatakata, Ephraim Joe, Never Moyo and Bata Sintirawo at a hotel in Mutoko. Because of the raging war and ill treatment by the hotelier, the group moved to Domboshawa where they signed a contract with Mverechena Hotel and assumed the name Mverechena Band.
Later the group changed its name to Sungura Boys when it moved to Harare where Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Highfields had offered them a contract.
At the time, Naison and Simon Chimbetu were at the hotel but had no instruments and backing band. They had the songs and could sing but they could not play any musical instruments.
Chibadura who could play the guitar like a possessed man became an attraction such that whenever he played, people would gather to marvel at the man who could badura (serenade) the guitar.
With the Sungura Boys, he did Upenyu Hwandinetsa, Kugarika Tange Nhamo, Mudzimu Wangu, 5000$ Kuroora, Sara Ugarike among others and when he left the group to form his own band, The Tembo Brothers he went on to score higher with a blend of reggae and sungura in Mudiwa Jennifer.
His combination with the dancer Manyowa was the right formulae for the type of music he played and he earned himself the name Mr Chitungwiza for being probably the first musician to buy a house in the sprawling high-density suburb.
He was also among the first Zimbabwean musicians to tour the United Kingdom where they would play before an all-white audience.
Mozambique in the Southern African region became a second home and whenever he toured the country, Chibadura was treated like a president but this was not the same when he fell ill and died in abject poverty in 1999.
With the death of John Chibadura, a year after two members of his group, the Tembo Brothers, the handful of Zimbabwean popular musicians who brought their country's music bouncing and jiving on to European stages in the Eighties is further reduced.
Chibadura was a true working-class entertainer. His job, unlike that of Zimbabwe's most famous musical ambassador, Thomas Mapfumo, whose political lyrics and messianic air gave him a strong intellectual feel, was to make people dance, and for much of his career he did this from a little stage in the beer garden of the hotel Nyamutamba in the popular suburb of Chitungwiza in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, where his band would start in the afternoon and play solidly through until 4am.
Chibadura was nicknamed "Mr Chitungwiza", after the suburb, which is heavily populated by musicians, and he never left his patch when he started to earn big money, although his house began to sprout extensions and an array of new cars outside.
He was born John Nyamukokoko - Chibadura was a nickname meaning roughly "the man who can do", or "the best" - to a couple of itinerant labourers from Mozambique in 1957. Though most of his life was spent in Zimbabwe, Mozambique regarded him, once he was famous, as a long-lost son and when in the country he would be ferried to concerts by the presidential helicopter.
Chibadura's mother died when he was five and he attended primary school while moving between the houses of different relatives. He left to work first as a goatherd, then as a tractor driver, finally progressing to lorry driver. During this time he learned to play electric guitar and then found employment at the end of the Seventies in two groups, the Holy Brothers and the Mother Band.
In 1982, he was recruited into the newly formed Sungura Boys, a group which rapidly became popular playing sungura music, a cantering rhythm which mixed East African styles with Zimbabwean jit jive. With his excellent guitar playing and dynamic stage dancing Chibadura rapidly became a key attraction of the group. In 1985 he left to form his own outfit, John Chibadura and the Tembo Brothers, taking two of the Sungura Boys with him.
The new group was immediately successful, Chibadura's charisma augmented by a flair for writing songs which described the lives and touched the imaginations of the ordinary people - miners, gardeners, street sweepers, lorry drivers - who flocked to buy his records. A great hit, "$5000" lamented the practice of fathers demanding excessive dowry prices for their daughters. In his first reggae song, "Zuva Rekufa Kwangu" ("On My Dying Day"), Chibadura begged to be allowed to see in his dreams how people who had known him would react to his death.
In 1988, Chibadura and his band visited the UK for the first time, and was immediately invited as a guest on Andy Kershaw's BBC Radio 1 show. He was to tour several more times over the following three years, and two British record releases, The Essential John Chibadura and More of the Essential John Chibadura, date from this period. He played successful dates last year in Liverpool and at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London.
Many musicians attended Chibadura's funeral. He was popular with those he employed, unlike many African bandleaders, who can be ruthless taskmasters. His colleagues remembered that his first expenditure on earning serious money had been new, fully paid-for equipment for the band, rather than rented borrowed gear, and higher wages.
John Nyamukokoko (John Chibadura), singer and guitarist: born Bindura, Rhodesia 17 February 1957; married (six children); died Harare 4 August 1999. - Philip Sweeney (The Independent)