Tuesday 20 September 2011

He sang about bonus but there is no bonus for Patrick Mukwamba

Patrick Mukwamba's career is bigger than the late Four Brothers frontman Marshall Munhumumwe's and indeed a whole lot others. He is one musician who churns out golden hits and those who grew up during his time know about Usanyare Basa Raunoita, Vambozha Vauya and Wapenga Nayo Bonus (Jonas). These are classics by any standards but Mukwamba's story despite all this is just like any other Zimbabwean musician's story - Wonder Guchu

I met Patrick Mukwamba once after I had spoken to him on the phone for the first in June 2004.
He was then running a carpentry shop in Rusape’s Vengere Township where he had resigned after music had failed to help much.
At the time, Mukwamba said he was still willing to return only if he finds a manager, ‘I still want to play if there is a music promoter or manager interested in securing my services.’
Mukwamba played with the Four Brothers and the Four Seasons which he made famous by some of songs which are still being enjoyed today.
One of such song is Wapenga Nayo Bonus done with the backing of the Four Brothers.
Then there is Usanyare Basa Raunoita, Tenga Gumbeze, Zvinonaka Zvinodhura, Dai Ndiri Shiri, Vambozha Vauya and Sara Mwana Wandaida.
The major problem over all the years was that Mukwamba never owned any musical instruments. He then recorded most of the songs with the backing of the Four Brothers who were resident at Machipisa Nightclub in the 80s. Mukwamba could not join the group during live performances because the club wanted only four people. As a result, the late Four Brothers frontman Marshall Munhumumwe had to sing Mukwamba’s songs during live performances.
‘At one time, one member of the group whom I cannot name suggested that the band should find other venues to play in order to accommodate me. A show was then organised where I was supposed to perform. However, other members of the group refused to accommodate me,’ said Mukwamba.
They told me the member who had come up with the suggesteion that he would pay me from his pocket.
Without instruments, Mukwamba found himself on the road again in search of a backing group. Unfortunately all the groups that offered to back him were not helpful. He then retired.
At the time of the interview, Mukwamba said he had a number of songs that needed to be recorded.
‘Harare will be the ideal place to record the songs since most of the session musicians are based there. I am willing to revive my career but cannot afford to regularly travel from Rusape to Harare to practice.’
He said he tried it once in 2000 when he joined the Seasons Band at George Hotel in Avondale but it proved costly and he had to return home and shelve his 34 year old career.
Mukwamba started as a pop musician in Mbare in the late 60s after teaming up with the likes of Robson Nyanzira, Robert Nekati, Jackson Mangwiro and the late Abdul Musa.
They called themselves the Carnations. During those days, Mukwamba sang copyright songs done by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The group became so popular that in 1967, the owner of the New Gift Hotel in sakubva, Mutare contracted them to replace another group, the Pop Settlers.
He then moved to Mutare, where they assumed the name the New Pop Settlers. In 1970, they were contracted to promote Tanganda Tea and they changed their name to Tanganda Tycoons but they still played at the New Gift Hotel where they met the late comedian Safiro Madzikatire.
Safirio then had a group of female dancers known as the Farai Sisters and he worked with Susan Chenjerai and Earnest Kachingwe.
Impressed by the band’s play, Safirio struck a deal with the owner of the hotel so that he could tour with the backing of the New Pop Settlers using the hotel’s transport and equipment.
The group then moved back to Harare using the name Tanganda Tycoons and the Farai Sisters. In 1971, Safirio had a misunderstanding with the hotel management and he left an intact group that had to go back to Mutare and the tour Mozambique for 10 days.
On its return, the group was loaned to Mverechena Hotel in Domboshava where it played for about 18 months. New Gift Hotel then sold the equipment to Mverechena Hotel in 1972.
Under new management working conditions became difficult and Mukwamba left for Harare where he joined a resident band at the now defunct but once popular nightclub Mutanga.
After six months with the group, Mukwamba relocated to Victoria Falls in 1973 where he joined the Rollicking Band that was based at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Fed up with the falls, he returned to Harare in 1975 where he joined Harare Drive that was resident at Skyline Motel. After three months, he left for Mhangura Mine to replace Thomas Mapfumo as the lead vocalist for the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band. Nekati with who he was in Mbare was already a member of the group.
In order to fit into the gap left by Mapfumo, Mukwamba had to abandon pop music and adopt traditional songs. His first song was Chemutengure that was released in 1976. At the time, the group was disbanding slowly with Nekati becoming the first to leave for Harare where he got a contract with the Chitungwiza Municipality to play at Chikomo Bar. Later, Mukwamba and Joshua Hlomayi followed Nekati to Harare.
While playing at the bar, the trio became very popular when people found out that Mukwamba was the original singer of a version that was being played on radio then. When Chitungwiza Council decided to sell off its instrumnents, they opted to buy them on a rent-to-buy in 1981. The instruments allowed them to tour the country for a few months.
When a leadership crisis hit the group, they decided to sell off the equipment. Mukwamba trekked to the Paul Mkondo owned Hideout 99 in Lochnivar where an outfit known as the Seasons was resident.
He recorded Tenga Gumbeze with the group’s backing in 1982. He could not complete recording Zvinonaka Zvinodhura when the group had an argument with Mkondo.
Left with an unfinished product, Mukwamba approached the Four Brothers who agreed to help him finish recording the songs. When the Four Brothers saw the success of his songs, they encouraged Mukwamba to write more songs.
The relationship led to the release of other popular songs such as Dai Ndiri Shiri, Vambozha Vauya, Sara Mwana Wandaida and his only album, Tinosangana Ikoko.
But following unfair working conditions, Mukwamba once again joined the Seasons Band that was then based at Chikomo Beer Hall.
This shortlived reunion resulted in the release of Usanyare Basa Raunoita. Mukwamba put together a group of session musicians who later called themselves Band Mukwasha to record Zvemadzimai in 1986. But with no instruments to keep them going, the band did not last.
And Mukwamba left for Mutare where he bought woodcarvings for sale in Harare. Eventually, he acquired his own machine which he uses to make carvings that he sells.
A short break came when the Seasons Band recalled him in 1989 when they had acquired some instruments. During that time, Mukwamba recorded Nhamo Yekufambira Chikwereti

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