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.

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