Daram Karanga is just but one of many talented Zim musicians who will die and be forgotten despite setting up musical milestones which shaped up the music industry. But just because he did not front for the groups - the Great Sounds, the Springfields, the Chicken Runn Band, the OK Success, Ocean City and Huchi band - Daram will be a forgotten page in the history of our music - Wonder Guchu.
Daram Karanga is now an old man who has been there when music started happening in Zimbabwe but being a trumpeter very few people know him as one of the earliest musicians whose contribution to the local music scene is priceless.
He is one of the founding members of the original Great Sounds together with Elias Banda in Highfield in the late 60s and released the famous Anopenga Anewaya single.
Much later he put together the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band where he played with Thomas Mapfumo whom he encouraged to sing traditional songs.
He is also the man behind James Chimombe’s soothing trumpet sounds that became a Chimombe trade mark.They were absorbed into the Ocean City band when the late Safirio Madzikatire left. After the split from the Ocean City Band, together with James Chimombe, he named their new group The Huchi Band.
After Chimombe’s death, Karanga was one of those who backed the late Solomon Skuza on his last three albums.
I met him by sheer coicedence when they were playing at one of Harare’s forgotten shopping centres – Chans in Hatfield near Epworth.
It was the typical Chimombe trumpet that held me spellbound and had to wait for him to go for break so that I could get the story.
We sat on the dusty verandah of the shop, with the group's old equipment behind us. Epworth sprawled before us.
‘My father was a police officer and we used to stay at Morris Depot. My elder brother Joseph played in the police band together with Augustine Musarurwa who composed Skokiaan. So I used to hear them performing and admired it all."
When his father retired, the family moved to Highfield where he teamed up with other youths among them Greenford Jangano who later founded the Harare Mambos, the late Patrick Chirumanzu and Reuben Mombeshora to form the Locolads Band.
Their first song, Nhasi Nhasi, was recorded by the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation.
But as a loose grouping, the Locolads did not last long and Karanga moved on to join the Springfields where he met Mapfumo.
After a short stint with the Springfields, Karanga, together with Elias Banda, John Muyambo and Moses Bekilanga formed the Great Sounds with the support of radio personalities Dominic Mandizha and Godwin Mbofana.
‘Dominic had heard us playing and he bought instruments and helped us win a contract with Mutanga Night Club in Highfield where Paul Mkondo was the manager.
‘We met Safirio Madzikatire at Mutanga and we invited him to join us. During those days he was just starting to combine sketches and music. But he did not stay long with us.
The Great Sounds recorded the popular hit Anopenga Anewaya.
‘In the song we used Shona lyrics on Zairean rumba because during those days rumba was the most loved and best selling music. Record companies looked for bands that played rumba,’ explained Karanga.
A Zairean rumba group, the OK Success was in the country and was based at Simba Hotel that later became Federal Hotel down-town Harare along Mbuya Nehanda Street. The OK Success was led by Andrew Ngoyi and had Joseph Musambika as one of its members.
‘Since I was one of the best trumpeters, Ngoyi approached me and offered me more money. I agreed and left the Great Sounds,’ he said, adding that he later travelled to Malawi with the group when the contract at Simba Hotel expired. He stayed in malalwi for a year.
‘One of my ardent fans and a saxophonist, John Banda’s wife who was an American invited me to America. It was at the height of the Zimbabwean war of Liberation and I could not leave before telling my parents. So I left Malawi and came back to Zimbabwe,' he explained.
When he arrived back in the the then Rhodesia, his father had found a job as a security officer at Mangula Mine.
‘I then proceeded to Mangula where I met Lovemore Nyabeza whom I had grown up with at Morris Depot since his father was also a policeman. Nyabeza was a musician and also played in the mine’s football team.
‘The first thing he told me was that the mine had bought some instruments and was looking for musicians. I told him about my American journey and he laughed at me saying there was no need to go," recalled Karanga.
They then went to the boss’ offices where Nyabeza introduced Karanga as a professional musician. A deal was then struck. It was resolved that the mine should employ all the band members and give them accommodation. Daram was tasked to hunt for members.
‘I was driven to Harare where I first met Thomas [Mapfumo] in Highfield. I told him about the band and the job at the mine and he agreed to be part of it.
‘Thomas called Joshua Hlomayi Dube (Aaron Chiundura Moyo's cousin) and I brought in Robert Nekati. Nyabeza was already at the mine and since there was no drummer, Thomas opted to be one," he said.
At the mine, Karanga worked with Nyabeza and Nekati at the chicken runn and Mapfumo was tasked to play with kids at the kindergarten. While all the members were there, the band still had no name.
‘Mr Walker, one of the mine bosses asked us what we wanted to be called. When we told him that we had nothing on our minds, he then said since we were going to work in the chicken runn, we can just call the group Chicken Runn band," he explained.
The band like many others at the time played covers with Mapfumo doing the vocals. Then they heard about Osibisa that had taken the country by storm despite singing in their mother tongue.
‘I suggested to Thomas that we should play our own traditional songs just like Osibisa and he agreed. After a few shows, people loved the music and our popularity spread across to Harare and many other places.
‘We were invited to perform at a festival at the Skyline Motel organised by Teal Record as part of their talent scouting. On that day, we came dressed in traditional attire. We did not disappoint and Chris Matema signed us on. We went on to release our fisrt traditional song Hoyo Murembo," he further said.
Later Mapfumo had problems with the mine management and left for Harare. The others refused to leave with him.
‘He wanted us to leave with him but by then we had married so he left a very disappointed man. His place was taken over by Patrick Mukwamba.
‘Nyabeza also left after jealousy people had complained about his involvement in music, soccer and the job. Patrick Kabanda who became Devera Ngwena’s drummer replaced Nyabeza.’
But those who remained at the mine did not stay long when a lucrative offer came their way. Chitungwiza Town Council had taken shape and they wanted a band to use the instruments they had bought. They offered employment and accommodation to the members.
‘When I told the others, they readily agreed and we relocated to Chitungwiza where we used to play at Chikomo bar until 1980 when changes came. The new management was not interested in the band and they donated the instruments which were shared among the members," he also said.
At the time, James Chimombe was working for the Chitungwiza Town Council and had just left the OK Success. It was there where Karanga met Chimombe, who would visit his house regularly.
One day, Chimombe spoke about forming a band and Karanga agreed to the idea.
‘Since i knew Paul Mkondo who owned Hideout 99 in Lochnivar, I approached him with the idea and he too agreed to assist. At the time Safirio had had problems with his band, the Ocean City he had formed after leaving the Great Sounds. The remaining members – Phillip Svosve, Nicholas Himwala and Elias Bokosha - were looking for members. They absorbed us and Chimombe became the lead vocalist and main composer. But later Svosve and others demanded that they should also be allowed to compose and sing their songs. James refused to let them and they left. We them formed Huchi Band since James had acquired his own instruments,’ Karanga said.
Karanga had the opportunity of composing Jikinya and Botswana as well as some chart topping songs which made Chimombe very popular.
After Chimombe’s death in 1989, Tymon Mabaleka brought Solomon Skuza to lead the band and they recorded Love and Scandals and two others.