Saturday 8 October 2011

Dedicated to helping other - Shepherd Chinyani says he taught Macheso bass guitar

Shepherd Chinyani still lives in Dzivaresekwa. He came to this sprawling town when it was called Gillingham and was home to garden boys, cooks and nannies working in the nearby white suburbs of Mabelreign and Malborough. This is the township where most musicians from the surrounding farms came to find their foothold in the music market.

One can count John Chibadura, Nicholas Zakaria, Alick Macheso, the Ngwenya brothers, the Chimbetus and many others.

I met Chinyani near Dzivaresekwa 2 High School in 2006, where he had gone to fix the strings of a guitar. One of his sons led me to him from his home at the township's edges.

We stood by the school wall for about two hours as he told me about most musicians who came to him for help.

Chinyani recalls, "We stayed in the same house with Enock Chumukokoko (John Chibadura) when he came from Darwendale farms.

I also received Alick Macheso when he came into town for the first time from Shamva farms. He was a rhythm guitarist, but I taught him to play bass when he arrived. I also played with Nicholas Zakaria when he was collected from Mazowe farms by Future Mukunda, our leader in the Holy Brothers Band."

I taught Macheso to play bass: Chinyani

Nothing much has changed for Shephered Chinyani since the late 70s when he accommodated and taught some of Zimbabwe's great names in the music arena today.

He still stays in the same Dzivaresekwa neighbourhood, where virtually everyone knows him. He is still the same unassuming man whose fight for stardom rages on.

He is still receiving young musicians whose minds and hearts are set on conquering the music world and making names for themselves.

"We stayed in the same house with Enock Chumukokoko (John Chibadura) when he came from Darwendale farms.

"I also received Alick Macheso when he came into town for the first time from Shamva farms. He was a rhythm guitarist, but I taught him to play bass when he came. I also played with Nicholas Zakaria when he was collected from Mazowe farms by Future Mukunda, our leader in the Holy Brothers Band," Chinyani reminisced yesterday.

This man's story has been told many times, but his life remains unchanged. Born in Seke Communal Lands 47 years ago, Chinyani, who started playing the banjo before graduating to a church guitar, came to Harare and stayed in the then Gillingham (now Dzivaresekwa), where he met Robson Kaitano, who taught him how to play the bass guitar.

Kaitano had just left the Green Mangoes Band, where he played with Zakaria while still in the Mazowe area.

Kaitano later became a member of the New Hard Spirits and is believed to be staying in Gweru. Afterwards, Chinyani teamed up with Mukunda, Chibadura, Sam Chikadzura and Fox Maluwa Mutika, all youths from his neighbourhood and formed the Holy Brothers Band.

This was the group that released the popular song Huri Hwese naKatsande that, however, did not bring in honey and milk.

The group's success made Mukunda believe he could go alone and have all the money.

So when the group wanted to record its second single, Mukunda is alleged to have become evasive.

"He 'avoided us and did not tell us when the group was supposed to record the single. Instead, he enlisted the help of other youths so that he could record without us," said Chinyani.

Just then, because of the success of their debut single, the group found a sponsor who put in instruments and transport, something that made Mukunda wish to stay. But sooner, Mukunda urged the members to leave because he did not work well with the sponsor. "John and I decided to stay behind, and the sponsor brought us Tineyi Chikupo, who had just left Mawonera Superstars.

"The band assumed the name The Mother Band afterwards and released the song Nguva Dzekuma 4." But another row started between our sponsor and the band manager resulting in Tineyi leaving." Again, the sponsor brought us the Sungura Boys, whose leader was Ronnie Gatakata and members were Ephraim Joe, Never Moyo and Bata Sintirawo," explained Chinyani.

The group secured a contract with Mutoko Hotel in 1981, but Chinyani had to return to Harare for his sister's funeral.

Upon his return to Mutoko, he found the group gone to Domboshawa, where it became the resident band at Mverechena Hotel.

He followed Domboshawa but was told he no longer had any place in the group. His long-time friend Chibadura remained with the group, becoming the lead vocalist.

When Chinyani returned to Harare, he met Mukunda, who asked him to revive the Holy Brothers Band.

"We revived the Holy Brothers Band, this time with Zakaria and Chris Ali. Because 1 knew Mukunda, 1 urged others to compose and rehearse our songs whenever he was absent.

"Just like the first time, Mukunda tried to evade us and record with a new outfit. But Tymon Mabaleka, our producer, fixed a studio date for us without him.

"But Mukunda heard about it, and he stormed into the studio and disrupted the recording and were then given another date. We, however, had to make our way back home on foot," laughed Chinyani.

The name Vhuka Boys was thought of when walking back to Dzivaresekwa. It was meant to show Mukunda that the youngsters were determined to rise whatever happened.

As fate would have it, Ali, the group's drummer, was discouraged by his parents from playing music when they had one day left for recording. Again, fate moved in and brought Edias "Solo" Makore.

"I met Makore when I was walking about in Dzivaresekwa. His cousin brought him to me and

said they were coming to my home since Makore was a musician who had just come into town from Mvurwi.

"I took him in and tried his hand. It worked, and we went to record our single Amai Majaira, whose flip side was Vasikana Vemazuva Ano.

"The name Solo came about because Makore enjoyed playing Devera Ngwena's song Solo naMutsai and the name just stuck," added Chinyani.

They had other singles, such as Selina, Monica Sugar Mutape and Pasi Rapinduka.

When they were riding high, the late Cephas Chimenye, a radio announcer, sponsored the group that had been rejoined by Chikupo and a lady named Maggie Gweshe, now Zakaria's wife.

"Problems started again. This time it was because of the relationship between Zakaria and Gweshe. I also realised there were many of us, and I left. But a few months later, I was taken ill.

"When I recovered, I met Seletino Dzawo, who I knew about my musical career. He told me he had a cousin who could play the guitar well but was in Shamva.

"Indeed, he went and brought Macheso ill in 1986. Together we revived the Vhuka Boys and recorded 'songs such as Chenjera Ngozi and Tasununguka.

"Once again, Chimenye asked us to play alongside Zakaria and his boys. We agreed and toured Gokwe and Mutare, where our van broke down.

"I accompanied the driver to arrange for the repair of the van and left Zakaria with Macheso. I think the two sealed a deal to play together during my absence because when we returned, Macheso left a letter informing me that he had gone to try his hand elsewhere and that I should not worry much.

"He also said he would return if things failed to work," explained Chinyani, adding that he took it with a heavy heart. Macheso joined Zakaria in Maramba, Epworth, where they formed the Khiama Boys.

Macheso's departure did not kill the Vhuka Boys, which is still alive and well today, but like everything else in the music industry, struggling.

Since then, Chinyani has helped Ngwenya Brothers, who came to him after they had been stopped from recording because they could not arrange their instruments well.

Then came R&K African Sounds, whom Chinyani I described as "bus conductors" who passed through his hands.

Several musicians from Dzivaresekwa have or are working with Chinyani.

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