Sunday 22 January 2012

Rusike Brothers pacesetters

I tried Brian Rusike for an interview on the Rusike Brothers. I called him mid-morning. He was angry. He had nothing to say. I followed up on Kelly's number through the Book Café. Kelly could not talk either. But he referred me to Tawanda and Abby. Tawanda was working for a fresh fruit company in Graniteside then. After a painstaking search, I finally met him around 4 pm. He still spotted the famous 'perm', which made the Rusike Brothers distinct. Abby had already briefed him about the meeting. So we sat in his car as he narrated how they became a household name. After meeting Tawanda, I then engaged Abby on the phone for his side.

It is not every day that one meets a group that maintains a clean image in an environment where controversy is the order of the day, a group that, despite the vast talents of its members, opts to play music for leisure when others are dying to hog the limelight and a group that performs at selected functions and fundraising gigs only.

If one is to meet such a group, it has to be the Rusike Brothers, once referred to as the Zimbabwean version of the Jackson Five.

Although Tawanda, the elder of the Rusike Brothers, was not keen on any comparisons, there were two similarities: both were groups of five brothers managed by their fathers.

While the Jackson Five have since gone separate ways, with Michael courting attention for his music and weird lifestyle, the Rusike are still together – three of them, to be precise – and are leading normal lives untainted by the fame brought by the entertainment industry.

'Our clean image has something to do with our upbringing. We are Christians,' said Tawanda.

Another member, Abby, agreed, 'We were not exposed to drinking alcohol because our father was strict.'

The Rusike Brothers started small as a family act on the Copperbelt in Zambia in the 70s. The outfit then had Tawanda, Phillip and Abby. They became five when their twin brothers Collin and Kelly joined them.

'We started at school where we took part in choirs and dramas and at church,' said Tawanda.

Their father, Abiathar, was a son of a Methodist reverend, Mathew Rusike, who founded the Rusike Children's Home in Harare. He was a journalist who fled the country in 1963 and settled in Zambia.

'The band's formation was easy because we grew up listening to the same type of music,' explained Tawanda.

Their inspiration came from their father, a Boogie Woogie Songs Stars member, a township outfit that played in the early 60s in Southern Rhodesia.

Their mother, Janet, was a member of the Methodist Church choir. In fact, music runs in the family since their cousin, the legendary Brian, has been a face of Zimbabwean music for years playing for Pied Pipers and Talking Drums.

The Rusikes played disco music which was the dominant beat at the time. They did not compose any music with local flavour, though.

'It was not by design that we sought to play music that can be described as elite. We simply filled in a niche, a vacuum on the local music scene.

'There are other guys who can compose sungura music. Talk of guys like Alick Macheso and others. We had our influences and decided to stick to a particular beat,' said Tawanda.

Their first recording was Saturday Night, a massive hit that brewed some storms in the region. It was recorded in Zambia in 1979.

The success of their single saw them sharing the stage with US musician Taj Mahal during his Zambian tour. At independence, they returned home and got stuck in a working relationship with Steve Roskilly and Martin Norris, who owned Shed Studios in Harare. They reissued Saturday Night and then did another single – Heartache.

In the mid-80s, Andy Brown, Temba Gumbo and Victor Duarte joined the group that toured the country.

The Rusikes became a trade name such that most adverts featured them. One such advert was about a brand of mealie meal that had the phrase 'everybody sadza'.

Songbird Rozalla Miller, born in Zambia, joined the group when she returned home in 1985. Her chart-topping song Party Nights and Forever was written by the Rusikes. This relationship lasted until 1989, when Rozalla left for England.

Having made themselves a household name, the Rusikes had one of their songs, Club Soca, featured in a locally produced movie, Consequences.

Then it was time to experiment with sound and the Rhythm of our Hearts, an autobiographical piece was produced. The album relied heavily on the Zim mbira rhythm and guitar riffs that blended well with the Western beat. English lyrics backed by Shona, Zulu and Swahili chants give it a perfect balance.

Off that album is a rendition of Cecilia, initially done by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel when they performed as a team in the late 60s.

Branding their style of music, and heartbeat dance, the brothers embarked on a tour of the UK, where they played in clubs and halls such as the Africa Centre, Bass Clef, the Banana Tree and Pegasus.

They also worked with one of Europe's best recording studios, the Red Bus Studios, which made George and Culture, Five Star, Right Said Fred, and many others famous internationally.

In 1995 they were part of the Aids awareness programme, which resulted in the recording of the single titled song from the Heart.

They then spent a few years working with up-and-coming artists and touring countries in the region. They shared the stage with UB40, Dr Alban, Lucky Dube and PJ Powers.

'We made enough money to enable us to live comfortably,' Abby said. 'But when we started getting into relationships, we had to slow down.'

He said the family always came first, hence the need to spend quality time with their loved ones while keeping their music alive through performances occasionally at selected private and corporate functions.

It was only in 2003 that they travelled to Zambia at the invitation of the cancer association and performed a series of fundraising gigs.

Today there are three brothers left in the band. Colin has gone overseas, while Kelly, who has had a passion for jazz, now plays with Jazz Invitation.

'Kelly left because we had a different taste of music. There is nothing much to it,' said Abby.

Shingisai Suluma inspired by illness

I learnt that Shingisai Suluma had been condemned to death by her doctor and when she got off the claws of death, she penned all the songs on the album Tatenda Taona.
“I wrote the songs on the album after coming from hospital,” she told me, “The song Tatenda Taona is basically about my gratitude. I am saying we have seen your power and we are grateful.”

Shingisai Suluma was accompanied by her husband, Steven, when she came for the interview in October 2005. Just then her album Tatenda Taona released in 2004 had peaked at number one on the radio charts where it held on for 20 long weeks.
Tatenda Taona was her sixth album after Zvanaka (1995), Huya Ishe Jesu (1998), Mumaoko (2000), Nokuti Wakanaka (2002) and Fara Zvakadaro (2003).
Both Shingisai and Steven are soft-spoken. We sat in the Herald’s conference room, a big cold room where editorial meetings are held.

Below is the interview:

There is something universal with music, love, pain, laughter and death.
When music is played in a foreign language, it arouses interest in people who do not understand a single word of the language. That is the same with emotions when two people from different cultures or races meet. That too is the same with pain – everybody feels it.
People weep when they lose their loved ones. They all laugh when something humorous is said and they all tap their feet or nod their heads when a gospel track is played.
While Zimbabweans may not know what inspired Shingisai Suluma to produce her latest album, Tatenda Taona, it is clear from the response the album is getting that they feel the same way she felt when she sat down to write the songs.
“I wrote the songs on the album after coming out of hospital where doctors had condemned me to death. But God raised me from the dead and gave my life back to me.
“Most of the songs on the album are, apart from thanking God, celebrating my decade off making music. I was passionate when I wrote all the songs on the album,” she said.
For Shingisai making an album is not a one-day affair, “It takes a lot of time, commitment, creativity, personality and individuality to make a quality album. For me, it means thorough preparations which start with writing songs. I think my style of music makes me appear mature. It is slow and infectious.
“When compared with others, my style is similar to country music while others play gospel linked to sungura or kwasa kwasa,” she explained.
She said her music is original because she composes it unlike others who are still stuck in borrowing from hymns and dirges.
“Other gospel artists are still borrowing from hymns and dirges but my strength comes from my originality and creativity. I also believe that sticking to one album per year pays,” she further said.
Her musical career started in earnest in England in the early 90s where she had gone to study for BA Honors in Art and Design.
“Although I come from a musical family – my parents used to sing in the church choir – I was not interested in music when I was forced to sing in the choir.
“In England, friends whom I sang in the choir with recognised my talents and encouraged me to take up music full time. I did and recorded the album Zvanaka while I was at college. It was not popular probably because of poor marketing,” she said.
When she returned to Zimbabwe, Shingisai did not give up, instead she formed the 16 member Joy Street Choir to help her revive the England dream.
Together with her husband, who engineers, produces and shots her videos, she started slowly to climb the musical ladder.
“It was not easy when I did my second album Huya Ishe Jesu since we had to record it elsewhere and find other people to do everything for us.
“Record companies had no confidence in us and as such were not interested. It was only after the success of Mumaoko that they started showing interest and the desire to work with us,” she remembered.
The popular track Mirira Magwanani is taken off the album Mumaoko.
Today, Shingisai is lucky to have a studio in her home where she does all her recording as well as help others to realise their dreams.
Shingisai was born into a musical home. Her father was a pastor. By the age of eight she had already joined her family singing in church.
By the time she turned seventeen Shingisai was leading the church choir in praise and worship. She knew she was called to be a worshipper. With her two sisters Tutsirayi and Nyasha they formed an acapella trio and performed at several concerts and church functions.
Shingisai recorded her first album in England where she was studying for her first degree, in 1995. That marked the beginning of greater things to come.
Shingisai married Stephen Suluma who is her music director and producer. God has blessed them with two daughters Tashinga and Tiara. Tashinga loves to play the keyboard. By the age of 7 she was performing at school and church. Tiara has already started singing praise to God.

Shingisai Suluma, now one of Zimbabwe's top gospel singers, admits it all may never have happened without the persistance of her parents. On a tour of the United Kingdom, her first trip to the country after 14 years, the star speaks to New about her reluctant rise to stardom. This is The Truth About: Shingisai Suluma

Born: February 28, 1971

Home Town: Born in Gweru but from Mutasa, Manicaland
Marital Status & Children: Married to Stephen Suluma with two children Tashinga, 11 and Tiara, 5
It has been said that you are a born performer. What got you hooked on music so early on in your life?
My parents were musically-inclined, they both sang in church. My sister and I would find ourselves also being made to sing. When you are from a musical family, they want you to follow that and we found ourselves doing hours and hours of rehearsals at home, and singing in church on Sunday whether we liked it or not. I was around six or seven years when I would get up and sing in church. Now, seeing what music has done for me, I am thankful and appreciative of my parents’ persistence.
Did it cross your mind back then that you would grow to become the superstar gospel singer you are today?
I never imagined it! The idea of recording music really never crossed my mind until I arrived in England in 1991 for my university studies [Art and Design BA Hons]. It was through the encouragement and insistence of friends that I recorded my first album Zvanaka in 1995.

Your husband is your current producer. When did you start working with him?
He did not come on until the second album. He worked with me on the second CD Huyai Ishe Jesu, and we have gone on to record seven albums in total, including the latest Ndewake which we are launching on the UK tour.

You are currently based in the United States. What took you there?

I left Zimbabwe in September last year because I had projects in China where I taught English for three months. My husband had organised further studies [Masters in Divinity] in the United States so when I finished in China I joined him. I’m also beginning studies for a Masters in Marriage and Family Counselling next year.

How much song writing do you do?

My husband and I do the song writing, individually or jointly. Sometimes I come up with the tune, but I must say he does most of the writing, he has the biggest talent. It’s easy for him because he plays the instruments.

What’s your favourite musical instrument?

I have tried the guitar but found it very difficult, not least because I love my nails and so pulling strings presents problems. I have recently been playing mbira – which also tests my nails but I’m better at it. We want to add mbira to give our music a traditional Zimbabwean flavour for our American audience.

Which Zimbabwean musicians to you look up to?

It’s got to be strictly a woman! Before I started singing, I used to look up to Mai Wutawunashe, and I also admired Olivia Charamba and wanted to be at her level. I have also learnt some things from Fungisai [Zvakavapano].

Do you remember your first show?

It was on the first week I arrived back in Zimbabwe in 1996. I was invited by the late Brian Sibalo who had got a copy of my first album and wanted me to come on as a support act at the Sheraton Hotel [now Rainbow Towers]. It went well although I was nervous to sing for the first time before a big audience. It was overwhelming.

What’s the nicest thing ever said to you by a fan?

I get a lot of people saying my music has uplifted them to be better Christians, and God has been speaking to them through our music. We use the word of God to write our music, so if through the music we help others to be better Christians, then we have done our job.

Have you ever been bitten by an animal?

Never, but I exercise caution around dogs. I try to like them which probably has spared me a biting.

What are you most afraid of?

Mosquitoes! I hate mosquito bites. I think I have been stung by mosquitoes more than any other person I know. I don’t know why they come after me, I wish someone can tell me. I seem to be a favourite of mosquitoes. My father suggested I must swallow mhiripiri (chilli) but that’s an unproven theory I suspect.

What was your worst job ever?

When I was a student in England I worked at an old people’s home. I was on a scholarship but I was required to pay my way around in living costs and that was about the only job I could do without a qualification. That’s got to be the worst.

You worked as a teacher when you returned to Zimbabwe from England?

Yes, I taught art and design at three different schools in the late 90s and after 2000 -- Oriel Girls High, Alan Wilson Boys High and Eaglesville Secondary School. The salaries were ok then, but things were changing until they finally became unbearable with the economic and political developments.

What’s the scariest thing you have ever done?

Rowing in a small boat on Lake Chivero. I can swim but I was extremely frightened … there was something just dangerous about it.

If President Robert Mugabe was to ask for a single piece of advice from you, what would you tell him?

I would tell him that if you love the Lord, and if you serve the Lord, then you will have eternal life.

What was the last book you read?

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.

How do you start your week?

I go on my Facebook and e-mail to respond to e-mails. I also plan rehearsals with my group and as a mother and wife, I have to do some house work and prepare the kids for school. It’s hectic.

Who would you most like to meet – dead or alive?

Cece Winans and Shirley Caesar -- two musicians that really inspired me.

In your opinion, what’s the best song ever recorded?

Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, but then he did a lot of amazing songs. Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You comes close, I want my voice to be like hers!
Which song from your eight albums do you like the most?
I would say Nanhasi and Mirira Mangwanani were well received by the public and you somehow find yourself leaning towards saying there must be something special there. Personally, Ndopaanouya and Zvaachakuitira (Tatenda Taona) are both songs that speak directly to my heart. I would have to pick those two as my favourites.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Tendai Mupfurutsa - the prince with many faces

I will remember Tendai Mupfurutsa who died in December 2011 for many things: he brought to me four physically challenged boys so that I could do story about them.
I was reluctant at first because we had an unwritten rule not to ‘waste time’ on unknown musicians. But after listening to Prince Tendai, and then talking to the boys, I decided to bend the rule a bit. I later learnt that the boys went by the name Soul Bone. They were Jay D, Chris Joe, Flint and Bright 'Spicy D' Kadenga. They met at Danhiko in 2006 where their talents manifested.
Today, Soul Bone is a group to reckon with after winning a Nama award in 2010 as well as touring widely.
I will also remember Prince Tendai when he called me and spoke for close to an hour. He was not happy with my Thursday column – Sounds Check – in The Herald where I had written about the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) where he was a director.
I had information that foreign earnings from Zimbabwean music had not been remitted or paid to the musicians for years. The South African based Southern Africa Music Rights Organisation had initially agreed to send me all the details only to make a U-turn later saying they had been advised not to deal with me.
My request to interview Tendai for Filecheck, my Wednesday column, was unsurpringly turned down. I had wanted to combine Tendai’s story with Newman Chipeni’s since they had started together before some disagreements which led to Chipeni’s departure.
The last time I spoke to Tendai was after the split of Afrika Revenge. Willis Watafi had just launched his album with the help of Alex Goho who was Tendai’s best friend. Oliver Mtukudzi had refused to release the Afrika Revenge album that contained songs written by both Watafi and Mehluli Taz Moyo because it had not been paid for.
Tendai came into picture then when Taz demanded that Watafi should not use the songs on the albums. The whole thing was a messy and in order to get to the bottom of it, I called Tendai to ask him. He denied everything including the rumour that he had caused the Afrika Revenge split.
He, just like in the Zimura issue, invited me to his offices but I turned him down.

Just like many others, I had no idea that Tendai was in his 50s. He looked and acted young. Maybe it was because of his immaculate dressing.
Tendai was born in Magunje in 1955. He started selling insurance policies and according to Fred Zindi, he started his music career when they became friends while staying along the same street in Mabelreign in 1982.
“I was the musician,” Zindi wrote in his column in The Herald, “At the time he was not but when we became friends, he showed his passion for music and his eagerness to learn how to play the guitar. He ended up buying my acoustic guitar for Z$25. He straight away started music lessons and I taught him to play Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" which he mastered in no time at all.”
Zindi further wrote that Tendai started his own genre of music which imitated the Caribbean calypso sounds.
“This genre of music called "Barbed Wire" is exclusive to Prince Tendai and it is generally believed that it is Prince Tendai's music which gave birth to what is known as "Urban Grooves" music today.
“He immediately took on the music industry by starting a music label, Hi-Density Records, and formed his own band Midnight Magic. He soon learnt how to package and promote music with assistance from established and experienced experts in the field such as Clancy Mbirimi. He then started investing heavily in the music industry when his company started a cassette duplication plant, inlay printing and music distribution departments.”
Tendai was not only a genius in music but an intelligent businessman who ws the first black to set up a recording studio. Hi-Density label even signed on artistes who had made it elsewhere such as Kanda Bongo-Man from the DRC, Hamza Kalala from Tanzania, Toyin Adekale from the UK and MC Wabwino from Zambia.
He also co-ordinated successful and memorable music projects such as campaigns against road carnage as shown in "Bus Driver" where he sponsored the making of the single record and video featuring artistes like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, Biggie Tembo, Isaac Chirwa, Mechanic Manyeruke, Newman Chipeni, Robson Banda, Hosiah Chipanga, The Frontline Kids, Clancy Mbirimi, Joseph Madhimba, Kenny Mwanza and The Real Sounds of Africa.
Going back in time, Prince Tendai released several albums, the most notable being Serious with hits such as From Zambezi to Limpopo. This was followed by the albums Midnight Magic 2 and 3 with hit singles Sweet Temptation, Amai Tendi, Problem and African Cowboy.
As Midnight Magic grew in strength, the album which took the nation by storm, Uprising was created. Its hit, Character, became a household sing-along song for a long time. There is still a big demand for this song even up to now.
It is this brilliant tune that saw Prince Tendai rise to greater heights when he was nominated for the Kora Awards ceremony which was held at Sun City in South Africa in September 1996. There Tendai rubbed shoulders with Africa's musical giants such as Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Kofi Olomide and Youssou N'dour. The following year, Prince Tendai won the Nama award of best video of the year.
For 10 years from 1999 until 2009, Prince Tendai was the chairman of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura), an organisation formed to stand up for the rights of music composers.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Joseph Garakara of Idya Banana fame didn't live out his dreams

I trekked down Joseph Garakara, one time 2006 Zima winner, whose song Idya Banana shocked many when it won him an award, to a school in Epworth. I was not sure he was the guy I wanted. I had only his name. I had briefly met him during the awards ceremony at Meikles hotel in Harare but had not had enough time to talk.
Garakara speaks softly as if he is being pushed. Since he was about to leave the school for the city, I offered him a lift and he told me his story on the way.

Below is the story I did:

In football they say Gwekwerere Bhora, but in music we can now say Garakara Song!
Or if you want to go ahead and add Garakara Idya Banana Kechi-One because this is likely to be the title of Joseph Garakara's third album and that release will prove whether the 2006 Zima award winner is genuine or passing fad.
Or even just another teacher trying to crawl his way out of the classroom into showbiz like Bob Nyabinde.
Or if he is going to be like the Thula Bechulude teachers who disappeared when the echoes of their song died down.
"I am not new to the music industry. In fact, this album -'Tapinda Tapinda - is my second. My first was Uyu Neni, which we recorded with Record and Tape Promotions in 2004. Of course, it did not do well," he says.
But even the album that did not do well was not his first time into music because he used to play with Detembira and Chirikure Chirikure.
"I come from a musical family. I grew up playing mbira with my siblings - Daisy, Sekai, Norman and Lovemore - as Mhuri Yekwa Garakara. We played in all night ritual ceremonies for a fee," he explains.
Both Garakara, who was in Grade 5 then, and his siblings were not trained to play mbira. They used to watch their elder brother Lovemore playing the instrument. When he was out, they would sneak into his hut where they taught themselves how to play on his mbira.
When he found them out, Lovemore was not angry but worked with them instead.
The next stage was when Garakara's father, who was also a musician who played kwela when he was in South Africa, started making guitars for sale. Once again, the youngsters would wait until he left home and then pounce on the instruments. '
When the father discovered their ploy, he did not angry either but encouraged them by showing them how to play.
Thus Garakara's fate was sealed.
"After school, I did some part-time teaching until I got a place at a college in •Harare. I did not take music but after training, I became my school's choirmaster in Mhondoro. But I longed for music and when I saw an advert in the paper for studying at the College of Music, I applied and attended a two-year full-time course.
"I graduated last year with two distinctions in performance studies and organology. I believe that the success of my album is largely because of the knowledge I acquired from the college," he says.
The songs on Tapinda Tapinda were composed last year and the album was supposed to have been recorded in September last year but was put on hold following the death of his father.
Recording was then set for October but again there was a family bereavement as Garakara's sister passed away and the album was deferred once more.
"I was not sure of the album's success until I was given a contract," he confesses.
Idya Banana, Garakara says, does not mean what most people think.
He says he chose banana as a symbol of something soft and by using it, he was; in actual fact, pleading with a girl to soften her heart.
"I was just saying to a girl: 'Wadii kurerutsa ndima?'" he laughed.
He added: "Of course, the other song on the album that could do well if given a chance is Ndege Yamashanga. In the song I sing about people who make foolish decisions."
As the Zima’s most promising artiste, Garakara says there is pressure on him already to prove that he is not just passing but here to stay.
"I know people are expecting a lot from me but then I am a poet. I am also a trained musician. I use notation and understand quite a lot of things. With this knowledge, I do not think that there are problems.
"We are already rehearsing for our third album which is going to be called Kechi-One," Garakara says. .
He admits that his music carries traces of Njerama's beat but is quick) to say that in music one cannot pinpoint exactly where one's inspiration i comes from. !
"It could be true but I regard Richard Mafuwamhandu as the man who inspired me. I used to listen to his music quite a lot. I like his lyrics especially," he reveals.
The late Mafuwamhandu was the lead vocalist of the now defunct Nyaminyami Sounds.
The 37-year-old teacher, who has since transferred to an Epworth school where he has been now for a month, says initially his workmates did not know that he was a musician.
"Nevertheless, they support my efforts," he says.

Mbira player Simon Mashoko called by angels to play mbira in church

The irony of our great mbira players has always been that they are recognised and respected by foreigners. It has never been for and to us to elevate them accordingly. One such great mbira player was Sekuru Simon Mashoko whose incredible story we left to foreigners to tell. Today, whatever information we have, is gleaned from a few foreigners who cared enough to listen to his music.
In 2002, three Australian artists - Werner Puntigam, Michael Pilz and Klaus Hollinetz - had an installation at Delta Gallery in Harare as a tribute to Sekuru Mashoko.

Below are some of their notes

Simon Mashoko is widely recognised as one of the finest exponents of the
type of mbira known as njari, an instrument that is played in the Masvingo
region. Unlike other mbira players, Mashoko did not learn through dreams,
but dreams did play an important part in shaping his career. Around 1938, he had two amazing dreams. In the first, he heard a voice in the middle of the night, calling him. He went to the door and saw a man in a long white robe with two lions next to him. In the second dream, three men with wings
appeared outside the house. Both dreams were haunted by beautiful, music,
which Mashoko heard as mbira music.
Mashoko later met Christian teachers who told him that the figure from his
dream was Jesus. This explanation had a graet effect on Mashoko and he
joined the Catholic Church in Gweru. He composed many Shona settings of
gospel music and as the restrictions on the use of African music in the
church were loosened, he was encouraged to play mbira in church. Mashoko
produced several records and his reputation spread, in particular through
the then African Radio Service. Mashoko has dedicated his life to serving
the church. Now retired, he lives at Beardmore Mine with his wife and

Another foreign admirer said:

Sekuru Simon Mashoko-The legend, who was one of the first musicians to be recorded on the mbira, is also one of the kindest people I've met. He plays the njari, a 29 key mbira with unison notes on the upper layer of keys. It is played with both thumbs and index fingers and often the thumbs will "strum" more than one key at once. This CD was recorded live at Sekuru Mashoko's home in Nyika. About 50 miles East of Masvingo. He lives a simple life with his children and grandchildren. He spent much of his life spreading the message of the Catholic church.
Sekuru Mashoko plays with the seemingly effortless style that can only be heard by the very old. The music ebbs and flows with his voice as if every aspect of the music is just coming straight from his soul. More than any other player, I felt like I was listening to an old blues guitar player sitting on his porch-just playin' the blues. It feels like he is putting every bit of his energy into every note he sings. Sekuru Mashoko is a beautiful man, that to this day, wakes up every morning and builds mbira and has a beer. I remember waking up in the middle of the night at his house with his mbira music filling all the spaces around me. It seemed to be coming from everywhere. The next morning, Sekuru said, "Oh, did you hear me praying last night?" It seems that Sekuru Mashoko lives his religion every minute of his life.

And below is my article after his death

The irony of life has always been that great people can only become heroes after they die.
Chikakarara Simon Mashoko (88) was the first man to play mbira in the Catholic Church when the instrument was considered an evil contraption. He also pioneered the composition of hymns and masses en mbira as well as commercialising mbira as both music and an instrument.
He featured in documentaries explaining and playing mbira so that the world would know about Shona culture and tradition.
One such documentary was titled Mbira:
Njari-Karanga Songs in Christian Ceremonies with Simon where the master mbira player "examines in detail the use of the traditional African mbira in the cultural life of the Mashona people of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)".
He is a man of both worlds since he plays the traditional mbira circuit where he participates in biras (ritual ceremonies) and during catechism classes most Sundays.
Not only is Mashoko a gwenyambira but he is a--mbira maker whose pieces are sought-after by international mbira collectors.
Now unable to stand on his feet, the man, who was inspired by visions to play mbira way back in 1930, still welcomes the dawn with cracking mbira sounds.
Yet, he has not received any award for being the pioneer that he is and it seems as if not until he dip.s, nothing much in form of glorious eulogies will come his way. .
For a man whose calling to become a mbira player was like a call to religious duty, awards and accolades seem not to be his concern.
It is said that Mashoko's desire to play mbira was a result of two visions he had when he was 20 in 1938 where he saw a man dressed in a long white robe and was flanked by lions. The
second vision had three-winged men who were standing outside a house.
The man in the white robe was calling his name wrine the three-winged men brought .the cracking sounds. of mbira music.
When he sought interpretation of these dreams, his Christian teachers told him that the man in the white robe was Jesus Christ while the three-winged men were angels.
From then, Mashoko converted to the Roman Catholic Church in Gweru where with time, he was allowed to compose and play mbira in church.
And from then on, Mashoko's contribution to mbira music grew and his records were popular with people through the then African Radio Service.
While he is today considered the man who popularised mbira music in church, it was not an easy feat because initially he was almost barred from being a catechist because he played mbira.
It was only after his appearance in the film Mbiri Yababa Ndiyo Mbiri Yemwana in 1954 in which he played mbira that the missionaries gave him the green light to play in church.
In 1974, an Australian national, Andrew Tracy, made a cinematographic' portrait of Mashoko and in 1996 another Aussie Michael Pilz met Mashoko and filmed the event.
In a typical case of a prophet who is not respected in his home area, Mashoko is very well known abroad where his music is studied and mbira instruments considered rare pieces of art.
The American Paul Berliner wrote The Soul of Mbira, his biography, and the movies he featured in were shown in countries like Switzerland and the United States while Jere in Zimbabwe the mere mention of his name does not bring any memories.

Joshua Hlomayi Dube - Mapfumo's forgotten guitarist

So much has been said about the late Jonah Sithole, Leonard 'Picket' Chiyangwa and Ashton 'Sugar' Chiweshe as the people who helped Dr Thomas Mapfumo to define and refine Chimurenga music.
But nothing has ever been said about Joshua Hlomayi Dube, the man who was with Mapfumo way back in the early 1970s when they formed the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band in Mhangura together with Lovemore Nyabeza, Daram Karanga, Robert Nekati and Elisa Jingo.

Dube, a cousin to Jonah and Aaron Chiundura Moyo, is probably one guitarist who had stints with as many groups as he could join at the time before forming his own group, Shangara Jive just months before he died in 2002.
There was the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, Limpopo Jazz Band, the Blacks Unlimited, the African Herb, Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, Farai Pio Macheka's Black Ites, lInd Ephat Mujuru's Spirit of the People, among others.
He worked with Mapfumo from the 1970s and together with Sit hole, whom he had met in Kwekwe, defined the distinct mbira on guitar.
Dube was to do the same with Pio whom he set up as the chimurenga prince, a dream that died when he left him to form his own band.
Maybe it was because of this that Pio has never redisscovered his glory and is slowly sliding into oblivion.
Dube's working relationship with Mapfumo started in 1972 when he co-wrote Ngoma Yarira, Mapfumo's first single with the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band and ended in 2001 when he toured the US with the Blacks Unlimited whose base is now in Eugene, Oregon.
Because it was an on-and-off relaationship, Dube had the time to move on with other groups notably Devera Ngwena Jazz Band with Jonah after the split with the other three members of the original group.
Jonah is a good musician but credit should also be given to Dube who stood by him when times were tough and rough by playing the lead on a number of Devera Ngwena's albums done after the split.
The late Mujuru too had the oppportunity to work with Dube on his album Magariro. They even toured the US together.
Like many other great musicians beefore him, Dube reaIised rather too late that he had the capacity to form his own group and promote shangara dance that was popular in his home area, Masvingo.
With shangara jive, Dube tried to heljJ educate the world by promoting dances he thought were being negglected.
Just like what he did with mbira, he also wanted to use the electric guitar in rejuvenating and re-inventing shangara.
Dube grew up on Shoe-Shine Farm in Gweru together with playwright and novelist Aaron Chiundura Moyo.
Aaron and Jonah's father was a great musician in his own right who hosted tea parties where some of Zimbabwe's legendary nomadic fuitarists like the late John White played.
From the farm, Dube moved to Kwekwe where he met Jonah, whose brother had played with the Jairosi Jiri Kwela Band, and was at the time with a rag tag group that entertained guzzlers in beerhalls.
As juniors then, Dube and Jonah would sneak on stage during the break and in a small way do their best to entertain.

Bla Fengs - Fungai Malianga

In 1982, a Zimbabwean who had stayed in the United Kingdom for 12 years returned home armed with an MSc degree in mathematics and accompanied by a number of other young men from the West Indies.
The group of about seven was not accompanying Fungai Malianga, the Zimbabwean student, to his graduation party, but were coming to tour the newly independent country as reputable funk musicians, hence their name Zimfunk Band.
Malianga, who has since returned to the UK is no small time musician but an experienced one whose music, despite not being popular with many, carries real feelings.
His 1991 album titled 10 Years On - Children Survive, which dealt with issues affecting street kids and baby dumping, is just one example of how sensitive Malianga is.
The album, whose proceeds went to the Zimbabwe Child Survival and Development Foundation, carried songs such as Frontline Child, Street Kids, Baby Dumping, Voodoo and Fly.
In an interview with one Zimbabwean weekly soon after the launch of the album, Malianga said:
"I am not the kind of musician you would hear singing 'I love you babe', I write lyrics that are meaningiul which touch on issues affecting our society, especially the innocent children."
He was at the forefront of the Jethro Shasha Drum Scholarship Fund, which later became the Heroes of African Music Fund that sponsored those who were keen to train at the Zimbabwe College of Music.
The first batch of the scholarship's 33 recipients graduated with three-year music diplomas in 2001.
Malianga was at one time involved with the Ntional Hunger Jazz Concert as both an organizer and participant.
In 2002, he spearheaded the National Blood Transfusion Service campaign that was meant to encourage people to donate blood through a festival dubbed the Jazz Aid-Mazvita to the Youth that featured Olvier Mtukudzi and Louis Mhlanga.
His 1981 album titled Zimbabwe Funk had songs about Zimbabwean culture.
Then there was Jesus, You Saved My Life in 1994 in which he praises the Son of God for helping him out of a sinful life.
On the same album are tracks such as Musauraye Vana Venyu, Apo Jeso as well as Crucified.
The gospel album was a surprise to many because Malianga sported an Afro-hair style in the beginning and later had his hair permed – both associated with a secular lifestyle.
Explaining the change on the album’s sleeve, Malianga said: “This music I have always wanted to make. Working through this album has been a totally inspirational affair. I sincerely hope that you do not just enjoy the music, that it goes beyond enjoyment and inspires you to relax and think again about life.”
While fans were surprised by Malianga’s sudden change, if one takes a close look at his music career one sees different phases.
He stayed and studied in London for four years and took up a teaching post in North London before giving it up for music.
When he met another Zimbabwean – Dr Fred Zindi – who was also studying in England, they played the club circuit and became popular at joints such as Ronnie Scotts, the 100 Club and Music Machine in London.
Later, Malianga became a member of the eight-piece Funkies Band that lasted three months.He was, together with the late Jethro Shasha, a member of the 2D Sounds. There was also the group the Prophets and then the Ottis Waygood Blues Band.
With Zindi and Davies Mhambi, Malianga formed the Stars of Liberty before teaming up with some Nigerians and West Indies musicians under the trade name Abbrakkas.
He then went solo and released two singles – Jungle Voodoo and Dr Rasta Man.
In 1980, he joined the Zimfunk Band with which he toured Zimbabwe before he chose to stay home.
When he remained behind, Malianga had stints with various jazz groups and managed to record KuMakwiro, among others.
Malianga’s sensitive touch should not surprise people because he was born in a Christian family and his father died a few months before his birth in 1948.
At a tender age, Malianga became involved in Christmas parties where he played the penny whistle.
Maliange is now living in the UK where he is said to be teaching while playing the club circuit.

OK Success nurtured many local musicians

Musicians include the late James Chimombe, Susan Mapfumo, Fanyana Dube, Simon Shumba, the comedian, the Chimbetu brothers - Naison and Simon, Virginia Sillah, and Lovemore Majaivana were at one time members of the prestigious rhumba outfit.

In the 60s, when blacks in then Rhodesia were experimenting with several music genres in search of their beat, rhumba music became the default option.

The OK Success, one of the many Congolese rhumba groups that toured the country, stayed forever and became part of Zimbabwe's musical landscape when it absorbed within its ranks many Zimbabweans who later became great stars in their rights.

Musicians such as the late James Chimombe, Susan Mapfumo, Fanyana Dube, Simon Shumba, the comedian, the Chimbetu brothers - Naison and Simon Virginia Sillah and Lovemore Majaivana were at one time members of the prestigious rhumba outfit.

With these Zimbabweans, OK Success released singles such as Baba VaBhoyi, Sekuru, Amai, Lupwai Abwela, Gore Rakapera and Mudiwa Mary.

Baba VaBhoyi and Amai were composed and sung by the late Susan Mapfumo. At the same time, Sekuru, Gore Rakapera and Mudiwa Mary were penned and sung by the group leader, Andrew Ngoyi.

In 1976, the group released one of its brilliant songs titled Amai, in which Susan Mapfumo complained about having been forced into a disastrous marriage that was collapsing.

In 1980, the group released a song that celebrated the attainment of independence - Comrade Mahwina (Tafara).

Ngoyi, John Mwale and Joseph Kishala and others founded the OK Success in Limpopo, now Lumbumbashi, where another popular rhumba group, the Limpopo Jazz Band, also toured and later stayed in the country, was formed.

Joseph was born in the then Rhodesia to Zambian parents, who later returned to Zambia after that country's independence. He then went to Zaire, where he teamed up with Ngoyi and others.

The group then came through Zambia on its way to Rhodesia in the late 60s and was the resident band at the then Simba Club (now Livewire) before it became El Morocco and then the Jobs).

To fend off stiff competition from local groups such as the Great Sounds, the OK Success had to recruit local dancers, one of whom was Virginia Sillah, who later married Greenford Jangano of the Harare Mambos and three others.

But during the 70s, original members of the group started leaving, and to survive, the group had to recruit more local members.

This saw the likes of Chimombe, Susan Mapfumo, who had previously backed Thomas Mapfumo, Fanyana Dube, who had started his career with the then Jairosi Jiri Sunrise Kwela Band and others, coming and leaving after a short period.

With a local line-up, OK Success started releasing singles in Shona, allowing the group to compete with other groups that were reigning then.

While the recruitment of locals was a good thing, it later diluted the group's type of rhumba such that when independence came, it was just another rhumba group struggling to survive.

When Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Highfield hired the group in the early 80s, two young musically gifted men seeking a breakthrough were sent by a producer who had discovered them singing in a Dzivaresekwa bar to see Joseph Ngoyi for help.

With Ngoyi's help, the late Naison and Simon Chimbetu recorded their first single, Nherera, with the backing of the OK Success, although they used the name Marxist Brothers.

The brothers' relationship with the group ended when Ngoyi and other members of the OK Success were thrown out of the hotel by management for refusing to back the Chimbetus.

Chimombe left then to pursue a solo career before he joined the Ocean City Band, whose members had deserted the late Safirio "Mukadota" Madzikatire.

At this time, the comedian Shumba or Mutirowafanza had a stint with the group that did not last long afterwards. Ngoyi, who used to stay in Mbare and was last seen in Bulawayo, kept some of the instruments he loaned to aspiring musicians in the suburb.

Although Chimombe or Susan Mapfumo never played pure rhumba, there is evidence that the Chimbetu beat borrowed heavily from the OK Success' because when they started, neither of the brothers could play any musical instruments.

The Matonto glory

They probably have the shortest history in Zimbabwean music circles where they burst, soared and then flip-flopped into silence.
Their coming, just like exit, was unprecedented.
In 1994, they hit the market with the album Matonto and then disappeared for four long years, after which they returned with another album Nhasi Tafara that had love ballads and dancehall music.

Calling themselves Matonto and recording from the United Kingdom, the foursome - Chris Gudu, Nopsy "Nono" Mkwananzi, Calvin Khayane Gudu and Sime Mlapisane - stormed into the Zimbabwean music charts with their fast and catchy rhythms at a time when Leonard Zhakata, the late Leonard Dembo and the late Simon Chimbetu were hot.
That was 1994 when the disco ruled supreme in a number of clubs in Harare.
Their self-titled six-track album Matonto latched onto the scene, especially the track Makelwane that advised women to desist from coveting neighbours' husbands.
Characterised by non-stop fast vocals from Nopsy, who was studying for a finance degree in the UK then, the song made the album a collectable treasure.
The album also carried love numbers as well as songs that advised people from engaging in casual sex.
Matonto was recorded in the UK under the Calvin Gudu label because other music labels were not keen to take up the project.
After recording the album, the group, which held live shows in the north of England where people from different cultures and nations came to watch the new wonders.
The group played at the Zimbabwean High Commission during an Aids awareness campaign, Club Afrique and at the Town and Country Club in London.
For some time, Calvin, who is in the UK presumably to study engineering, returned to Zimbabwe where he did some videos and recorded solo while his other mates remained behind in the UK.
Chris Gudu (a trainee nurse then) and Sime Mlapisane (hotel management) sunk into oblivion after the release of the debut album.
The four had grown up in Bulawayo where they started their career singing in church choirs and then at weddings.
In actual fact, Matonto was Calvin Gudu because he tried, long after the others had given up, to keep the Matonto fame glowing.
In 1998, he teamed up with Muzi Mangena and produced the single Tombofara that was later included on the album Nhasi Tafara. Although they recorded the album at the Noise Box Studio in the UK, Prince Tendai’s High Density Studios marketed and distributed it locally.
The Matonto that recorded Nhasi Tafara had a new line-up that comprised Chris, Calvin, Humphrey Ngomanya, Sings Ngwenya and Henry Munowenyu.
A few days after its release in Zimbabwe, Nhasi Tafara, on a di-gong tip, landed into the then Radio 3 Top Charts.
One of the songs that made it big was Ncam' Ncam' whose video is well produced and colourful. Then there was Angeke Ngukohlwe. Both were love ballads.
Besides recording solo, Calvin also helped other groups to record.
Under his label, Calvin assisted Vuka Vhangeli, Sekuru Pfutseke and Tanaka Muzi Mangena to find their musical feet.
He worked with Temba Ndlovu of Children of Nandi on the soundtrack for the movie "Soweto" that was directed by Michael Raeburn and produced at the Bray Film Studios in Windsor, England.
Working together with Calvin was Errol Kennedy, a drummer and original member of the group Imagination.
There was also Torera Mpedzisi, one of Zimbabwe's most gifted mbira players, and South I African keyboardist Mervyn Africa, who was with the group Joy.
Then there was the album Ngisele Ngedwa (I am Left Alone) by Izilwane in which Calvin played a vital role during its making.
In this project, Calvin worked with Jealous Sibanda (drums), Humphrey Ngonyama (bass), John Maseko (keyboards), Herbert Mrewa (guitar) and Siphiwe Matshazi (vocals).
Although ZTV still plays the video of Ncam’ Ncam’, Calvin and Matonto have since gone underground.
But the Gudu brothers are crusading along different musical routes with Chris leading a 7-piece band called The Chris Gudu Band.

Below Chris talks to former Radio 3 DJ John Matinde

How long have you been an artist?
Since the age of about 6.
How did you get started?
Firstly singing at home at family gatherings, then at my local Church. When I was at Milton High School I wanted so badly to learn how to play the piano, but could not get as much access to the piano as I wanted, so as a result I would sneak into the assembly hall at night and practice in the dark. That was difficult to begin with but as time went on I was used to finding my way round the keys without looking. In the process I started writing songs which I presented to a local production company who thought my writing skills were good enough to join them writing jingles such as "Sun jam", "TM hyper" and "Tarino". From then I just got gradually sucked deeper and deeper into the wider music scene, and the rest led to now.
What difficulties have you encountered along the way?
The local audience preferring overseas music to local stuff.
How did you overcome them?
By keeping at it until the beat is truly refined.
When writing lyrics what inspires you?
The joy in me and the desire for my fellow human beings to come to know Christ personally and experience his goodness. Man, there is no inspiration like someone dying for your sins so that you truly have dominion over all things and expand your territories in all aspect of your life eternally.
Why did you choose to be a musician?
I didn't choose to be a musician John. You know there are many things I chose in my life, but certainly music was not one of them. Being a musician is what God desires for me and I am simply being obedient to his call.
What have you been up to in the last 12 months?
Working on The Album, Contributing my bit to the construction of (PWR) Praise Worth records and most importantly allowing the Lord to deal with me spiritually in preparation for the ministry.
If yes, what were the challenges you faced?
For me personally the challenge has been going through a whole hip of great scripts presented by an array of writers for the same song and trying to choose which best represents the feel I had while writing the tune. But I pray to the Lord to give me wisdom to do the right thing. I also have a bunch of talented good people at PWR whose judgment I am happy to trust. That takes the pressure off of a little.
What do you think of African Urban Music at the moment?
It's a reflection of aspiration for growth, and I can assure you it can only result in growth. I think that the urban scene gives the Zim artist a chance to compete with the world players. It’s at the infant stage now but believe me I see a lot of hungry creative artists who want the world. I do think though that we need to be mindful of the business aspect of things. Look, music is an industry man, and industry is business and if you don't take care of the business then quit simply you have no industry. We need to understand figures, copyright laws, how money is earned, investments, contracts and so on. If artists understand the business then there will be fewer arguments with record bosses and artists will take control of their destinies and African Urban Music will have a future.