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.

1 comment:

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