Tuesday 28 February 2012

James Chimombe's music refuse to die

I have met James Chimombe’s son Freddie three times. The first time he came to give me a story about how the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) had ripped him off.
The other two times was when I did a story about him the first time he went to stay in the squatter camp at Hopley. By then he had just started feeling unwell.
I first passed by his mother’s house in Jerusalem section of Highfield where I met his sisters. It was also during the time when Diana Samkange had goosened up James Chimombe’s song.
The family was very bitter about it. I felt bad too that I had given Diana Freddie’s contact details when she was working on the song.
Freddie’s mother, who had separated from James when he died, said she gets frustrated whenever she watches TV or listen to the radio and hear the songs her ex-husband did.
‘I remember he wrote some of the songs in this house,’ she told me. ‘Now I hear and see people I do not know messing the songs up.’
But I put together James Chimombe’s story from a number of people among them his long time band mate who also blew the legendary sax on all the songs, Daram Karanga.
James started his career as a vocalist with the Mutare-based Pop Settlers before moving to the Harare Mambos. His next stop was a brief stay at Thomas Mapfumo's Acid Band in the early 70s as a lead guitarist then he hopped to the OK Success in the mid-70s alongside Susan Mapfumo and Simon Shumba. It was long before the time when the Chimbetus- Naison and Simon – had the backing of the group at Mushandirapamwe Hotel at Machipisa in Highfield.
At the time, the OK Success that was led by Andrew Ngoyi who had chosen to settle in the country from the Congos embarked on singing songs in Shona. Some of the songs were the OK Success released singles such as Baba VaBhoyi, Sekuru, Amai, Lupwai Abwela, Gore Rakapera and Mudiwa Mary.
It’s not also clear whether James was in the band at the same time with Lovemore Majaivana, Fanyana Dube and Virginia Sillah 9who later joined Harare Mambos).
Daram met James in Chitungwiza when the dormitory town had just been established. At the time, Daram had left Mhangura Mine where together with Thomas Mapfumo they had formed the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band. When the band disbanded, the guys moved to Chitungwiza where council management contracted them to perform at Chikomo Bar. They were also given houses among other perks.
But when there was a change of management, the band lost the contract and disbanded. James was working for the council at the time.
In 1983, he befriended Daram and would visit him at his house, “One day, James spoke about forming a band and I agreed to the idea,’ Daram said. ‘Since I knew Paul Mkondo who owned Hideout 99, 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 James became the lead vocalist and main composer. But in 1988 Svosve and others demanded that they should also be allowed to compose and sing their songs,’ recalled Daram.
James, Daram added, refused to let them compose and sing their songs and they left.
“We them formed the Huchi Band since James had acquired his own instruments,’ said Daram who had the opportunity of composing Jikinya and Botswana as well as some chart topping songs which made James very popular.
James who died aged 39 in 1990 was one of the earliest musicians to succumb to Aids. One of his songs, Jemedza, is believed to have been a farewell song. 
Most of his songs were about love gone wrong. His beat leaned towards light rumba fused with jiti. He was among some of Zimbabwe’s musicians whose music can safely be coined pop because its popularity.
Apart from Jemedza, James song Kudakwashe which he composed for his son who was born deformed is still a great number.
While he left a rich musical legacy, James did not do so for his family. His son Freddie who took over the band after his father’s death ran it into the ground.
Freddie opened a grocery shop in Goromonzi which did not last. Then he would collect his father’s royalties which he blew.
Daram who had a fight with Freddie over royalties said the young man would buy beer for the fans every time he had a show. Freddie’s career did not last though not because of his illness but mismanagement. He sold some of the equipment and when I interviewed him, Freddie said the late J Masters had some his father’s stuff.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

I've just been shaken - Paul Matavire a few days before his death

A few months before his death, Paul Matavire came for an interview at The Herald. It was my second time to meet him. The reporter who was supposed to interview him had a tough time when the musician declared that he wanted to be interviewed while standing. It was an awkward moment but when a smile lit his face, the people who had gathered in the reception area burst out laughing.

The first time I saw Paul Matavire was in 1988, five years after he had joined the Jairos Jiri Band, during a show at Gweru Teachers’ College when I was in first year.
His songs had already made him well known when I was in secondary school.
Seeing him in concert made a greater and deeper impression in most of the trainee teachers who were also saddened when two years later, the musician was incarcerated for rape.
It turned out that the rape case that had him sent to jail was committed in Chiundura communal lands a few weeks after the Gweru show.
The second time I came close to him and even shook his hand was in 2004 when he came to Herald House for an interview. I had just joined the paper then and he had just released his come-back album, Zimbe Remoto with the help of the South African artist Fred Gwala.
I recall vividly how he drove fear into the reporter who was interviewing him.
He stood in the reception area, staring ahead and said, ‘Can I be interviewed now.’
The reporter kindly offered him a seat but he said, ‘I want to be interviewed while standing.’
It was an awkward moment for us because nobody was sure whether he was serious or it was a plank. After a stand-off, the musician smiled and indicated that he was ready to take a seat.
He had been released from jail and was retired in Rutenga where he had a farm. Maybe it was why his stunt drove fear into the female reporter.
Unfortunately, a few months later, we heard that Matavire had been admitted into a Masvingo private clinic.
I also recall talking to him over the phone while he was in the clinic for a story I did then. One thing about Matavire was his humour even when he was down and low.
This is exactly what he did when he had appeared in a Gweru court while waiting for judgment. In 1989 before his sentence, the musician made fun of the magistrate in his song Joke of the Year. Even when he was released, he made fun of his return in the song Back from College in 1991.
‘I have just been shaken,’ he told me hiccupping in-between. ‘It’s a little wind. I will come back.’
He never came back because he died in his Rutenga village after he had been discharged from the clinic. He had relocated to the area from Maranda communal lands in Mwenezi where he was born in 1963.
I also recall talking to his young brother, Hlupeko, from Rutenga the day Matavire passed away in 2005.
Hlupeko said Matavire had shown some recovery signs from the hiccups which had wrecked him a day before he passed away.
That closed Matavire’s brilliant musical career which had started when he abandoned his social worker training to help the Jairos Jiri Band make history.
The Jairos Jiri Matavire joined was older than Dynamos and Zanu-PF. It had been formed in Bulawayo's Mzilikazi Township way back in 1959 by members of the Jairosi Jiri Mzilikazi centre for the handicapped, the group that started as a mere choir then was known as The Sunbeam Kwela Kings. When Zexie Manatsa joined the group in 1969, they changed the name to Sunrise Kwela Kings.
In my interview with Zexie, he told me that when he and his late brother Stanley moved to Bulawayo, they stayed in Nguboyenja close to the Jairos Jiri complex.
He said they could hear guitar sounds coming from the complex every day and one day they walked in to find out what was happening.
‘One day, we walked into the complex and asked for permission to test their guitars. The late Jairosi Jiri then found out that we could play better than the inmates. He asked us to play for the organisation, helping raise funds.
‘Fanyana Dube, one of the inmates joined us and we formed the Sunrise Kwela Kings.’
This is the name the band used until the late 70s when the name was changed to Jairos Jiri Kwela Band before becoming the Jairos Jiri Band when Matavire became a member.
Their song Take Cover released in the dying months of the liberation war in the late 70s was done by Jairos Jiri Kwela Band. It was the song which put the band on the musical map such that when Matavire came, he had part of his job cut out for him.
Matavire had first attended the band’s show in Gweru since the group used to perform at all Jairos Jiri centres across the country. A year later in 1982, Matavire abandoned his social worker training to join the band full time in Bulawayo after he had taught himself to play drums and the guitar.
His debut song was in honour of the founder of the organisation, Jairos Jiri titled Pamberi NavaJiri. It did not take long for Matavire to establish himself as the Clarence Carter of Zimbabwe with his explicit lyrics which also earned him the nickname Dr Love.
Despite being blind, he lost his sight aged six after suffering from glaucoma, Matavire’s lyrics describe situations vividly as if he saw the action. His two songs Tanga Wandida and Dhiabhorosi Nyoka are testimony to this.
Apart from love songs, Matavire was agreat social commentator as shown in his song MaU, Nhamo Yeusavi and Akanaka Akarara among many others.
When he was released from jail Matavire returned to Jairos Jiri Band but it was not easy for him to stay. He then left to form his own group, The Hit Machine with which he released Akanaka Akarara (1993), Gakanje (1995) and Fadza Customer (1998).
The other two albums, Zimbe Remoto and Gonye Remari were done with the help of Fred Gwala.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Daiton the madder one of Pengaudzoke

Unlike the Chimbetus - Simon and Naison - who were never sworn enemies,the Somanjes - Josphat and Daiton - despite being bloody brothers, live in two different worlds not only in management styles but also as a family. They don't, without the help of other people, see eye-to-eye.They compete with each other and hold their grudge longer than necessary despite Daiton's brazen act of snatching away pengaudzoke from his younger brother Josphat and leaving him into the dumps. But considering all the situations, one can conclude that Daiton is the madder one of the Pengaudzoke. There is a mistaken belief that Daiton Somanje formed Pengaudzoke together with his brother Josphat. The truth is that Daiton came to join the band long after Josphat had set it off the ground in the Beatrice farming area. Daiton came as a dancer and at the time (I don’t know now) he could not play any musical instrument. Apart from putting together the group, Josphat had a great vision for the group which Daiton never had. It was this misunderstanding and lack of vision on the part of his elder brother Daiton and some of the group members that led to their split in December 2002. Just like in the Bhundu Boys where Rise Kagona took a back seat and let the late Biggie Tembo play the lead role, a reserved Josphat did the same. The Somanjes also went the Chimbetus way when talk of juju took centre stage. But unlike the Chimbetus where juju use was more of a rumuor, the Somanjes made it an open secret. In fact, Daiton blamed Josphat of bewitching his wife and driving the band’s truck to Zambia where he got the juju. What Daiton did was wrestle the band from his brother. Once again unlike in the case of the Chimbetus, who could claim ownership of the Marxist Brothers, Daiton had no right to but Josphat left because he had so much confidence in himself to pull off another successful group. Indeed in 2003, he formed the Somanje Stars and became an album per year musician. Of course, since people still had so much faith in Daiton who took over the name of the band, Josphat’s music did not rise above the water. Even Daiton’s success without Josphat could be measured by the teaspoon. Both brothers suffered without the other unlike the Chimbetus where Simon rose above Naison. What made Josphat’s situation worse was the fact that he left empty handed and had to start from scratch. With the current situation of the music industry in Zimbabwe, time hit him hard. He was arrested on allegations of raping a minor. He got TB and his band members deserted him to join Daiton. It took Josphat about 10 years to stage a return with his This Time which also brought him media frenzy bigger than the album itself. Josphat formed the group while he was working in the Beatrice farms in 1985. At the time, there was Lawrence Samaita Kamupira, Rangarirai Kenge Mpombera, Clever Somanje, Laison and Marefura Ngowela and Lameck Fadwick. Pengaudzoke was founded by the soft spoken Josphat in 1985 at a farm in the Beatrice area. They released their debut single Chinhu Chevaridzi in 1988 and the flip side had Vanhu Vandawile (People are having problems) which were both written by Daiton. Then in 1989, they had another single, Tezvara Revai Pfuma. In 1990, they made a major breakthrough by releasing their debut eight track album Kwatakabva Kure Nenhamo that featured the hit tracks Munonditaura and Famba Mwana. It was during this period when Rangarirai Mupombera and Tinarwo Chandavengerwa, cousins to the Somanjes, joined Pengaudzoke. However when things were becoming bright a disagreement swept across the group. In a telephone interview I did with Josphat in 2005, the group’s troubles started in 1993 when they were paid Z$27 000 in royalties. ‘I bought a car for Z$15 000 and put aside Z$5 500 for maintenance. We then shared the remaining Z$2 000,’ he told me. He was the only one in the group whop could drive and this did not go down well with others who wanted the money to be shared. ‘Daiton and others were not happy with what I had done. They wanted us to share the money so that they could buy clothes. I spoke to Daiton and convinced him that we still had a bright future and it stopped him from leaving,’ he said. The Ngowela Brothers indeed left in 1993 to form their own band, the Twin Brothers while Clever, Mpombera, Rangarirai and Tinarwo formed the Five Penga Penga. When others left, the brothers started to put a new group together with Lawrence Kamupira, Farai and Musafare Chakwingwa and a female dancer. With this group, they released Ndegandega in 1994 and Zvogondipei in 1995. They released two other albums – Titonganisei and Zvibate Pamhaka afterwards, ‘I wrote Titonganise with our situation in mind. It was a plea for help,’ Josphat said. Another album, Mandivavarira, came in 1998 before Sakunatsa Ndiye Sakubayiwa (1999). Their big break came in 2002 with Ndokudai Mose that carried the hit song Tsaona. Ironically, the success of this album was to be the breaking point. Josphat used the group’s car to ferry his sick mother-in-law to Malawi when Daiton’s wife was ill and there was talk about juju in the family. Daiton accused Josphat of bewitching his wife. There was alos disagreement over the vehicle. ‘I just decided to leave Daiton and Pengaudzoke in order to form my own Somanje Stars with new people I had recruited. There was Douglas Akim, Brighton Kerias, Wilson Meka and Gibson Lameck,’ he said. At the time I spoke to Josphat, August 2005, Daiton had snatched most of these musicians from his younger brother. Josphat’s life was in tatters. ‘Meka akaenda kwaDaiton. Mashows angu haabhadhare saka Vanhu vari kutiza Nzara,’ he told me tearfully. At the time, Josphat was an angry man after realising that Gramma Records had used the name Pengaudzoke to market Daiton when they had a stand-off over the album Nhengure. Daiton was claiming the album which Gramma titled Nhngure while Josphat’s recording company, the now defunct RTP also had the album and were marketing it. ‘That album should not have been called Nhengure but Inguva Chete but those at Gramma thought otherwise.’ There have been quite some swings of fortunes for both brothers. At the time Josphat made his big return, Daiton’s fortunes were on the wane. There has been talk about their reunion over the years. Indeed, the two have staged shows together and featured on each other’s albums but according to Daiton, such a thing is a pipe dream. In fact, Last Power Media had brought in Josphat to help prop up Daiton o Zvisinei Hazvo. Josphat demanded US$1000 but the company agreed on US$700. ‘There is no reunion. In fact, we were cheating the nation. Let people not think that all is now fine between us. The truth is Josphat demanded US$1 000 for featuring on the album but he was only given US$700. ‘It was not my idea but my record company thought it was wise for the two of us to come together to resuscitate my waning music career. Yes we held shows here and there after the album but it is not working. The relationship failed to work a long time ago and it will never work,’ he told the media. By the look of things, Daiton is the notorious one. He has no direction as shown by his careless handling of money he earned from Tsaona. He bought cars but today he has nothing left. ‘I sold all the vehicles and one is now rotten at a police camp after failing to redeem it because of financial problems. There is also a kombi in Marondera but it’s stuck in the yard,’ he revealed in an interview with the media in 2011. Apart from antagonising his younger brother, Daiton has also turned onto his son, Faheem who leads his own outfit, Tokudai Mose. He blames him for his misfortune and embarrassingly for sleeping with his step-mother, Annah Kezias. He has also told the media that his family hates him. ‘It all started in 2009 when I got sick. I strived with my condition for a while trying to fend for my family but all hell broke loose when my family turned against me. I was diagnosed with TB. My wife then, Annah Kezias, started abusing me physically, emotionally and verbally. I even told my son, Faheem, about it but he too started abusing me. I had nowhere to turn to and I approached my friend Esther Musango who stays in Dzivarasekwa. Esther sympathised with me and came to my rescue. We started living together in Dzivarasekwa while taking good care of me and she is now my “wife”. I am not going back to Marondera because there is no love there,’ he said. Of Faheem, he said, ‘He is no longer my son and I mean it. Have you ever heard of a son who befriends his father’s friends or enemies? Faheem teamed up with my former band members who fed him with horrible information about me. ‘They influenced him to go against me and you can’t believe it. Now he is telling the media that I am jealous of his success. What kind of father am I to be jealous of his own blood’s success? What has Faheem done so far that makes him think he is successful? I want him to be positive and behave like a son who respects his father.’ Because of this, Daiton sought an eviction order against his wife and son. ‘They pushed me that far. It doesn’t mean I am not a caring father but they have forced me to develop a hard heart because there is no mutual understanding and respect between me and my family. We are treating each other like enemies. But they can’t drive me out of my house and it is the reason I decided to take legal action by applying for an eviction order. For your own information, I sold the house already and am just waiting for these court cases to come to an end,’ he vowed. Faheem shot back, ‘I don’t know why my father is doing all this to me to the extent of accusing me of bedding his wife. I am married and we get on well with her and we have been helping each other when he moved in with his Dzivaresekwa girlfriend. ‘He even chased away some of his band members accusing them of having an affair with his wife and now he blames me. ‘He is jealous because he knows I am excelling in my music career and I am gaining a lot of popularity in Mashonaland East Province while he knows he is losing popularity musically. ‘I haven’t released yet, but judging from crowds that throng my live shows I am now far better than him. ‘Moreover, my father is accusing me of stealing goods from my own community. Because of all these accusations, everywhere I go people are asking me why I am in love with my father’s wife.’