Thursday 30 August 2012

Party politics will be the ruin of Africa

Oliver Mtukudzi
I still don’t understand why our government has chosen to sacrifice so much to retain the reins of power. The lack of tolerance toward dissenting voices is a great disappointment to me. Party politics will be the ruin of Africa especially when there are so many serious issues facing the country right now, like famine and AIDS. Why we can’t just combine all our energies to deal with these real-life issues is a mystery to me - Tuku
Meron Tesfa Michael
April 4, 2003


Oliver Mtukudzi’s career as a musician kicked off in the late 1970s, when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, Ian Smith was in power, and the country was united under Robert Mugabe in a fight for independence.

At that time, Mtukudzi earned his popularity by performing political songs that spoke of resistance and national pride; later, with his album Africa (1980) he became the voice of the newly independent Zimbabwe.

Two decades and 44 albums later, when Zimbabwe is once again being ravaged by horrendous political violence, economic disaster, famine, and AIDS, Mtukudzi’s musical mix of groove and message is there to guide its fans through bad times.

Mtukudzi’s style, known as Tuku music, is a unique combination of several elements: South Africa’s hard-driving mbaqanga rhythm, jit—a fast percussive Zimbabwean dance beat—and the gentler, repetitive mbira rhythms of Zimbabwe's Shona people.
In addition to creating a unique musical sound, he has won praise for his power as a lyricist.
His precisely worded narratives, with their sense of humor about daily life, stand as metaphors for the social and economic ills that bedevil his country.

Since 2000, when President Robert Mugabe's party was returned to power in a controversial election, Zimbabwe has been in the grip of a national crisis.
The government’s controversial land reform program has effectively seen the country's white farmers dispossessed, while members of the political opposition have been targeted for violent persecution.
With a food emergency that has more than 7 million people reliant on foreign aid and an estimated one in four people suffering from AIDS, conditions could hardly be worse.

Mtukudzi never openly refers to politics in his work, nor does he overtly criticize Zimbabwe's leadership. But his message is clear nevertheless, say his fans, who refer to him as “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”
In his 44th album, Vhunze Moto (Burning Embers)—its cover shows a map of Zimbabwe on fire—the track “Moto Moto” (Fire Is Fire) goes, “Even embers are fire, why wait until it's a huge flame to accept that it's fire?…You have made the fire, making it on your own, to prove that it is a fire.” The song was widely interpreted as a warning to Mugabe of looming catastrophe.

In another track, “Tapera” (We Have Been Decimated) Mtukudzi addresses the AIDS pandemic by advising men to adopt responsible sexual behavior. “A mature man, why behave like a child?” he sings.
“Don’t get carried away…” But by far Mtukudzi’s most controversial recent track is “Wasakara” (You Are Worn Out), from his 2000 album Bvuma (Tolerance). “Wasakara” says that old men should know when to step down and rest: “You are old, you are spent, it is time to accept you are old.”
Zimbabweans say this is a reference to the 79-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980 and shows no sign of stepping down. The opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, now uses “Wasakara” as its unofficial anthem.

A producer, arranger, and songwriter, Mtukudzi (known as “Tuku” to his fans) seems to have unflagging energy, releasing on average two albums a year for the last two decades.
Recently World Press Review’s Meron Tesfa Michael interviewed him about his career and his hopes for Zimbabwe.


What makes Tuku music different from other musical styles? How did you end up creating it?
My fans were the first to describe my music as Tuku music but it was only around the mid-'90s that I began to develop it as a brand name. My music doesn’t really qualify as one of the more classified styles of Zimbabwean music, like jit, sungura, chimurenga, or even traditional, so I suppose it has come about through having so many albums of music composed by me….44 albums to be precise.

Many influences have crept into my music over the years. For instance, I only introduced a full-time percussionist, female vocalists, and acoustic guitar into my live shows during the '90s….but I think even I can recognize a definitive style that has become my own!

Your albums are known for your lyrics that deal with social and economic issues in Zimbabwe. What are the problems that preoccupy you most, and your suggested remedies?
I was asked once why African composers don't write more love songs...that made me think, but I guess it’s because so many African countries are still immersed in wars and struggles against disease, poverty, and famine, that love songs seem almost trivial.

My lyrics have always been drawn from people and their day-to-day issues—not just their difficulties but also their humor, happiness, irony. I may reflect more on those issues that touch me in some way, but my lyrics tend to highlight people’s values and I guess I reinforce the more positive ones. I also like to challenge customs and behavior that encourage greed and selfishness, and I am very conscious of the disparities in our society, especially where women’s rights are concerned. As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, we are living in a very divisive society right now, so these days I sing about the need for peace, unity and tolerance.

If you had to distill all your work into just one song about Zimbabwe, to convey a message to the world, what would the message be?
For several years now, Zimbabwe has been a major focal point for the regional and international press. The message I would most like to convey to my listeners is that there are so many major catastrophes facing the African continent right now (like the AIDS pandemic, famine, etc.) that it is frustrating to witness governments that have been voted into power by the people spending so much time, energy, and often scarce resources on issues of conflict and power.

As a person who is recognized within my community, I feel a really strong sense of responsibility to be the kind of role model who promotes the right things. Peace and democracy are such critical factors in building a healthy society and yet our politicians seem obsessed with party politics, and corruption is eroding every sector of society.

What drives you?
That’s a difficult question, I’m not sure I know the answer but I love being on stage and writing songs; it’s one of my real pleasures in life. I also think I am very lucky to have been able to develop my hobby into my career. My personal mission is to achieve recognition for my work and enjoy the process —I’m slowly getting there but it has been a long and winding road.

Are you disappointed at the way things have turned out in Zimbabwe?
Of course I am—the dreams and the struggle for independence were shared by all. I still don’t understand why our government has chosen to sacrifice so much to retain the reins of power. The lack of tolerance toward dissenting voices is a great disappointment to me. Party politics will be the ruin of Africa especially when there are so many serious issues facing the country right now, like famine and AIDS. Why we can’t just combine all our energies to deal with these real-life issues is a mystery to me.

Your career launched in 1970s, at the time of the independence movement in Zimbabwe. What Zimbabweans’ spirit was like then compared to now?
The spirit of the Zimbabwean people felt indomitable when we were unified leading up to independence in 1980, despite the many personal tragedies that so many people experienced. Fragmented as we are now, and with so many forces waging a different kind of war against us, it is critical that we put our differences behind us and find that kind of human spirit again.

Recently Time magazine named you and [veteran Zimbabwean protest musician] Thomas Mapfumo as "heroic artists.” The magazine claimed that your music is “powerful as it rebukes and encourages the people of a broken nation to take up arms.” Is that your goal for your songs?
I don’t believe either of us is literally urging the people to take up arms. The minute you engage in violence to win any struggle, you lose so much. For many, the wounds from the war for independence can never heal—I have watched that period of our history and can only urge the people to have the courage to speak from their hearts and let their voices be heard….might is not right! The government has a responsibility to create the conditions that facilitate that kind of forum for the good of the whole.

Dialogue and instilling a discipline of nonviolence are the only way to remain victorious over the many challenges that are currently facing us as a nation. That is a message I would like to convey to all those who are perpetrating senseless acts of violence on fellow Zimbabweans, as they can never wash the blood off their hands.

What is the most consistent theme of your music?
Probably my most consistent theme is the strength of unity. Divided we fall.

Part 1 - Oliver Mtukudzi: Journey through Time

Oliver Mtukudzi
Oliver Mtukudzi turns 60 this September and this blog will from today run selected interviews the musician had with various journalists worldwide.
The first interview was done by Kenyan journalist, Mufu Luvai,  on June 13 2011

We are Africans and there are no better Africans than Africans. And what makes an African? It’s our language. We have beautiful languages and those languages make us African. If you go out there and perform in your mother language you’ll definitely be different from anybody else. Try it in English, you’re like them. If you notice, I use some English because in Zimbabwe we have three main languages: English, Shona and Ndebele - Tuku

Oliver Mtukudzi: Journey through Time

With close to 50 albums in his name, Oliver Mtukudzi or simply Tuku continues to be one of the most prolific artists in Zimbabwe and indeed the entire continent. He has just added another feather- a DVD and CD called Wonai (please watch)- to his cap and there is no doubt that this is going to raise his profile across the continent.

Wonai is an enchanting audio-visual journey through time and it is a must have for any African music lover. Initiated into the world of professional music in 1977 when he joined the now legendary Wagon Wheels which also featured Thomas Mapfumo another popular Zimbabwean crooner, Mtukudzi has grown gradually into one of the continent’s music icons and like good wine, he is getting better with time.

However, the musical bug had bitten him earlier than 1977. Born and raised in Harare’s Highfield section, in 1952, Mtukudzi grew up in a musical family. His parents both sang and actually met at a competition of church choirs. They continued to sing and compete amongst themselves (parents) and drew in the children as the judges.

Mtukudzi was, however, drawn to more than just judging. He was increasingly drawn to songwriting and had some early successes as a songwriter by penning some hymns that continue to be used in Zimbabwe churches to-date.

This musical environment sharpened his musical mind and he brought all these qualities- zeal, desire to excel- in his professional life. It also instilled in him the keenness to pick out the goings-on, subtle issues and nuances in the community that formed the storylines in his songs.

However, it is not just the parental competition drew him to music. His father’s premature death propelled him (the eldest of seven children) to the fore as the family bread winner. From this experience, Mtukudzi developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life and this has informed his artistic ventures as a musician, film star or theatre.

“My lyrics have always been drawn from the people and day to day issues not just the difficulties but the humor, the happiness, the irony,” Mtukudzi said in an interview with Meron Tesfa Michael in New York in 2003.

He added: “I may reflect more on those issues that touch me in some way but my lyrics tend to highlight people’s values and I guess I reinforce the more positive ones. I also like to challenge customs and behaviour that encourage greed and selfishness and I am conscious of the disparities in our society especially where women’s rights are concerned. As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, we are living in a very divisive society right now so these days I sing about the need for peace, unity and tolerance.”

This explains why his first single- Dzandimomotera, which he did immediately he turned professional, was such a hit that rapidly went gold. This was followed by Mtukudzi’s first album Ndipeiwo Zano, which was also a smash hit. Some of the musicians from the Wagon Wheels line-up teamed up with Mtukudzi to form the Black Spirits, the name of the band that has performed with him throughout most of his career save for a two year period towards the end of the eighties, when he performed with the Zig Zag Band.

When Zimbabwe got her independence in 1980, Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits released their fourth album Africa that was regarded as one of the most important albums of its time. Two tracks Zimbabwe and Madzongonyedze were outstanding and with it the fledgling country founded one of its first great voices. From Independence to 1997, Mtukudzi released two albums every year, establishing himself as a producer, an arranger, a prolific song-writer and a formidable lead singer.

His prolificacy gave him an opportunity to experiment with their traditional forms of the mbira, the popular Zimbabwean music style called jiti, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan called katekwe, the South African mbaqanga style, and he gradually absorbed them into an art form which is now distinctly his own dubbed Tuku Music and with it, an enviable niche in the industry.

“My fans were the first to describe my music as Tuku Music but it was only around the mid-1990s that I began to develop it as a brand name,” Mtukudzi noted in an interview. My music doesn’t really qualify as one of the more classified styles of Zimbabwean music like jiti, sungura, chimurenga or even traditional.”

He has not only tried his hand in music, he was the lead character in the movies Jit and Neria that were major hits in Zimbabwe and the rest of the continent. In Neria, serious drama dealing with the thorny issue of women’s rights in a chauvinist world, Mtukudzi also wrote and arranged the soundtrack that earned him the coveted M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992 against stiff competition that included that year’s other hit Sarafina by Mbongeni Ngema.

From film, Tuku turned his attention to drama by writing and directing the live musical production Was My Child, a project highlighting the plight of Zimbabwe’s street children. For this accomplishment, he was honoured by the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union.

This aside, he continued to concentrate on his core business- music that took him beyond Zimbabwe. In October 1993, Mtukudzi and group were invited to perform at the Natal Performing Arts Festival; in February 1994 they conducted a six-week tour of Austria and Switzerland; and in December 1994 performed ‘live’ on a double-bill with Lucky Dube in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, which they followed up with a number of concerts in and around Cape Town the same year. He performed at the MASA Festival in Abidjan in 1997.

It is around this time that he decided to take control of every aspect of his career. He hired a consultant who helped him with his contract, revamp his business strategies and firmly established the Tuku Music brand. He invited his longtime friend and fellow artist Steve Dyer to help produce his first album under this brand and it was aptly titled thus, Tuku Music. It was a success that sort of re-launched him again to the world and he has not looked back since then. He has continued to release one album after the other and promoting around his brand around the world.

In 2000, he released Bvuma (Tolerance) his 39th album that created more than a few waves in the media when one of the tracks- Wasakara, was adopted by the opposition parties in Zimbabwe in the same way Gidi Gidi Maji Maji’s Unbwogable was picked by the then opposition in Kenya.

This was followed by other releases like Vunze Moto (Burning Ember), Shanda, a feature film documentary built around key songs that Oliver selected as being turning points in his career, Tsivo (Revenge), Bira Rekunze (The Other Side), Mtukudzi Collection 1985-1991, Mtukudzi Collection 1991- 1997, Nhava among others. He has released several others albums like Mahube- music from Southern Africa, Qubeka (Moving forward), with Steve Dyer under their regional outfit called Mahube.

The journey has been long and tortuous but very fulfilling and he has gone to almost every corner of the globe to take this message that has endeared him to Zimbabwean and the African continent. The journey is well captured in Wonai that will thrill. The 15 songs contained in the compilation that was released by Sheer Music, has some rare footage that presents Mtukudzi in different light.

For over 30 years he has touched our lives through 60 albums produced; that is well over 600 songs telling tales of Africa’s trials and triumphs. From the heart of Zimbabwe, Oliver Mtukudzi is indeed one of Africa’s greatest musicians. His unique sound, popularly known as Tuku music, is a blend of simple yet elaborate guitar melodies with contemporary Shona and Ndebele rhythms – cultural yet modern.

Mufu Luvai caught up with the legend for an exclusive interview for Crave (music).


Karibu Kenya na karibu Nairobi.

Asante sana.

I heard of Tongai Moyo’s death. Sorry for the loss. He was someone you mentored; you produced some music with him.

Thank you. Yeah, he was somebody I discovered and helped him find his way. I recorded his first album. I didn’t have money to do it, but I fought hard to try, at least, to record because I believed in him.

For how long did you work with him?

I think it was about a year or so.

Is that a common tradition, are you mentoring any other artists in Zimbabwe?

A lot. I’ve been doing it from way back.

Tuku music is something you created and is now what is recognized as Zimbabwean music.

Yes, in fact I was the last person to know that the music is Tuku music.

You’ve done 60 albums that is well over 600 songs. Are you always composing?

I wouldn’t call it composing really; I am telling stories.

Your songs are mainly in Shona and some in Ndebele. That’s a lesson that cultural music actually puts you on the world map.

It does. We are Africans and there are no better Africans than Africans. And what makes an African? It’s our language. We have beautiful languages and those languages make us African. If you go out there and perform in your mother language you’ll definitely be different from anybody else. Try it in English, you’re like them. If you notice, I use some English because in Zimbabwe we have three main languages: English, Shona and Ndebele. The English used to complain, “How come you don’t do it in our language? We’re also Zimbabweans!” I said ok, I’ll give it a line, because it broadens who we are in Zimbabwe. But for identity, it’s my mother language.

What about the young artists in Zimbabwe, do they emulate that? Or is it like here? We’ve got a number of Kenyan Americans.

That’s an African problem. It’s not only Kenya; Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi and so on. Malawi is better off because they are more into reggae than American stuff. It’s just sad that our youngsters feel inferior. They feel, if they sing in their mother language, it’s not there…

It’s not cool…

it’s not cool, yes, that’s the right word. But for my understanding, there’s nothing superior about that. There’s no culture inferior to the other. We are just unique, we’re different. A lot of people out there are looking for Kenyan music. Now, if Kenyans don’t play Kenyan music, where would we get it from?

In terms of logistics, how does the music environment compare to 30 years ago?

My first recording was done in a talk studio. It was a four-channel; we’d record the whole set of drums in one channel; bass guitar in another; all guitars – or if keyboard was there – in another and all voices in the fourth. That’s how we started. From there we had eight-channel. That was an improvement. As you know, development is very good, but the problem in developing is that we always lose a certain quality. Those are the changes I noticed in my music as I went on. Right now most sound is digital. We call it development, but if you listen to analogue, what we used, and compare to digital, there’s a lot that we’ve lost. With digital it’s easy to transfer and give it to the next person, but analogue was tough. We used vinyl. Now there are machines that can transfer vinyl to CD – but the moment it’s on CD, it is digital and the quality won’t be the same.

Observing the North African revolution, it’s so violent. We sub-Saharan Africans have been lucky to have musicians who sing and reflect what the people feel. Fela was all about that, remember the Zombie album. Hugh Masekela did “Everything Must Change” for African leaders. I think, Tuku has done Wasakara. Or what was Wasakara about?

Let me elaborate on what covers whatever I sing about in all my music. My music is about self-discipline, because self-discipline is the real life, it is common sense. Every song I’ve written is to install common sense into every one of us because we ignore common sense. With self-discipline we can achieve a lot. We can avoid wars, we can avoid disputes because we are self-disciplined and my translation of self-discipline is respect for the next person. In all forms of art, it is our responsibility to heal and touch the next heart. It’s not about how much we get from it.

Some of your music is about Aids. Kenyans love Todii. Were you affected by the scourge at the time, perhaps a friend, an uncle or a relative?

I don’t think there is anybody who is not affected by the deadly disease. We are all affected somehow. I wrote that song when I had lost four members of my band in a space of two months, to the deadly disease, including my own young brother. So during the time, we were fighting the stigma attached to the disease, that’s when I wrote this song. It’s a song full of questions, but no solutions. But it was designed to trigger discussions amongst people so that people can talk about it and hopefully the stigma will fall off. And I’m glad the song has served its purpose; in the whole of Africa people want to know what I’m talking about. That makes it serve its purpose. I’ve had the song being quoted by politicians and in churches.

Poverty in Africa is like a disease. Of course, it can be helped. How do you do it in Zimbabwe?

The cause of poverty in most cases is attitude. It’s an attitude problem that builds to that situation. I did a play about street kids. I said, “Hey, how can there be street kids? Streets don’t develop children!” The parents are there somewhere somehow. There’s lack of self-discipline somewhere that’s causing these kids to stray. And when I did my survey I found that, yes there are orphaned kids, but there are also street kids by design; parents send their children to the street to beg. There’s no real street kid. There are a lot of organizations trying to deal with that, trying to take them off the streets. I’m happy some of them have now grown up. I’ve even played at a wedding of a guy who was a street kid and for me it’s a good example.

What other community projects are you involved in?

A lot. I deal with Aids, Cancer, Malaria, Arts, and so on. I believe that some of these kids are in the streets because they have nothing to do. I do have Pakare Paye Arts Centre, which is a place I built to facilitate for people of all ages to do something creative. We even have people in their 50’s. I did this after realizing that the problems I faced when I started were still there today; problems of attitude from parents who don’t respect who their children are. They impose their failures, what they couldn’t afford or what they couldn’t do, on their children. They can go to work and work hard to push their children into what they’re not.

Your latest album is about your collaborations.


There’s Eric Wainaina. You also support Suzanna Owiyo a lot with her music, have you done anything with her?

MO: I do. Yes, I have done something; it’s coming on the next album. -

Tuesday 21 August 2012

When Pastor Haisa's misery became mine

There are times when one becomes both a player and a referee. Judges and magistrate, I have no doubt, experience the same. I did in two cases during my stint on the arts and culture desk at The Herald. Pastor Haisa and the late Freddie Chimombe's plight and misery became mine.

In 2010, I was holed up in traffic along Jason Moyo Avenue just opposite Joina Centre in Harare. It was around 5pm and the robots at Julius Nyerere and Jason Moyo were not working.

Bored and feeling out of sorts, my eyes wandered towards Joina Centre and there walking down the pavement was Pastor Lawrence Munjeye Haisa.

Instinctively, he also turned his eyes at the traffic and saw me. Surprised, he rushed towards me and leant into the car.

‘Baba muri vapenyu?’ He asked me. ‘Makangoenda. Muri kupi?’

When traffic started heaving forward, I opened the door and he slid in, breathless with excitement.

He was still in his favourite greyish jacket and was holding a khaki packet.

After the preliminaries, Pastor Haisa said, ‘Zvinhu hazvisi kufamba baba. Kubva zvamaenda hapana achaita shungu nesu. Tangova vanhuwo zvavo . . .’

He then opened the packet and took out a CD, ‘Baba ndiitire zvamakamboita paya pamwe zvingachinja.’

If ever there is a musician whose plight almost became mine is Pastor Haisa. I had become one of his closest friends when his chips were low. Almost every day he would just pop up into the newsroom and sit by my desk. It did not matter to him what time it was and how he looked.

At one time, I asked the guards not to let him in but I felt so bad about it when one day after the guards had told him I was not in, I went down just to see him sitting outside waiting for me.

I won’t forget the smile that broke onto his face when he saw me. I led him back into the newsroom where he sat down and took out a half-eaten half loaf of bread from his jacket and offered me a piece.

I was so touched that I swore to do anything to help him.

I realised that he indeed needed my help. I knew by seeking me, he felt I could help him. But I knew I had nothing to give him.  

When the predecessor of H-Metro, wrote about his affair with his sister’s daughter, Haisa came to see me pleading that I do something about the story. But I told him there was nothing I could do.

I started reading about Pastor Lawrence Haisa’s miserable life way back in 2001.

A talented and successful gospel musician whose future was bright at the time, Haisa, a former pastor with The Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (Zaoga) hit news headlines with women issues.

One of the stories that made it big was in 2001 when Zaoga defrocked Haisa after he had thrown his wife, Rugare and his small daughter out of their home.

See the story below:

 Church defrocks Pastor Haisa over marital woes

 THE Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) Church has stripped popular gospel singer, Lawrence Haisa, of his pastorship after he threw out his wife, Rugare, and their one-year-old daughter from their matrimonial home last year.

A church leader, identified only as Bishop Ngorima, said the decision to defrock Haisa was reached at a disciplinary hearing after he failed to convince the committee why he threw out his family.

Ngorima said: “The disciplinary committee decided to strip him of his duties as pastor because ZAOGA does not allow a man to divorce his wife.

“Such behaviour is not acceptable at all.”

Haisa kicked out his family from the matrimonial home after his wife challenged him over an alleged love affair with another church member and musician.

Rugare, 22, said: “Rumour was circulating that Lawrence was having an affair with another church member, under the guise of compiling an album together.

“He spent most of his time with her and one day I found them in my house cuddling and looking very cosy.

“When I asked him what was happening, he became very hostile and told me to leave or he would beat me up.”

She said she took up the matter with the church’s authorities and Haisa was subsequently defrocked.

Haisa denied he threw out his family and said Rugare left on her own will.

But he admitted he was under disciplinary action.

He said: “I did not throw her out, but she packed her bags and left for Zvishavane, her rural home, without my consent or knowledge.

“She only came back after three months and I told her that I could not accept her back into my house after she had been away for such a long time. What did you expect me to do?”

Before she left, Haisa said, she withdrew $3 000 from his bank account. I told her to come with her relatives so that we could discuss the matter, but she never did,” said Haisa.

Asked whether he was having an extramarital affair, Haisa said: “We are working on an album together.”


Haisa has denied the defrocking saying that it was never communicated to him in writing.

He brought me a sheaf of letters to prove that he had written to Zaoga for clarification but none of the letters got a response.

According to him, nobody can defrock anybody since a pastor is anointed by God.

In the case of his first wife, Rugare, Haisa blamed church leaders especially Bishop Ngorima for eyeing her. He said he had suspected it and that chasing him out of the church was a way of keeping his wife away from him.

But I will never forget the story of how he became a pastor; how his family disowned him and his life as a cattle herder in Masvingo.

He told me that growing up without parents has made him become the angry man he is today. To him, Zaoga founder Bishop Ezekiel Guti is a father who helped him become what he is today.

At one time, he told me, he had to live in the streets before a church in Masvingo took him in.

His parents died mysteriously when he was young. First, was his father who was bitten by a cat. Then his mother also died. He grew up an orphan passed on from one family to the next.

Then he joined the village Zaoga church. This saw him visiting and deciding to stay at a church in Masvingo. This was when he realised his singing talent which opened up his horizons.

He came to Harare; trained as a pastor at UMFIC and became a pastor.

Combining missionary work and music, Haisa became the centre both within the church and outside when his music made it big.

Then came scandal after scandal. Over the years through to 2007, Haisa made big headlines for wrong reasons: Pastor Haisa hauled before court for assaulting wife (2004); Haisa thrown into prison (2004); Haisa in trouble (2005); Pastor Haisa marries sister’s daughter (2007); and his long-drawn fight against his record company, the now defunct Record and Tape Promotions (RTP) over his musical rights.

This is where he started visiting me to push his case against RTP. He had successfully taken the company to court and won the case and was expecting a huge pay-out. But it’s not clear what happened at the last minute, the case was thrown out. The fight against RTP had started way back in 2003 when Haisa walked out of the deal citing poor royalties.

It dragged on until around 2007 when, Haisa who literally have no place to stay came to see me one morning eating a half bread without any drink. He was close to tears.

Haisa had become a regular visitor to the Herald newsroom to see me. He believed, from what he would always ask me to do for him, that I would help him rise again.

At the time, he had just had a fight with yet another woman who later claimed that Haisa had tried to kill her. That case saw Haisa in court.

One day, I sat him down and asked whether all what the people, the media and the women were saying about him was wrong.

‘Baba moziva zvechirume zvonetsa,’ he told me. I recall him saying every time: ‘Baba zvinhu zvakandiomera.’

When I pressed him hard, he admitted the marital violence but as always passed on the blame to others.

I realised with each visit that I had to help him clear his record. This was not easy to do because a lot about him being a rogue had been written and no one would believe me if I wrote positively about him.

For example, in his 2004 wife-battering case, Magistrate Omega Mugumbate had to throw Haisa into the cells for a night after he had interfered with witnesses.

When I suggested this idea to him, Haisa was more than grateful. But I had to convince the diary session that the story was worth. This was not going to be easy.

I could not do it so I waited for Sunday when I would put in the paper anything without explaining it to anyone. Still I knew I would have to explain it when the paper was reviewed the next day.

I made sure that Haisa’s came out as a sorrowful piece that would quash any questions and avoid any one seeing me as trying to dust him up.

There were not many questions about the article except the usual shrugging and unspoken suspicion.

If Haisa had money then, somebody would have spoken about bribery but he was down and low to an extent that he would ask me for bus fare.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

He would be king of dendera

Tryson Chimbetu
Sometime in October 2007, Takawira Dapi who calls himself Photovet brought Tryson Chimbetu for an interview.
Twenty years at the time, Tryson had very little to show for his claims that he would one day be big like his cousin Suluman.
I had had the opportunity to interview his late father Naison at the family home in Glen View 3 in 2005.
At the time, Tryson was a student at Glen View High 1. The family fortunes had dipped because the father was always down with one illness or another.
Only when he felt better would he do some shows at the Rose and Crown Hotel in Hatfield. Even then, he would use a cart to transport his instruments from Glen View 3 to any venue he would be performing.
It took Tryson about two years to dust up his father’s career and turn it into his own future. Just like Suluman, Tryson started by backing his father at a fundraising gig in Mutare.
That April, Tryson had shared the stage with Alick Macheso, Cephas Mashakada, Hosiah Chipanga and Allan Chimbetu during a mini-Independence gala.
Just like Simon, Naison’s health was clearly on the decline. When he finally passed on, Tryson had to make a major decision to be a musician or go to university to study medicine.
Faced with a family that looked up to him, Tryson decided to make music. He made this decision when he had no equipment.
Fortunately, he got help from Alick Macheso who put him up as a curtain raiser for most of his shows. That shaped him in the early days of his career.
So Photovet who had seen him performing as a curtain raiser to Alick Macheso brought him. I did not have any doubts about him and the fact that he could be his father’s replacement.
I had learnt not to doubt people since the time I interviewed the Soul-Bone guys.
I recall sitting biting my pen when I sat down to write the story. I pondered on what to call him since he had not anything tangible except his word and that of Takawira Dapi’s. Whilst I wanted to trust Tryson, I would not in the world trust Dapi.
The danger was predicting a rising star when it would dim any time soon. I risked it and started the story saying, ‘Another heir to the Chimbetu music legacy - Tryson, the late Naison's son - has risen to stake his claim to dendera music.
‘The 20-year-old former Glen View High 1 School student has opted for the Marxist label and has already thrilled audiences in Zimbabwe and Mozambique . . .’
It was not an easy thing for Tryson who like Suluman had older band members and inherited old equipment which needed replacement.
He also spoke about his dream to be a doctor but had to shelve it to pursue music.
Tryson appeared grounded to me. He exuded confidence and showed focus.
When he dropped his debut album Marxist Revival, and personally delivered a copy to me in 2008, I recall telling myself that if there is a Chimbetu who has managed to re-capture the golden age of dendera music, that one is Tryson. 
The dendera beat as in the early songs such as Mwana Wedangwe, Denda and Dr Nero is a light beat driven by two-vocal lines. The beat was so light that one would depend on the lyrics. That’s what made Simon and Naison’s composition rich.
Of course, when they split, Simon became adventurous. In the absence of his other half who gave the second vocal line, he had to bring in the bass-line as a composing stick. In other words, he used the bass guitar to put in vocals and other instruments came in after the bass lines.
He also had to use multiple vocals where possible but you will note that in most of the songs, his voice dominated unlike in the past.
This is what Suluman has adopted and to some extent all those who are plying the dendera beat today. In other words, it’s the commercialised version of dendera music.
Simon and Naison had their problems later in their career but to and for them it was not so much about songs like what is happening now. Naison who was the slower composer of the two had hits in Dr Nero and Sekuru Ndipeiwo Zano.
If Tryson remains calm and stay away from alcohol which destroyed his father’s career, his future in music is guaranteed.
I recall how at Saratoga where the Marxist used to perform every Sundays before Simon was incarcerated Naison would stagger onto the stage to perform. On two occasions, I witnessed a disastrous performance.
I have no doubt that Naison’s alcoholism contributed largely to their split. When I interviewed Simon about the reasons of their split, he was not open about it.
Of course, Naison denied it saying that they split when Simon moved over to the now defunct Record and Tape Promotions while he stayed at ZMC.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

In death Freddie Chimombe must still be angry

Freddie's last residence
I have no doubt that Freddie Chimombe died still angry with the late J Masters over bits and pieces of music equipment he claims the businessman conned him; with Diana Samukange over the claims that she cheated him over his father’s songs’ deal; with his stepmother for inheriting the family Cranborne home; with his mother Marina Green for throwing him out of their Jerusalem home; the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association; and with himself for squandering his father’s fortunes.
It appears Freddie, who made more headlines because of his poverty and illness than musical success, had a thing about and against everybody.
In 2006 Freddie Chimombe took a kombi to the city from Highfield and then another one to Avondale to collect his royalties from the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association.
To his dismay, Freddie got Z$11 000 which was not enough for the trip into the city let alone to Highfield.
Together with a number of other musicians, Freddie passed by The Herald and I spoke to him. At the time, a loaf of bread was Z$130 000.
From the conversation, I wrote three stories - two of them about how Zimura was skinning off musicians and the other was my Thursday column - Sounds check - where I described Zimura's act as criminal.
That sucked in the late Prince Tendai who was the association’s chairman then. It also defined how Prince Tendai and I would relate over the years until I left The Herald.
I had to give Freddie money for the kombi to get back to Highfield.
The second time was when he came to protest against a story I had written quoting Daram Karanga, the man who played the saxophone on all his father’s songs saying that Freddie had squandered the money left by his father.
I had interviewed Daram after his fight with Freddie over royalties. Before James’ death, Daram who also composed some songs which were sung by James used to receive royalties although there was no written agreement.
But after James’ death, Freddie stopped giving Daram money. The recording company, Zimbabwe Music Corporation too could not do anything because there was no written agreement.
Daram revealed that Freddie, who inherited everything James had except a house in Cranborne, opened a butchery and a grocery shop in Goromonzi where he would perform mostly during weekends. 
According to Daram and even Freddie later admitted, the young man would buy beer for the people who came to see him perform. Later, he would book for a show but never turned up because of drunkenness.
In time, Freddie started selling bits and pieces of music instruments to survive. But he did not last and then illness set in.
It was around the time when he had just started ailing that Diana Samukange called me with a request to see Freddie and ask him for the rights to some of his father’s songs. I linked her up but Freddie later accused Diana of conning him.
The last time I saw Freddie was when he was real down. His mother had pushed him out of their Highfield house and he was staying in a shack at Hopley Farm on the outskirts of Harare.
His was not just a sorry sight but a very terrible situation.
Sitting outside his black plastic shack and watching three of his young children playing in the dust, Freddie did not mince his words accusing the late J Masters of stealing music equipment; Diana of lying to him and still owing him money; about the Cranborne house which his stepmother inherited and the death of his stepbrother Kudakwashe who was born disabled.
He also did not have kind words for his mother, Marina Green, whom he accused of chasing him out of the Jerusalem house because she could not see eye-to-eye with his wife. Then there were his sisters too whom he said were a bad influence on his mother.
Of course, he admitted that he had been careless but that was because of immaturity. If he had another chance, he said, he would do things differently.
It turned out that God did not give Freddie another chance. RIP.
Below is part of the first interview ever done after Freddie’s illness. It ran in the predecessor of the H-Metro – City.Com on Saturday August 9 2008.

Chimombe's Son Falls into Poverty

FREDDIE Chimombe, the late James Chimombe's only surviving son who is now ill, claims that Harare businessman Joe Masters sold his instruments in 2004.
The 35-year-old father of five, who now lives in a plastic shack at Hopley Farm on the outskirts of Harare after losing ownership of his father's Cranborne house to his late disabled stepbrother Kudakwashe, admitted this week that he had hit hard times.
With his sight failing because of TB and bad living conditions, Freddie sways while sitting and drags his feet when he walks.
His mother, Marina Green, who stays in a big rumbling house in the Jerusalem section of Highfield, also said his son's life was a constant pain to her.
But the frail and pitiful Freddie's major concern is the loss of instruments he inherited from his father.
"I am appealing to Masters as a businessman who has lots of money to just return my kit . . .

Stories done later

 Chimombe's son pleads for help

Freddy is surviving on buying and selling empty bottles although he sometimes gets his father’s music royalties from sales and airplay.
“Apart from the royalties from my father’s music, I am doing a business of buying and selling bottles to keep food on the table,” said Freddy in an interview at his makeshift home.
His father’s house in Cranborne is currently occupied by tenants following a court order that his stepmother inherits it.
“My health has immensely deteriorated due to poor living conditions and I have visited several doctors and undergone several tests, but they can’t find the real problem. I think I am bewitched,” he said.
Freddy (38), a father of five children is now partially blind after a snake spat venom in his eyes five years ago.
He described his situation as a “one-meal-per-day” living. He pleaded to fellow musicians to help him out.
“I would be grateful if I get assistance to get out of this mess.”
He said he is working on an album which he hopes to release this year.
“I am working on a new album. I want to revive my father’s band name like what the Dembos (Morgan and Tendai) are doing, despite the fact that I am in a challenging situation.”
A few years ago Freddy tried unsuccessfully to revive his father’s music.
He denied claims that he gave Lincoln Chimombe a go-ahead to revive his father’s band. Lincoln has often claimed that he is working on taking on from where the late great musician left.
“He is my half-brother and he came here with that request, but I told him to start his own thing because I am now having problems with people that are re-recording and publicly playing my father’s music without giving me anything.”
However, Freddy has made an arrangement with Diana Samukange, who recorded a remix of his father’s song Zvaitika in her Kumagumo Erudo that she pays royalties.
As he narrated his ordeal, he broke down many times.
He praised his wife for standing by him in these hard times. - newsday

Freddy Chimombe Resigned to Fate

 Son of the late veteran musician James Chimombe, Freddy, who is battling tuberculosis says he has lost hope of recovery as his condition continues to deteriorate.
In an emotional interview at his house at Hopley Farm, the musician said he could now "smell death" and has left everything to fate.
He said his health has been getting worse since last year despite taking medication.
"My brother, I can smell death as I am sitting here. Things are not well at all," said Freddy (39).
As he narrated his ordeal, the musician broke down many times.
Recently Freddy received US$700 from Patson Chimbodza, a music promoter, who initiated a charity match meant to benefit the musician and a local soccer academy.
The musician had earlier on announced his intention to visit popular Nigerian prophet TB Joshua but last week said he had changed plans because he no longer had hope.
"I cannot go to TB Joshua because it's now too late. The doctors are saying I have TB and they have been giving me treatment but for now having treatment or not is just the same."
Freddy said he was now considering relocating to their rural home in Chivhu.
"I don't want to keep on burdening my wife. You know how difficult it is to keep someone who cannot walk on his own here in the city."
He thanked his wife for being supportive during this difficult time.
"I want to thank my wife for standing by me. She has taken care of me and showed great love." – The Standard