Tuesday 12 February 2013

Elijah Madzikatire says father Safirio destroyed his musical career

Elijah Madzikatire

I met Elijah Madzikatire years after he had hung up his guitar. 

He had also left Gramma Records where he had produced the late Paul Matavire’s debut single VaJiri

At the time, Elijah had acted in the movie Everyone’s Child and had a comedy Bhero Mukadota running on ZBC TV.

We met at club in Hatfield one evening in 2004. He lumbered into the club about an hour after the appointment.

I had had the opportunity of attending a show in Mvurwi where the whole Mukadota Family turned out in 1979. I was a small boy then and during those days, Mukadota, who drove a BMW, travelled with a big troupe that included actors and musicians.

At the time, Elijah had released quite a number of songs. I recall very well his song about karate where he would imitate a karateka on stage.

Being the days of Bruce Lee movies, that song was very popular with boys.

Surprisingly, Elijah did not mince his words when he spoke to me about his days in the music industry and how his father treated him.

In some way, he revealed the other side of Mukadota who is regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest comedians and musicians.

Elijah started his career as a doorman for his father’s group, the Afrojazz Fiesta.

Note: When the story ran in The Herald, Elijah refuted it after he realised the possible damage it would cause to his father's reputition. 

 The interview

Had it not been for his father, Elijah Madzikatire would not have ventured into the world of music in the 70s and 80s.

And again had it not been for the same inspiring father, who later put stumbling blocks onto his path, Elijah would not have left the world of music.

But in a case of a hen that eats its eggs, Safirio, arguably one of the best celebrated artists, destroyed his son’s career.

‘The main reason why I left music was because of endless arguments with my father. I had grown tired of his sketches and wanted to play music alone but he could not have any of it. As a result, and since i had no instruments of my now, I abandoned music,’ Elijah told me.

Elijah still remembered in 1980 when he was chosen to perform during Mozambique’s independence celebrations.

‘My father was not billed to perform but he followed us and had the programme changed to accommodate him. Well, that was done but because of the language barrier, people were not pleased with his performance. They demanded that I should play music for them.’

Elijah said there were times when his father would cause the cancellation of a show if he was not on the programme.

‘There were times when I would organise a show and when everything was going on well, my father would have it cancelled. He owned the instruments and so had every right to do whatever he wanted,' he further said.

But their problems were not only in shows but money too.
‘Whenever we held a poorly attended show, all the other members would be paid first. In case there was no money, father would not pay me.'

This, coupled with ill-treatment from his record company, ended Elijah’s promising music career that had started way back in the 70s when he used to work as a doorman for his father’s band – the Afro-jazz Siesta.

‘Father had joined the Afro-jazz Siesta after many escapades with musicians such as the late gospel pioneer Jordan Chataika,' he said.

Even with the Afro-jazz Siesta, Safirio who was also known as Baba Warwizi from his TV comedy, concentrated more on sketches. After playing with Afro-jazz Siesta, Safirio managed to buy some instruments and, together with Elijah, formed the Ocean City Band.

The original line-up had the late Tobias Areketa, saxophonist Phillip Svosve, Nicholas Hamwala and Elias Bokosha. The group was based at Paul Mkondo’s Hideout 99 in Lochnivar, Southerton.

When financial problems hit the group, the members walked out on the Madzikatires.

At the time, the late James Chimombe was working for Chitungwiza Town Council after leaving the OK Success. He was also planning of forming a band. At the same time, Chimombe met his saxophonist Daram Karanga in Chitungwiza who had also left the Chicken Runn Band. Since they were looking for instruments, the two approached Mkondo who told them about Safirio’s departure. 

Svosve, Himwala and Bokosha gladly welcomed Chimombe and Karanga as members of the band.

Abandoned but not completely marooned, the Mukadotas formed another group the Brave Sun. This was the group that discovered the late Elizabeth Taderera who was seen dancing at a pub in Mutare.

Katarina was to become the centre of the Sea Cottage Sisters, a vibrant dance troupe that made Safirio’s act a superb one.

But the 80s saw both Safirio and Elijah’s fortunes dipping. The Brave Sun disbanded. Katarina left to join Cde Chinx’ Mazana Movement and a come-back by Safirio with a new group, the New World made no impact.

It was with the Brave Sun that Elijah recorded his first single Ishe that went gold in 1978. The single was followed by Vana Vevanhu, Pasi Hariguti and an album Gukurahundi in 1980.

‘Our music was liked by many people. And it was because of this fact that Webster Shamu picked me for the Mozambican tour.
‘People also enjoyed the antics of Chibhodhoro, John Muyambo, who played congas. I had seen him playing with a rumba outfit and poached him when we introduced congas,' Elijah revealed.

The same Chibhodhoro was Elijah’s other half in their TV comedy Bhero Mukadota. Today, he plays with Tanga Wekwa Sando.

When he abandoned music, Elijah, who acted in Everyone’s Child, also took part in the series Mhuri yavaMakore with Safirio and Susan Chenjerai.

He worked for Gramma Records as a producer and produced Paul Matavire’s first song VaJiri. He also worked with Leonard Dembo and Lovemore Majaivana.

Backed by the Bhero Band, Elijah launched a come-back in the 90s and released a tribute song to his father called Tinokurangarirai but it did not do well.

Thursday 31 January 2013

The Carol Chivengwa-Mujokoro & Ivy Kombo-Kasi Egea puzzle

I have always wondered why Egea Gospel Train super brands, Ivy Kombo-Kasi and Carol Chivengwa-Mujokoro, rarely acknowledge each other's contribution to their careers.

I interviewed Carol via written questions some time in 2006 and the Ivy Kombo-Kasi part does not come out. I also spent a day with Ivy and Kasi some years back, the name Carol did not come out. 

All what Kasi said when I asked him why there were rumours about an affair between Ivy and him was that there were some gosple musicians who wanted to be like Ivy spreading rumours.

It appears as if there is some discomfort when they talk about the Pastor Kasi-led Egea Gospel Train because most often it's mentioned in passing.

Maybe it could be true that it was Carol who spilled the beans of the Ivy/ Kasi affair.
I still wonder . . .  

I could not meet gospel musician Carol Chivengwa- Mujokoro when I asked for an interview.

Instead, I was asked to send questions which were then responded to. In stating how she rose to prominence, Carol does not mention Ivy Kombo’s name.

That too is the same with Ivy - she does not mention Carol as a former partner. Maybe it's not important that they acknowledge each other's contribution to their success or they were well rounded musicians when they sang together at Egea.

That was around 2006/ 7 long after Carol had left the Ezekiel Guti Evangelistic Association (Egea) Gospel Train to pursue a solo career.

Egea, formed and led by Pastor Admire Kasingakore (Kasi) who was then a top pastor in Ezekiel Guti’s Zaoga, groomed some of Zimbabwe’s biggest names in gospel music.

Apart from Carol, there is Ivy Kombo who is now Kasi’s wife but was his adopted daughter. Then there was the late Jackie Madondo.

Carol’s facebook page says the gospel diva was born in Goromonzi, Zimbabwe and grew up in Chitungwiza.

She then started singing before crowds at a tender age of eight before becoming a member of her church's Praise and Worship Team where she was the leader of the Praise and Worship.

Together with her sisters, Carol formed a family band which was known as The Blessed Sisters which was invited to minister at many church conferences and this encouraged Carol to do even better.

At the age of 16, Carol recorded her first work with Egea Gospel Train - the album Mufudzi Wangu and three others - Ndinokudai Jesu, Vimba NaJehova and Kutenda.

Carol had Ivy Kombo, Mono Mkundu and Annie Kombo among others in the band.

By 1996, Egea was no more and Carol pursued a first solo which her releasing the album, Ropa RaJesu.

Between 1999 and 2011, Carol had released seven albums. To date, she has released 12 albums.

She is to date the only Zimbabwean gospel musician to record a live album, Carol Mujokoro in the Holy Land, in Israel in 2003.

She has also won several awards among them the 2000, Tinotenda Siyabonga Annual Music Award (TSAMA) for Best female artist as well as the 2012, ZimPraise legendary award in recognition of her contribution to Zimbabwe gospel music since 1992.

She graduated from the Africa Multination for Christ College (AMFCC) as a pastor and is in full time pastoral ministry.

But there is one thing that Carol does not seem to mention in her profiles – that she shared the stage with Ivy Kombo at Egea and that they sang as a team in most of the songs released by Egea.

Although Egea died when Kasi left Zaoga, some people say the actual reason why he left was his involvement with Ivy and that it was Carol who first spilled the beans.

There was a time when rumour circulated about Kasi’s romantic eye roving over Carol but was turned down.
The same rumour further claims that this resulted in Carol leaving to record her album elsewhere and the subsequent death of Egea.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Blessings yet to arrive for Noel Zembe

Noel Zembe
The name Noel in Hebrew means Arrival of God just like the angels said to the shepherds whom they found sleeping in the fields.

There is even a song that goes like:  Shepherds, the chorus come and swell! 
Sing noel, noel! 
Shepherds, the mighty chorus come and swell!
Shepherds, shake off your drowsy sleep!
Rise and leave your silly sheep.
Angels from heav’n around are singing,
Tidings of great joy are bringing.
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

Hark! Even now the bells ring ’round!
Listen to their merry sound:
Hark! How the birds now songs are making
As if winter’s chains are breaking.
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

See how the flow’rs all burst anew,
Thinking the snow is summer dew: 

See how the stars afresh are glowing,
All of their brightest beams bestowing!

Cometh at length the age of peace,
Strife and sorrow now shall cease!
Prophets foretold the wondrous story
Of this heav’n-born Prince of Glory!
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing noel, noel! Sing noel!

Shepherds! Then up and quick away.
Go seek the Babe ere break of day;
He is the hope of ev’ry nation,
All in Him shall find salvation!
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell,
Sing noel, O sing noel!

Yet for gospel musician, Noel Zembe, God does not seem to come. 

There is something of the late Pio Farai Macheka in Noel Zembe.

Pio Farai Macheka committed suicide citing failed music career. He made it just with a few great songs but then fizzled out thereafter.

He also had his dread locks shaved off by unknown people. But he accused Thomas Mapfumo for this. Until today, nothing much is known about what exactly happened with and to Pio's dreads.

After years off the music scene, Pio came back but it was too late. He had lost the zeal and zest for stardom.

This is the slowness, some unwillingness to go ahead and make the best out of his talents I saw in Noel Zembe when I met him. It's a hesitance that borders on ‘confusion’.

It hit me first when I ran into Noel Zembe first at Gramma Records in Masasa when he was chasing after his royalties.

He was dressed in a yellow soccer jersey and faded brown pair of jeans and some ‘tackies’ that were falling apart. I did not speak to him then because somehow he reminded me of my meeting with Pio a few months before he committed suicide.

Later, I would run into Noel Zembe at a newly-opened Artisan Recording Studio when its offices were along Chinhoyi Street in Harare after the owner, Allen Dzobo had invited me.

Again I sensed this shadow that hovers over him. Somehow, Noel Zembe is different in his videos where he is alive and can take the viewer high and low emotionally.

Again just like Pio who became a fishmonger, Noel could not make much from his music.

This is what I gathered from Emmanuel Thomas about the formation of the Frontline Kids, the group which made Zembe and others.

Noel Zembe started in 1985 as a member of Scanners International together with Emmanuel Thomas, the late Primrose Sithole, Jivas Dzotizei, Philbert Marowa, the late Bob Manwere and Wellington Masvosva.

Based in Dzivaresekwa Suburb, the youthful group released the single Chauya Chauya in 1986 before meeting Professor Fred Zindi, also a musician during the 1987 Independence Day celebrations at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.

Zindi adopted the group and renamed it Black Fusion, but when the then deputy minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Ndlovu (now Webster Shamu) saw the group, he suggested that they should be called Frontline Kids because they were young and represented the African Children living in the Frontline States.

In 1992, the group changed its name to the Frontline Krew because the members had grown up and so could not pass for kids.

But like the Jackson 5, age brought with it, the desire for freedom to discover new horizons. While others sought their own dreams, Noel went into chemical manufacturing and later returned to music and recorded the single Baba Thoko with High-Density Studios under the Zeal project. 

Later, he turned to gospel and recorded Ndaiwana Hama, Ndega Ndega and Pinda Mudanga. Noel  managed to introduce a fresh gospel beat with inspiring lyrics.

Zindi’s version as he wrote in The Herald was:
‘It was on April 17 1987, on the eve of Zimbabwe’s seventh independence anniversary when I was Director of Ceremonies and stage manager of the Independence Celebrations at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. 

The celebrations began around 6pm. At around midnight, The Rusike Brothers, Lovemore Majaivana, Paul Matavire, Robson Banda, The Four Brothers, Ilanga, Talking Drum, Comrade Chinx and Simon Chimbetu had done their performances.

I was just about to introduce Thomas Mapfumo on the stage when I was suddenly interrupted by this young man who jumped onto the stage before the bouncers could stop him. 

He said: 'Mukoma Fred tiri chikwata chekuDzivarasekwa. Tine shungu dzekuridzawo nhasi. (We are a group from Dzivarasekwa and we want to be included on the bill tonight).'

I politely thanked this young man and told him that the show had been organised months before tonight’s event and there was no way we were going to interfere with the programme to accommodate his group.

However, I gave him my telephone number if he wished to participate in the following year’s celebrations. 

I forgot about this incident until three months later when I received a call from Bob Manwere reminding me about my promise to include his band in the following year’s independence celebrations. 

I asked him several questions about his band and whether they could play. He told me they did their rehearsals in Dzivarasekwa and that I was free to come and listen to them.

I made an appointment for the following Saturday. On arrival, I learned that the band comprised school kids and was called Scanners International. A gentleman called Tedious was managing them. 

Their lead singer was a 17-year-old chap called Peter Tembo and the backing vocals were supplied by another 17-year-old called Jevas Dzotizei. 

The rest of the band consisted of Manwere aged 17, who played the bass, Emmanuel Thomas on lead guitar and Philbert Marova on rhythm guitar, both aged 16. Then there was Wellington Masvosva, aged 14, who played the drums.

They were playing on some battered acoustic guitars and a makeshift drum kit with torn skins. Together, they could hardly play, but I saw the passion they all had for wanting to be something in the world of music.’

Noel Zembe could be struggling but his music is a legacy which uplifts the soul. There is no doubt that for him to be still going when most of his band mates have gone quiet is a great feat.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Tedious Matsito determined to walk - physically, musically

Tedious Matsito

He lost his two brothers when the band was at its zenith, but Tedious Matsito was determined to go on even after death had visited him again and snatched away his other brother and band members whom he said understood his music. Today, because of that kombi accident, Tedious has lost a leg and his career took a hard knock. Still he is determined to rise and walk again - physically and musically.

Tedious Matsito, the now disabled leader of Ngwenya Brothers, is a shy man. Almost unsure, uncertain of himself. Just like the late Pio Farai Macheka.

He appears to be overwhelmed by people around him. And he would keep his eyes on the ground/ floor when talking to you.

But once on stage, he would emerge from his shyness to deliver some of those unforgettable shows.

So in July 2006 when he had just returned from a three-week tour of Mozambique, he called me for the first time. He said he would like to meet me and talk about his Mozambican tours.

I had enjoyed Ngwenya music before. Their song Madiro that was popularly known as Gede Mwana Gede was a hit when I was a teacher in Zimuto area in the mid 90s. 

It was one of those songs which kept us company at Chirina rural township where we retired everyday after school for a game of draughts and for the famous scud peppered with cream milk.

Despite stiff competition at the time from the late Leonard Dembo’s Chitekete and Leonard Zhakata’s Mugove, Gede Mwana Gede had its own share of the market.

But what made Gede Mwana Gede and the Ngwenya Brothers stand out were their live shows which featured the ‘dwarf’ character as a dancer.

The brothers were the second group after Kasongo Band to popularise chibhasikoro or kabhasikoro dance.

The dance originates from east Africa where it was brought by rumba musicians fleeing from Mobutu Sese Seko. This dance was known as cavacha in the Congos, Tanzania and Kenya.

This is the dance popularly known today as Borrowdale after Alick Macheso’s modifications and improvisations. Before he broke away from Nicholas Zakaria, Macheso as a member of the Khiama Boys used to dance kabhasikoro just as Ngwenya Brothers would do.

The beginning
There were three brothers – Jabulani, Mike and Tedious. The fourth brother, Albert, the oldest one, was a musician but not an active one.

Although the Ngwenya family hails from Chipinge, the brothers found themselves staying on a Mazowe farm around the same time when Nicholas Zakaria was also plying his trade in the area.

Albert was the first to travel all the way to Harare and found work at Glenara Estates just outside the capital along the Bindura road. He worked there as a carpenter for years before he was joined by his three siblings for whom he fashioned guitars.

With the crude homemade guitars, the nameless group consisting of Tedious, Jabulani, Albert and Mike toured surrounding farms entertaining farm workers for a fee.

Tedious left the farms to seek employment in Harare because the money their brother Mike made and whatever little they earned from their performances was not enough to keep them going.

Once in Harare, Tedious went to stay in Dzivaresekwa (known as Gillingham then) while working as a garden-boy in Mabelreign. Gillingham was the common starting point, some kind of a way station, for virtually every sungura musician who came from the farms.

This is where Simon and Naison came to from a Chegutu farm; Zakaria too sojourned here before he went to stay in Epworth; even Alick Macheso was brought here by Shepherd Chinyani when he was fetched from a Shamva farm; the late John Chibadura honed his musical career in Gillingham when he came from a farm in Centenary.

It was here where Tedious sought Chinyani, just like many others before and after him, to understand the urban music scene. Before Tedious, Zakaria and Chibadura too had sought Chinyani to dust up their careers. 

Soon after, Jabulani came to stay with Tedious. At the time, Mike was at a school in Mutoko but when he was done, he also came to join his two brothers in Gillingham.

With the help of Chinyani, Tedious teamed up with his brothers to start what would become a glittering musical career that would see them topping up charts with great songs which made them a group to reckon with.

This journey, however, would start with an attempt to record a single titled Zuvaguru in 1990 but with no instruments and money, the task was abandoned.

Here Chinyani came to help them with instruments and playing drums even. This, Chinyani would do for the brothers’ first four albums.

With so much talent, the group’s debut album Nyaradzo was a massive hit which earned them so much money such that they resigned from their jobs to become full time musicians.

To do this, they had to put together a group and they brought in Taimon Gandi, the late Levison Chakanyuka and the late dwarfish dancer, Godfrey Mhere.

Success brought problems resulting in Mike and Taimon leaving to form Ngwenya Young Brothers but Mike would return while Taimon left for Mozambique.

Death too visited the group – Jabulani passed away and then two other Matsitos, Luckmore and Domingo came on.

In 2008, death visited again in form of an accident while the group was coming from a Mozambican tour. It snatched away Domingo and Godfrey Mhere leaving Tedious seriously injured. The injury has since seen his leg amputated and the group’s drive slowed down.

The meeting
The Tedious Matsito who came to see me before the accident was a shy calculative man. He sat looking out the window at the blooming jacarandas in Africa Unity Square. 

Since it was my first time to meet him in person, I too tried hard not to make him see that I was studying him hard.

He had come to tell me about the success of their Mozambican tours and that they would go back in a week’s time.

I took the opportunity to ask him about how the group had started and the hardships they were encountering. Among some of the problems Tedious spoke about was the death of his brothers leaving him to run the band. He also complained about poor marketing and how piracy was eating away at the group’s earnings.

I did a piece for file check, the Wednesday column I ran in The Herald then.

That first visit would see him calling or passing-by just to say hello. I recall that I would also write about their Mozambican tours on three other occasions before the accident.

The accident
A day after the accident – they were in a kombi from Mozambique – I went to see him at Parirenyatwa where he had been hospitalised. It was a sad sight and he was in great pain.

He told me that the kombi was over-speeding and that their pleas for the driver to slow down fell on deaf ears. But what made him angry was the fact that all their stuff – groceries and money they had made from the tour – went missing at the accident scene when they were taken to hospital.

They had invested so much in the tour but the loss meant they would need time to recover.

At the time, Tedious was not aware that his brother, Domingo had died on the spot. Of course, he knew about Godfrey though and another female dancer's death.

Ever since that day Tedious was admitted in Parirenyatwa Hospital, his fate had been sealed – he would live a beggar’s life.

Indeed, until today, Tedious has to beg for money to buy an artificial leg. Although he is trying hard to come back, Tedious admits: “My greatest grief is on the accident. It really brought me and my band down.
"I lost some colleagues who really knew what my music was all about. People who could easily adjust to anything we did as a band.

“I could not stage shows because of the injury and also that we had no instruments. I, however, managed to recruit other members but it takes time to make people perform as the ones you would have stayed with for a long time.”

He has not given up though:  “Being a person who was involved in an accident that caused injuries and claimed the lives of my colleagues, I need a lot of things to cover up for lost time.

“My greatest wish is to perform at each and every gala so that I regain my status and that people recognise that we are still there as Ngwenya Brothers. I believe that will promote the name that had faded into oblivion.”

He misses the good old days when things were good and shows well attended, “But I cannot complain really because it is getting better as compared to the last few years.”
(additional reporting from several sources)

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Jackie Madondo went too soon

Jackie Madondo

The day Jackie Madondo died, the people were waiting for her at the then Harare International Conference Centre at the Sheraton Hotel.

It was in the afternoon of November 17 2004 and the Ivy Kombo-initiative; Nguva Yakwana Gospel Show had just kicked off.

I had also just joined The Herald and was standing outside the venue together with Jackie’s uncle, former librarian, Alywn Bizure.

He received the call, spoke briefly and then looked at me before saying: “I can’t believe this.”

I asked him what it was and he said, “Jackie has just had an accident.”

I stared at him and asked him, “Is she dead?”

At that time, he was already walking into the venue to break the news to the organisers of the show.

Just when I was about to follow him, one of the sub-editors called me and repeated the terrible news. He told me that Jackie had been seriously injured and that she had been taken to Parirenyatwa Hospital.

I managed to get more details later. Her Nissan Sunny sedan car collided with an army truck along Enterprise Road killing her one-month old baby and injuring her two sisters.

A week later after her death, a childhood friend, Panevanhu Dominic Kaseke, who was also admitted at Parirenyatwa with head injuries told me that he had seen Jackie being brought into the hospital and that he saw her die.

“She died right there before my eyes,” he told me.
Born Jacqueline Orleen Vivian Madondo in 1980, the gospel artist died at a tender age of 24 leaving an unfinished career that had just taken off.

At the time, her album Mazuva Acho was still doing well. Jackie’s beat that has a soulful flavour stands out from the rest of Zimbabwean gospel that has gone the sungura way.

Backed by the group, Vessels of Honour, Jackie also released a second album called Achadzoka.

She started singing in church with her young sister Marbel as the Madondo Sisters before assuming the name Vision. In 2001, the group evolved into Vessels of Honour with Jackie, Marbel, Lindarose Chinogureyi and Shylet Mudzamiri as members. There was only one man – Kudzai Ndoro - in the group.
Her other song, Rutiziro still is a very inspirational song that has a fresh catch to it.

Jackie was a member of the Ruvhuvhute Sisters that released the song Come to Victoria Falls song together with Plaxedes Wenyika, Ivy Kombo and the Flame actress Fortunate Matenga.

She also had a stint in EGEA gospel train, a Zaoga choir put together by Pastor Admire Kasi and fronted by Ivy Kombo and Carol Munjokoro in 1997.

Later she would back-up Ivy Kombo on her album My Shepherd.

Her sister, Marbel has since released a 15-track album titled The Return (Praise and Worship) that carries a Jackie composition called Tichitenda Mwari Baba.

Today, the Vessels of Honour consist of Pride Priestly, Pamela Ndoro, Mudzamiri and Marbel.

There is also another album called Faithful and Just done by Marbel dedicated to Jackie.

“Jackie was a wonderful sister whose life became my inspiration. It was hard at first to even sing her songs and it took me seven years to come up with this project, which I believe will go a long way in the music industry.

“We sang together in the group Vessels of Honour and I did the intro part on the hit song Mazuva Acho. We also held shows together,” Marbel said when the album was released.