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.


The Resident Outsider said...

I was just listening to Noel Zembe's Rangariro and I decided to google him. Thanks for this Blog Wonder, Please keep researching on and posting about our musicians, both living and dead. Perhaps we may be able to help them in some way, who knows. If they are willing, please post their contact details as well. Thanks.

goofy said...

Great Article.
Although he does not have much to show for his efforts, Noel is a legend in the Zim gospel circuit..

Unknown said...

love his music .listened to his music since they were frontline kids :)

Unknown said...

love his music .listened to his music since they were frontline kids :)