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)

1 comment:

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