Friday 3 October 2014

Paul Brickhill - Do not think of this as a goodbye

 On August 1 this year, Paul Brickhill wrote to me. One of the paragraphs which draw tears into my eyes is where he says: Do not think of this as a goodbye; I am sick but also just updating those friends who may not have known the dramas that unfolded over the last 3 weeks, from 24 July, and changed my life. 

My mother said almost the same when she died of cancer in 2012. I spoke to her over the phone the night before she passed away. I offered to come to Harare and see her. But she told me: Kana wakauya, ndiwe unoita sei? Ndichiripo. 

Rest In Peace Paul Brickhill. One of very few good men who meant well. If running this communication between Paul and I is in bad taste, I apologise in advance. I am sharing this to show how big Paul's heart was.

Paul Brickhill

Dear Wonder,
On Friday 1 August, after 8 days in intensive care diagnosed with strep pneumonia and laryngitis - I underwent emergency surgery to open an airway into my trachea after unexpected discovery of a tumour pressing my windpipe causing huge distress; a biopsy diagnosed anaplastic thyroid cancer, the least-known cancer, its causes unknown, and the most aggressive. I will soon head to home based care, the relief of sky, trees, flowers, birds, music, family (and real coffee!). I have started radiation therapy.
It was a close thing that night. I am lucky to be alive, thanks to quick thinking both by my brother Jeremy and the specialists who saw me that day.
A 33-year era has – for me – ended, abruptly and dramatically, the next journey of my life already begun. It all started as an outcome of the liberation struggle on our return home in 1980, I was 22 years, heady early days of independence, and promise of our future. Grassroots Books (est. 1981), transformed into the Book Café culture centre (1997) that paved the way for Pamberi Trust (2002), and in turn helped set up African Synergy in 2005. Related and memorable arts included Solidarity Band (a forerunner of the Bhundu Boys) and Luck Street Blues in music, and African Publishers Network APNET and ZIBF, and Anvil Press in books. 

Needless to say, Book Café and Pamberi Trust have united leadership , competent and dedicated management, and all will operate as normal. It is also not easy for my colleagues and comrades.  
Virtually my entire close and extended family was either with me or flew to Harare and mounted a 24 vigil at my bedside. Overwhelming really! I find it a little strange to be saying this, but it is true, I feel myself utterly blessed, and in many ways too; this extraordinary, rich life, an African life, so many wonderful, loved people and happenings, my life brim-full with goodness, love, beauty, music, books – and laughter!!! - a new sunset every night, and the majesty and enormity of Africa, place, peoples, and the “idea”, the strong, vital and decent people whom I have known, who bear all that life offers with grace, time longer than rope.
Now each day for me is lived simply as it should be, alive and happy to see what the day will bring, the miracle of life, it is not over!
I find myself so fortunate to have been in situations where I could do something. I fight on. Aluta continua! African struggles, emancipation and life itself!
And this I read just before I became ill: “Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is”, to paraphrase Albert Einstein. I am intrigued that a scientist could think like that, Einstein was clear the path he had chosen, life without wonder and imagination does not exist. The choice is ours. For me, everything that has taken place in my life appears to me as some kind of impossible, yet it happened, none more so than our beloved Book Café, its artists and life, histories and soul! 
Do not think of this as a goodbye; I am sick but also just updating those friends who may not have known the dramas that unfolded over the last 3 weeks, from 24 July, and changed my life. 
I wish you well.
With love,


I had forgotten my password to this account. Luckily, yahoo now has a mobile phone password checks.

I heard about your condition but nobody said what exactly it was. Glad, you made it.

We have a history going to back to the 90s, Paul. I learnt a lot from you.

I pray that you live longer to open up new paths.



Paul Brickhill

It’s good to hear back from you Wonder. Yes, we have that history, the respect is mutual; you have been the writer who, for me, set an uncompromising standard of integrity. I bumped into your music blog over the years; I wish it could reach the mainstream media (or maybe that is asking too much!!).
Years ago you asked a question as we sat in old Book Café that to this day I recall, which says much about your understanding of culture, and a searching attitude to journalism I admire (one we find, tellingly, more in sports than cultural journalism). To paraphrase, since I can’t recall word for word, you asked: “Paul, as far as The Culture Fund is concerned, could you tell me, amidst the millions of dollars disbursed, of just one ‘great’ or ‘notable, long lasting’ result, like an award winning film production, an award winning book, a cultural landmark of some sort, short term, like a production – or long term, like a programme, and so forth”. Naturally, the question could not then be answered at all, and perhaps not today. For sure I could not answer it easily; nothing obvious comes to mind. And how much has been disbursed. Not less than 10 million? 15?
I found the question said profound things about cultural development, the risk to cultural progress when the ‘populist approach’ or is it ‘political expediency’ overtakes a bold vision of what culture can undertake in society. I have often used it.
I am in Jozi now, receiving a battering of radiation. My cancer is inoperable and incurable, extremely aggressive; the prognosis is not good, months rather than years being the norm, but I am in good shape relatively and I have a positive outlook. The approach in my case is palliative from the start. I am happy with that. I had hoped for years to do more writing, and have now started the daunting task or writing my life’s work, in a format that is very different, more novel than autobiography. Ironically, I found it was the only way I write with absolute personal honesty, and greater accuracy.  
My warm regards to you Wonder.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Tuku disowns 'biography'

I have been reading with great dismay the excerpts from a so called ‘biography’ of me by Shepherd Mutamba who used to work with Tuku Music as a documenter for our website and other publicity materials.
About two years ago Mutamba came to me and told me that while he was working for us he had been simultaneously writing a ‘biography’ about me, and wanted to publish it. I was taken aback as he had never mentioned this to me before, but I said to him that if he was going to publish a book based on intimate information he had acquired while working with us, some of which he had acquired in confidence, during conversations with members of my family and team, he needed to give it to me to read first. He agreed to this and said he would bring the manuscript to me when it was ready.
Shortly afterwards he started becoming more and more distant and then announced to us that he wanted to take a year ‘sabbatical’ to study and write exams. We agreed happily and that was the last we saw of him. We invited him to several Tuku Music events, including our Tribute dinner at the Rainbow Towers last year but he did not respond.
Then two weeks ago I started reading with utter amazement the excerpts from his ‘biography’ that the Daily News started to print. I felt betrayed by a man I had trusted so much and brought into my inner circle.
As a man, I am not perfect. I have my strengths and weaknesses, like anyone else, but why would anyone write a book, which from what I have read so far has so many made-up ‘facts’, half-truths and false interpretations of my life? Why would someone who was warmly welcomed into our camp and treated with great respect want to pull me down like this?
Everything about the book that I have seen so far is an attack on me. Nothing positive at all. Is that Mutamba’s summary of who I am as a man?
You can imagine the distress that this has caused my family. If he wanted to pull me down, why attack my family too?
Our conclusion so far is that Mutamba is simply trying to generate sales for his book using a sensationalised form of journalism that is best suited for tabloids.
We are currently consulting with our lawyers on the action to take but we are moving on with our vision as Tuku Music and won’t let these recent developments slow us down.
I would like to thank everyone who has sent in messages of support and solidarity during this time. Thank you.
Other biographies will be written and may history judge us all fairly.
Oliver Mtukudzi
14 September 2014

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Pah Chihera - Once in a while stars emerge

Pamhidzai Tracy Mbirimi’s soulful Afro-Jazz music has a unique freshness that stands her out as a natural singer. Known by her stage name ‘Pah Chihera’, she has just released her debut album, Runonzi Rudo, which has love birds in Zimbabwe all singing along. The title track features the slick Prince K Musarurwa who seamlessly complements her authentic voice for a heart-warming twosome:
The Truth About: Pah Chihera

Home Town & Current City: Harare

Current City: Harare

Age: March 6, 1991

Marital Status & Children: In a relationship

Genre: Afro Jazz

How did your career start, and where are you projecting yourself with all the talent currently coming out of Zimbabwe?
Music is something that I was born doing, although I had a strong passion for modelling when I was younger. I began as a backing vocalist for my Uncle Kudakwashe Prince, who is featuring in most of my tracks.
My uncle then decided to wean me and let me to record solo, with Runonzi Rudo as my first Album. I have always believed in quality and not quantity so I have taken my time to polish this album and I see myself growing and becoming a better artist .
Have you found Zimbabweans supportive?
Kusatenda huroyi chokwadi. I would like to say I’m really humbled with the warm responses I’m getting since releasing my album. Zimbabweans are really supportive and I’m very grateful.
I’m ever learning and I take praise and criticism as part of the constructive process to only make me better. As they say, 'akubaya zanhi ndewako'.

What do you consider your greatest musical strength?

Stage performance.
Are you currently signed by a record deal?
I’m not signed with any recording company, but I am considering Chigutiro Records. These guys are really assisting me a lot, especially Shayne Dingz, he has been supportive and I can never thank him enough for the marketing and exposure he’s giving me. I think and feel Chigutiro Records is my home.
Do you write your own songs?
Yes, I am involved in the song writing. I’m inspired by real life experiences and tell stories from it. My uncle Prince K Musarurwa has also written some of my songs and we’re a great team.

If someone picks your CD from a record bar for the first time, what should they expect?
I want to think that my music is value-laden, conserves traditional values and contributes to our heritage. Most of my songs carry a message on life in marriages, respect for husbands and maintenance of their positions in the home and that is part of our culture.
I must emphasise that giving men the respect they deserve and being submissive doesn’t mean women have to put up with oppression. So my music tells life stories in an entertaining fashion, which I believe will go a long way and change the lives of many people.
On the respect theme, I also sing about the use of totems – itself a sign of respect and pride in one’s identity. I believe this should not be done away with by trying to westernise things.
What is your favourite musical instrument?

Easy, it’s the mbira.

Do you have a day job?
I don’t have a day job, but I have recently been indulging in selling imported shoes and handbags as part of my income generation project. Soon  will set up my own company, Pah Chihera Fashion.
Which schools did you go to?
Zvaramba Primary School and Mufakose High 3. I then enrolled with ZDECO College for a reception management course and then Herentals College where I received a diploma in hotel and catering management.
What is your guiding philosophy?
I believe we all learn from mistakes. You fall at some point, if not many times, but the most important thing is you get up and dust yourself and soldier on being careful not to fall in the same pit again.
You have released a video for ‘Runonzi Rudo’, tell us more about it?
It’s my first ever video. We had a small budget but I’m pleased with what we came up with. Asthey say, the first cut is the deepest and I’ve a feeling it will be my greatest, though there’s a lot more in my tank to do better.
The video was shot in Harare Gardens. There’s a myth that the park is where all the romance emanates from, so we decided to shoot it there. Runonzi Rudo tells a story of a girl and a boy who meet in the park and both happen to be listening to the same song through their earphones. Mesmerised by the song, they both fall into a trance, seeing themselves in love and having fun.
The boy, to his great disappointment, later comes to his senses and realises it was all a daydream, to the embarrassment of the girl. Thumbs up to Slimaz Production the brains behind the choreography for a splendid job!
Which song by any other artist holds special memories for you?
Dance with my Father Again by Luther Vandros. My father has always been my hero and every time I listen to that song, all the memories flash back and I can never have too much of that song.
How do you spend your free time?
I’m usually with my mum, who is my best friend, if I’m not in the studio or running around trying to make ends meet through marketing my new range of shoes and handbags. On an important note for me, I don't miss church on Sundays. I’m a Christian, though I wouldn't want to call Christianity a religion but rather a way of life. I wouldn't want to trade my Jesus with anything.
What is your definition of love?
Being there for one another even when you have differences – poor or rich, with or without. Understanding and respecting each other.
Do you have any Zimbabwean role models and who is your international role model?
Oliver Mtukudzi is my role model without doubt. Internationally, I’ve so much respect for Zahara. Those two have set the standard for me.
How do you manage emotional situations in your life?
In the face of criticism, I’ve learnt and taught myself to always look at the positive side. Never take everything personally. I’m motivated by Luke 12: 25 which says "Which of you by worrying can add an hour to your life?" So I take emotional situations as a stepping stone to yet another step in life and rather smile instead of crying.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ve a lot of gas in my tank so expect a lot from me. With time, I hope to not only be on awards lists but more importantly being recognised for positively influencing a lot of people through my music. I want to thank all those who have supported me so far. I promise them that Pah Chihera is here to stay and entertain. -