When people agree that you are extremely talented but go on to debate hotly about exactly whether your strength lies in the way you walk or the way you run, then that is a mark of genius. You actually put people in a crisis of naming aspects of a phenomenon.
But watching him play with his new band in Bindura in late 1999, well after the album Magariro and just after releasing the second album Vakiridzo, one was not certain if Macheso would be anything.
After all, there were stronger sungura echoes then, from Nicholas Zakaria, Ngwenya Brothers, Chimbetu, Tazvida and others.
It happened at Bindura’s tiny Kuyedza Cocktail Bar, of all places in Zimbabwe. It was on an odd Saturday late afternoon and there were only about 50 people hanging around, killing the hours with the help of a beer.
If you looked around you, you could see the chimneys of Trojan mine in the distance and outside, Chipadze Township was taking a weekend nap. On such a day one felt some easy pity for Macheso.
This was a man “born from somewhere near here” that had just left (and some said he had been dumped by) the great Zakaria and was trying his luck on his own. Orchestra Mberikwazvo looked like a band hastily put together. Considering their youthfulness, they looked like a cheeky little band of mutineers!
Macheso looked nervous and someone in the little crowd constantly called at him, claiming loudly that he was a friend of Macheso’s father. And Macheso did well to wave and smile at “the family friend” in acknowledgement. It was not surprising because Macheso was born indeed in Shamva near Bindura.
Pakutema Munda from the album Magariro and Chitubu from Vakiridzo, seemed to touch the audience and suddenly the rude crowd swelled in size. Apparently they were coming into the bar for free! Crowd and band warmed up to each other and something in Zakaria Zakaria, on the lead guitar, seemed to burst open and he moved backwards and forward and the crowd liked it too.
His resemblance with Nicholas Zakaria was awesome and if Macheso had picked a quarrel with Nicholas, why was Zakaria Zakaria here with Macheso‚ the Bindura revellers must have wondered.
Much later you felt that the crowd realised that it had somehow abused the band on the makeshift stage and serious jive began. Macheso smiled knowingly and the trips to the counter and back multiplied and one wanted to see how the wiry young man and his band would go on.
All that in sharp contrast to Macheso’s current shows at Pamuzinda or the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. Here people raise their arms to Macheso, wanting to embrace the man, his song, his dance and band, to preserve them in a securely sealed envelope for the sake of memory. He obviously wouldn’t quite fit into the tiny Kuyedza Bar back in his Bindura.
He has not only grown. He has become a phenomenon.
Macheso has the unusual gift of poetry. His lyrics elicit an easy-going camaraderie. He sings like the guy from next door, very familiar and liberating. That is why he is the favourite man of the ordinary mechanic, the unassuming kombi driver, the seller of ordinary wares and many more.
Listening to Upenyu Hwemunhu, you sit back in the kombi, and feel very private and secure. Indeed upenyu hwemunhu hunozivikanwa nemurarami wahwo (Only the individual really knows how his/her life is). You want to laugh and cry, too, because in these moments of hardships we have all done many shameful things just in order to get to the next day.