That Brown was a musical genius who could make the guitar twang, twing, sing and speak a whole new language is now a matter for historical records. One needs to have watched and listened to him play at his best of times to appreciate the genius which he brought onto the local music scene.
With his guitar, vocal and composition skills, Brown brought a new pathway into sound. What makes his legacy all the more great and brilliant is that he was willing to share his gift. As testimony to the magnanimity of his spirit as an artist, Brown worked with many young Zimbabwean musicians — far too many to mention — sharing his God-given gift, and through these young and upcoming musicians, his story — particularly the mad beauty of his genius — will continue to be told.
What Brown managed to do through his music was to produce an eclectic sound which blended Zimbabwean traditional music with elements of blues, jazz and rock among other beats. He was an artist in the true sense of the word. He raised Zimbabwe’s musical flag to new heights, sharing stages with some of the world’s best musicians, such as Salif Keita, Yousor Ndour among others.
As much as his musical genius was legendary, Brown was also known for his fiery temper especially during rehearsals and stage performances, especially if someone in his band made a mistake.
“When we (are) doing music, any musician of note who is worth playing with me should play their part. When it comes to music, I get into a mode that I myself don’t understand. I call it military mode and I leave out all the funnies. Some smart musicians have been patient with me and have come out winners because they learn the proper way to play,” Brown said in one interview some years ago.
Talking to him off-stage, Brown exuded a mystical quality, a metaphysical appreciation of the world around him. Unlike many musicians, Brown was well-read, and kept in touch with issues and events round him. It was not always an easy feat as this saw him dabbling into divisive politics, especially related to the land issue in Zimbabwe.
His fan base dwindled significantly over the past decade when he was perceived to be supporting the often-violent land redistribution programme. Whatever the case, this does not in any way diminish Brown’s musical workmanship and genius.
At the time of his death, his sparkle was beginning to shine again at large, not that it had ever diminished except in the public eye. At his shows, many fans marvelled at his guitar prowess. Even Brown himself acknowledged the maturity that now resonated in his sound.
At his most recent performances, there was none of the crowd-shouting and swearing long associated with Brown’s stage performances. By any global standards, his acts were well-polished and neat with a cosmopolitan feel.
One cannot but say that like wine, Brown had matured with age and only God will know the beautiful music that this gifted musician still carried in his heart.
What is undoubted is that Brown’s music will forever occupy a unique niche in the annals of Zimbabwe’s music history.
By Masimba Biriwasha