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Mono: A visionary genius following the melody

I have just completed reading Clive “Mono” Mukundu’s book titled Following The Melody. To those who might be asking, “Who is Mono Mukundu?” I will introduce you to him. He is a shrewd businessman, born on September 15 1970. He owns Monolio Recording Studio and is also a celebrity, a producer, a composer, a charismatic and handsome musician who plays the guitar like nobody’s business. He has recorded over 700 albums with different local and international artists. Above all, he is a disciplined, humble and likeable person.

in the groove with Fred Zindi

Clive “Mono” Mukundu

Clive “Mono” Mukundu

But today’s business is about this celebrity musician who has turned author in an autobiography on his own life.

An auto-biography of a major cultural figure who has transformed many a musician’s music should not start by sounding like a performing arts undergraduate describing themself on Twitter. And without meaning any disrespect, Mono, despite showing off his many qualifications in this book, he is beyond the average undergraduate student at any university. This must be regarded as a necessary book.

This is the first auto-biography written with the declared aim of stripping away accumulated myths which appear within Mono’s lifetime as he demystifies the beliefs held by many that there is always glamour and glitz in the music industry. Mono’s astonishing and gloriously entertaining 15-chapter paperback, now selling at Innov8 bookshops throughout Zimbabwe, has not only shown the world who he is, but has also shown us his abilities as a writer and entertainer. Very soon he will be sharing the stage with the likes of Carl Joshua Ncube or Dr Vikela on the comedy scene.

Mono is not the first touring guitar virtuoso, but he is certainly someone who attracts vast interest due to his good looks and constant powers of music reinvention on the lead guitar. There is really no modern-day equivalent in Zimbabwe today, though we pretend otherwise and suggest that someone working in 4/4 in B minor is doing something never attempted before.

There is a compelling mixture of the visionary genius and the utter musician coming from the ghetto of Kambuzuma in Mono. There are two aspects of his personality and business attitude that make him immensely popular. In his book, I discovered that he is a fast learner who makes wise decisions. First of all, in a drunken state, he loses his virginity to Maria Bezerk at Tsvingwe in Penhalonga and catches an infection. He quickly learns never again to drink heavily or to play with prostitutes.

After losing a house to Kenneth Madora and his Zanu PF associates in Warren Park, he does not give up on other money-making projects as he persuades his wife, Jean, who wanted them to buy a commuter omnibus, to let him buy studio equipment for Monolio Studios instead.

To show you that his head is screwed on, he does not begrudge Oliver Mtukudzi for firing him from the Black Spirits Band. Instead, he showers him with praises for allowing him to travel the world and for giving him the opportunity to save money and buy equipment for his studio.

Below is a snippet of his Black Spirits experience from the book:

“I played in Tuku’s band from February 2003 to February 2007. I consider that period as my ‘university years’. I believe it was God who put me in that band for a reason. I consider Tuku to be the best boss I have ever worked for. Of course, every band has its bad moments but I learnt far too many things in that band to be bitter.

“My stage work improved a lot. Before I joined Tuku, I didn’t know how to smile on stage. I didn’t know how to exercise stage presence and how to be at ease and relaxed before any audience. I used to watch closely how Tuku handled himself on and off stage. I considered time in that band as a learning experience. We shared the stage with so many big international bands and artists from around the world.
I made sure I watched close every band we shared the stage with and learn as much as I could. Every time we visited a country I would buy music of musicians in the areas and discussed a lot with musicians about the music industry in their countries. Since I was playing for another big artist, it was easy for them to accommodate me. So many doors opened in my life for the simple reason that I played for Tuku’s band. I thanked God for such a wonderful opportunity and moved on.

“Some people advised me and the other band members to take him to court for dismissing us without notice. But I told them I felt that would be ungrateful to God who granted me the great opportunity to work with the legend for the four years that really changed my life and I wanted to maintain my relationship with him.

“I have remained in touch with Tuku. In 2011 and 2012 he invited me to play alongside him at his birthday bashes. Although he featured on the song Jean, off my album, Tunziyo for Jean, he refused to be paid.

“I learnt the reality of the fact that there is no job security in the Zimbabwean music industry, so no matter how things are going well in the band that you are in, you need to be ready for anything. You also need a fall back plan, but I am happy I was aware of these, so I was fully prepared when we were laid off in February 2007 and I had invested in a studio and also saved some money. A number of my band mates were caught unaware and it was a very bad period for them.

“I remember one meeting that was called by Debbie Metcalfe in 2005 where she advised everybody in the band to live within their means.
That was also one lesson that has stuck with me to this day. Most band members started living very expensive lives once they joined Mtukudzi, so their money was never enough. Besides failing to invest in anything, some of them would really struggle when the band did not have gigs, so they would always be at Debbie’s office asking for loans. I never did that because I lived within my means. I also saw that musicians’ perceptions that every musician who is seen on television and newspapers is rich, so musicians try to live up to that expectation and end up living beyond their means.”

Indeed, that is the reality world of Mono and how I wish all musicians lived their lives like him.

The book was finally launched on April 27 at the Zimbabwe College of Music. Many great musicians and other artists attended the launch.

These included the guest of honour, National Arts Council of Zimbawe director Elvas Mari, Mtukudzi, Kuchinei Chatsama, Charles Charamba, Bob Nyabinde, Aggabu Tafadzwa Nyabinde, Walter Wanyanya, Dudu Manhenga, Albert Nyathi, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Willis Wataffi Afrika, Macdee, Oscar Suwedi Chamba, Pastor Haisa, Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe, Progress Chipfumo, Tanga wekwa Sando, Transit Crew’s Tony Liba Amon and Nicholas Samaita Zindi, Victor Kunonga, ZvaVahera, Jameson Tafadzwa, Victor Nyamhosva, Kodza Chimuka, Musarara, Peter Muparutsa, Blessing Muparutsa, Kuda Dzinoreva, Jera, Lazzie T, Obert Mbewe, Paraclet William, Pablo Nakapa, Joyce Jenje Makwenda Henry Makombe of Zimura, AAG president, Chamu Chiwanza and myself.

Today, Mono walks the streets accompanied by Derrick Mpofu. Together they call themselves “Skinny Monyas”.

Feedback: f_zindi@hotmail.com.

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