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Samaita Zindi: Devout Rasta till death

In July 1967, the Beatles sang: What Did I Do To Deserve Such A Fate?

by Fred Zindi

This song kept playing in my mind after watching Samaita Zindi slowly wasting away a week before his death. He finally succumbed to his illness on the May 9, 2018. However, I soon came to terms with the fact that this kind of fate happens to everyone.

The entertainer and musician known as Samaita Zindi was one of reggae’s most successful contributors to its growth and development in Zimbabwe. Born in Honde Valley, Nyanga, he began his career at the age of nine when he learned how to play the guitar. On leaving school, he went to Harare where he played with several bands before going to England in the late 1970s .

On arrival in London, I asked him what occupation he was interested in. He told me that he had no other ambition apart from playing music. Fungai Malianga and I had formed a band called Stars of Liberty. We asked him to join us and later we also took in Louis Mhlanga when he came to England. Due to other commitments, we later split up. Samaita teamed up with some Jamaican musicians and that is when the reggae bug caught him. In 1980, Bob Marley had just returned from Zimbabwe where he had performed at the independence celebrations. Samaita and I forced our way backstage at Reggae Sunsplash which was held in Crystal Palace to greet him and we introduced ourselves.

“So you two are musicians? When you go back to Zimbabwe, go and spread the reggae message. I have just come from Zimbabwe and reggae is still a strange kind of music to many people there. Jah will give you guidance and protection,” Bob Marley said.

From then onwards, Samaita would spend his days just listening to reggae music and studying Rasta philosophy. He was so overwhelmed by this new discovery that he committed himself to become a devout Rasta. He started believing that Emperor Haile Selassie was the living God whom he called The Black Messiah.

He stopped eating meat and became a vegetarian. In his own words, he proclaimed: “Ital is Vital”. According to him, eating dead flesh was forbidden as Rasta don’t believe in killing animals. He also told us that alcohol, which he called Babylon water, was the devil’s drink. He started growing dreadlocks and in no time at all they had grown to his waist. He stopped shaving his beard. As he explained that this was in keeping with the covenant with Jah, he started preaching to us about Jah Rastafari, the Most High. He told us about love, peace and harmony and called all women he met Empresses. In his preachings he often spoke about resisting Satan’s temptations through embracing Rastafarian spirituality. And, of course, to become more creative he recommended the use of herbs from the Most High which he called sensimillia. He would often sing A Black Man Redemption and Chant Down Babylon.

On return to Zimbabwe, he was determined to start a reggae outfit. He teamed up with some youngsters in Glen Norah whom he coached to play reggae. He called the band Samaita. People often wonder how Nicholas Zindi ended up with the name Samaita. This came out of the Zindi totem, Samaita, and although the band did not last long, he was stuck with that name till his death.

In came his second band in 1985 called Novismos (an acronym for No Visual Means of Support) where he was joined by another reggae enthusiast known as Ashanti. Together they recorded the single Mvura Ngayinaye.

Novismos lasted two years. The band was living rent-free at a squat in Mabelreign until they were kicked out by the owners. That also closed shop for the group as the musicians were now scattered all over.

Next was Transit Crew formed in December 1988. Joseph Brown aka Munya Brown, a Jamaican Rastaman, who had originally come to Zimbabwe with Misty In Roots Band in 1982, returned to the country to stay because he had married a Zimbabwean girl, Anna Brown. To keep himself busy, he joined the band Ilanga but they were not forthcoming with the reggae direction he wanted to go. So he wanted to form his own band. He asked me to gather some musicians for him and of course, I found Samaita who I thought had a lot in common with Munya Brown. Along with him, came Munya Nyemba, Temba Jacobs, Anthony Liba Amon, Emmanuel Frank and Tendai Gamure, aka Culture T.

Transit Crew became a life-long commitment for Samaita. In 1992, I spoke to Mr Manyau of Zindi Primary School asking him to offer Samaita a job as a teacher at his school. Samaita went for an interview draped in his dreadlocks. Mr Manyau told him: “You have the job. You can start on Monday. Asi pano, tingoda smart. Cut your locks!” Samaita just replied, “Ewoni”, but he never went back to that school neither did he cut his locks. He stuck to his Rasta roots.

A successful tour of Tokyo, Japan, followed in 1990.

By 2000 Samaita with Transit Crew had recorded three albums, namely, Sounds Playing,The Message and Money. The albums were well-received nationally and internationally and helped to establish Transit Crew as a formidable reggae outfit. It is on the strength of these albums that Jamaican artistes such as Luciano, Yasus Afari, King Sounds and Sizzla Kalonje who came to Zimbabwe without their backing bands used Transit Crew for their performances.

After a short break from the band in 2006, Samaita went on to undertake a degree in Jazz at the Zimbabwe College of Music.

In 2009 back with Transit Crew, they recorded the album Unity at Monolio Studios, while the last album, Zimbabwean Girl, recorded this year is still in the mix.

Samaita was a humble, kind, caring and positive person. In his spare time, he organised music festivals under the banner of the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians (ZUM) to which he was a member of the executive together with Michael Sekerani and Robson Nyanzira. He was also on the board of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) between 2005 and 2007. With assistance from Webster Shamu, who was ZUM’s patron, he managed to get 100 housing stands for musicians at Hopley where several musicians such as Noel Zembe, Forward Mazuruse, Weeds Mbale and others benefited and built their homes.

Samaita was also instrumental in coaching several Transit Crew vocalists such as Culture T, Emmanuel Frank, Mike Inity, Mannex Motsi, Rootsman Spice, JehFari, Cello Culture, Rungano Chaza and Destiny.

Tragically Samaita’s career was cut short when he died from complications caused by prostate cancer. Over a thousand mourners attended his funeral and he became the second entertainer to be buried at the new cemetery near Chitungwiza, Zororo Memorial Park.

Condolence messages came from as far afield as Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, the United States and South Africa from King Isaac, Busi Ncube, Louis Mhlanga, Alice Hazvie Purvess, Robert Aucoin and Munya Brown. Locally, Steve Chifunyise, Friday Mbirimi, Vambe Jirira, Kumbirai, Rumbi Venge, Mrs Nyemba, Mrs Liba Amon and many others also paid their respects.

Prominent musicians who were present at the burial included Pastor Charles Charamba, Baba Manyeruke, Isaac Chirwa, Clancy Mbirimi, Mr Nyamande, Mr Chibage, Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria, Hope Masike, Sister Flame, Andrew Chikwanha, Mono Mukundu, Pablo Nakappa, TK Mafundikwa, Anthony Liba, Cello Culture, Noel Zembe and Forward Mazuruse.

It is difficult to acknowledge everyone who gave Samaita a good send-off, but the Zindi family was deeply touched by the support offered by all communities present including the support given by the acting director of the National Arts Council, Nicholas Moyo, and Zimura, who were also present.

Samaita leaves behind his wife Annamore Chimedza Zindi and three children, Mukai (24), Chiedza (21) and Tongai (17).

He was a true brother; cool, calm and collected. Our loss is immeasurable. The immortal voice and the ideals he cherished will remain with us forever. Words are a scant tribute when death strikes. He is headed where we are all headed. The journey began with every beat of our hearts and it continues until we reach its end.

Farewell my brother.

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