As human beings, we are all secretly terrified of death. It is one inevitable aspect of life, so to speak, that civilisation has not improved. I do hope that scientists all over the world are working hard to find a cure for death. I am sure, even Bill Gates will agree to spare half his fortune towards this kind of research.
In the groove by Fred Zindi
As we close the year 2018, it is time to remember the musical heroes that have left us during the course of this year.
The loss of someone who was so dear to us is devastating. It is not a loss to his family only, but to us all.
Only last month, on November 7, we lost young musician Takunda “Dada” Deve, the late Thomas Deve’s son, after he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Before that, in October, we experienced the death of Brian Rusike, author of the nationally-acclaimed and most covered popular song, Ruva Rangu.
Worse still, on May 9, we bade farewell to ex-Transit Crew guitarist Nicholas “Samaita” Zindi, who succumbed to prostate cancer.
It is with great sadness and sorrow that we remember these iconic musicians.
Although it is now seven years since he died, I cannot erase from my mind December 28, 2011, when we buried a close friend of mine, iconic musician and businessman Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa with whom I shared the same music passion. At the end of each year for the past seven years, my sad memories of Prince Tendai come alive.
Prince Tendai had a great passion for music. He was a musician, a brother, a philanthropist and a progressive entrepreneur. He died on December 28, 2011 from a motor neuron ailment. His death robbed the music fraternity of a sincere, creative, innovative, serious and dedicated music businessman who was also a philanthropist.
In his lifetime, the singer and performer was instrumental in taking Zimbabwean music to a higher level. He assisted several artistes to excel in their own music careers. Names that come to mind include Mitchel Jambo, Kenny Mwanza, Noel Zembe, Kanda Bongo-Man (from the DRC), Hamza Kalala (from Tanzania), Toyin Adekale (from the UK), MC Wabwino (from Zambia) and Soul Bone.
The latter group, Soul Bone, must have been hit the hardest by the death of Prince Tendai as they were all disabled and depended heavily on his financial support and mentorship. At the time of Prince Tendai’s death, the group consisted of Flinx, Jay D, Spicy B and Chris Joe.
Prince Tendai elevated this group from obscurity to recognition, as he played a mentorship and supportive role to the group.
In 2001, Danhiko College offered an opportunity for the fledgling group to lay their skills bare to fellow students and lecturers and Prince Tendai happened to watch that show.
“It was then that I saw their potential. I decided to put up some money to support these guys,” Prince Tendai told me in 2009.
“My attitude towards people with disabilities completely changed as these guys sang with great passion that I instantly fell in love with their music.
“Next year, I am going to appeal to all musicians in Zimbabwe to allow free entrance into their shows to all people with disabilities in Zimbabwe because these people face a harder struggle than ours. These are some of the policies we can devise on our own without intervention from the government.”
It is unfortunate that he died before these ideas had come to fruition. Indeed, for that reason, persons with physical disabilities, visual impairment and other disabling disorders should be allowed into gigs free of charge. Musicians should take Prince Tendai’s humanistic ideals more seriously and move them forward. That will be their contribution to society.
Apart from his charity work, Prince Tendai was an established musician in his own right. As he became more confident in his songwriting and composition skills, he made up his mind to be different from what was going on in the Zimbabwe music industry at the time when every musician was forced to play “museve” because, according to Gramma Records and Zimbabwe Music Corporation, the two music giants then, that was the only music which appealed to the masses. He started his own genre of music which imitated the Caribbean calypso sounds.
This genre of music, called “Barbed Wire”, is exclusive to Prince Tendai and it is generally believed that it is Prince Tendai’s music which gave birth to what is known as “Urban Grooves” music today.
He immediately took on the music industry by starting his own music label, Hi-Density Records, and formed his own band Midnight Magic. He soon learnt how to package and promote music with assistance from established and experienced experts in the field such as Clancy Mbirimi.
He then started investing heavily in the music industry when his company bought a cassette duplication plant and an inlay printer.
Prince Tendai, born on June 10, 1955, was not only a genius in music, but soon proved to be an intelligent businessman as he started to interact with different musicians nationally and internationally.
His Hi-Density label even signed on artistes who had made it elsewhere such as Kanda Bongo-Man, Hamza Kalala, Toyin Adekale and MC Wabwino.
He also co-ordinated successful and memorable music projects such as campaigns against road carnage as shown in Bus Driver where he sponsored the making of the single record and video featuring artistes like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, Biggie Tembo, Isaac Chirwa, Mechanic Manyeruke, Newman Chipeni, Robson Banda, Hosiah Chipanga, The Frontline Kids, Clancy Mbirimi, Joseph Madhimba, Kenny Mwanza and The Real Sounds of Africa.
Going back in time, Prince Tendai released several albums, the most notable being Serious with hits such as From Zambezi to Limpopo. This was followed by the albums Midnight Magic 2 and Midnight Magic 3 with hit singles Sweet Temptation, Amai Tendi, Problem and African Cowboy.
As Midnight Magic grew in strength, the album which took the nation by storm, Uprising was created. Its hit, Character, became a household sing-a-long-song for a long time.
It is through this brilliant tune that saw Prince Tendai rise to greater heights when he was nominated for the KORA Awards ceremony which was held at Sun City in South Africa in September 1996.
In 2010, with finances from his Ekhaya Petroleum empire, Prince Tendai ventured into bringing Akon and Sean Paul to stage a concert on September 4 at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. This was attended by over 40 000 fans, but unfortunately made a financial loss due to poor organisation as only 1 400 had paid to attend the concert (according to figures released to me by Prince Tendai himself). It is speculated that this became the source of his health problems as he was completely stressed out due to the financial pressures that were brought to bear through this venture. Immediately after the concert, he was involved in a car accident.
In early 2011, he sought medical help for the motor neuron disease that had developed and none was forthcoming locally. A decision was made to fly to Beijing, China, where he hoped he would get treatment.
He came back in June, but his condition had not improved. He went back the following month and was adamant that he would not return to Zimbabwe until he got better.
Several trips by members of his family to China in a bid to convince Prince Tendai to come back home as they saw that his condition was not improving, failed.
It took his elder brother, Amos Mupfurutsa, to finally make the difficult trip that convinced Prince Tendai to come back home.
On Tuesday December 27, 2011, he arrived home and 10 hours later, he was no more. What a tragedy!
Prince Tendai will be remembered forever for his wonderful contribution and lasting commitment to the Zimbabwe music industry. We miss him. How I wish there was a cure for death. I would definitely bring him back!