in the groove:with Fred Zindi
Since the 1950s making music in Zimbabwe has always been a struggle. The main reason is that successive governments have not given it a sufficient helping hand to promote it.
In Jamaica since independence, the government there took an active part in keeping the seemingly idle youths out of the streets by providing musical equipment to every parish (province) where young people would come and develop their musical skills free of charge. That development brought about the rise in musical talent from Jamaica. The number of music stars coming out of that small island today, is incredibly high — from your Christopher Martins, Busy Signals to Buju Bantons — all because the government gave a helping hand.
Tha late great Oliver Mtukudzi, frustrated by the lack of support from the government, tried this using his own personal resources. He built Pakare Paye Cultural Centre where idle youths from around Norton would come and learn to play musical instruments free of charge. Some of them such as Munya Matarutse, Donald Kanyuchi and Mbeu became talented musicians in their own right. If Tuku had more resources, I am sure he would have spread this concept throughout Zimbabwe, including major cities such as Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.
Instead of the government playing a big role in the musical activities of its citizens even before independence, there were certain individuals who felt this was a worthwhile activity to invest in. We are grateful to those individuals who had the means to invest in this business since the 1950s during the days of Southern Rhodesia. They made it possible for talented musicians to share their passion with generations of their time.
In 1962, Kenneth David Kaunda, who was a musician himself, requested Joshua Nkomo for Zimbabwean musicians to visit and perform in Zambia.The then Zapu culture department provided four talented young musicians out of Mbare. These were Smangaliso Tutani, Timothy Skovha, Zexie Gwaze and Jonah Marumahoko. These four lads called themselves the Broadway Quartet. Kaunda took them to Zambia, promoted them and exposed them to the international community.
Later, Mudhara Munyati (Nigel Munyati’s father) provided musical equipment and promoted the Hurricanes featuring Hebert Nyakusendwa, George Gotora and Sisi Gladys on vocals. Not only did he support the Hurricanes, but he also helped many other bands and musicians with his musical equipment which was rare and very expensive at the time.
Another well-to-do tycoon and radio personality, Dominic Mandizha, not only bought equipment for Elias Banda’s Great Sounds (The Great Sounds band included Moses Bhekilanga Kabubi and Elias Banda on bass, who later became the two members of The Sound Effects) While in the Great Sounds, they made the hit song Anopenga Anewaya.
Mandizha also started a programme on African Service, Mbare Studio (now Radio Zimbabwe) every Saturday morning for the young bands to show their talent.
In Mutare credit must go to Lovemore Mutema, who owned a photography studio in Sakubva and managed to sponsor the All Blacks Combo which featured Dennis Gorilla on drums, Enock Muparutsa on bass and Peter Kembo as lead guitarist.
Other sponsors from Mutare included businessman Francis Mubayiwa, who invited and sponsored The Pop Settlers from Harare, and Quinton and John Malianga, who were behind the 2D Sounds band. Quinton brought equipment for this group from the United States where he had gone to study. He became the bassist for the 2D Sounds while Fungai Malianga was the lead singer, Maybin Mpili the guitarist, Newton Kanengoni, myself and Jethro Shasha as the other members.
In Bulawayo, Alfred Zwambila, who owned Marisha Cocktail Bar, sponsored many musicians within the city such as Wells Fargo and Eye of Liberty including those musicians who came from Harare.
Mabhurukwa Murambiwa (of Machipisa Brothers), who had thriving businesses in Highfield, sponsored and bought equipment for Sound Effects, a group which comprised Manu Kambani on lead guitar, Bhekilanga Moses Kabubi on keyboards, Jethro Shasha on drums and Elias Banda on bass (and later Ernest “Jacko” Hombasha also on bass).
Another individual, this time in the medical field, Edward Pswarai was the first African doctor in Zimbabwe to sponsor a musical group. He bought equipment for Brian Gotora’s Electric Mud. He obviously found value in doing so, a thing our government up to now has found no value.
Another radio personality Webster “The Master Blaster” Shamu was active in the music industry as he was responsible for promoting many local musicians on radio and doing live music promotions such as bringing the Eye of Liberty to Harare from Bulawayo. (Many thought that later on when he was made minister in the post-independence Zimbabwe, he would turn the music industry around by convincing his peers that this activity was of great value. It did not happen).
We must also remember the great Greenford Jangano of the Harare Mambos. There were five groups known as the Harare Mambos Band all sponsored by Jangano. They had contracts at all the major hotels in Zimbabwe which included Elizabeth Hotel, Federal Hotel (popularly known as Ku Fed), Monomutapa Hotel and Victoria Falls Hotel. It was a big prestige for any musician to be a member of the Harare Mambos as the group was well-organised. People like Elisha Josam, Clancy Mborimi, Newman Chipeni, Newton Kanengoni, Friday Mbirimi, William Kashiri, Tanga wekwa Sando (Ernest Sando), Paul Silla, Virginia Silla and many others were part of that team.
In the early 1980s ABC Rusike also sponsored his sons Tawanda, Abbie, Phillip, Kelly and Collin, who became the Rusike Brothers of Ngwerewere Sadza fame.
Even in missionary organisations, there were individuals who saw it fit to support young talented musicians. For instance, Father Davis of St Paul’s Musami Mission promoted and provided equipment for St Paul’s Musami Band, which featured Tim Makaya, Virgilio Matare, Brian and Arthur Chipunza, who wrote the hit song Makomo EkwaMusami.
Up to this day, musicians have thrived without much support from the government. Musicians would always find ways of strategising to make ends meet when the going got tough.
In 1957 two Bulawayo-based bands The Cool Four and The Golden Rhythm Crooners due to lack of sufficient equipment in both groups, decided to join hands to form what is known today as the Cool Crooners. Although in their 80s now, the band is still together. Together with the Harare Mambos Band, they became the longest-serving bands with most of their livelihoods being supported through music.
They were in competition in the early 1960s with the short lived City Quads who made the hit Ndafuna-funa with Sonny Sondo. This was also the time when August Musarurwa of the famous Skokiaan made the international hit which was later adopted by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
We should also remember the contribution made by Kenneth Chogugudza, aka James Bond of Mbare, who elevated many groups in Mbare such as The Pied Pipers by providing them with much-needed musical equipment of the time.
It was only after independence that many musicians of the 1970s realised that they were not going to get government assistance when they started to save some of their money from record sales with encouragement from record companies Gallo and Teal (which later became Zimbabwe Music Corporation and Gramma Records respectively) to buy themselves musical equipment. Such entities include Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, Zexie Manatsa, Tinei Chikupo, Safirio Madzikatire, James Chimombe, The Four Brothers, Devera Ngwena Jazz Band (who were initially sponsored by Shabanie/Mashaba Mines, a company they worked for), Leonard Dembo, Simon Chimbetu, John Chibadura and Leonard Zhakata.
From the year 2000 onwards, musicians realised that to remain in the business, one must not depend on government as most of its members have no regard for the music industry. They have to find ways and means of self-sponsorship. Corporates become interested in musicians only when they see that they are well-organised. Our Jeys Marabini in Bulawayo, Jah Prayzah and Winky D in Harare are self-contained and corporate sponsors are keen on promoting them to a different level.
Present-day youths such as Chillspot Records in Mbare, who are behind many Zimdancehall musicians, keep hoping that someday the government will lend a helping hand and Zimbabwe, just like its Jamaican counterpart, will finally have a respectable music industry.
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