Prince Tendai remembered

in the groove:with Fred Zindi

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

It is that time of the year again. I cannot erase from my mind December 28, 2011 when a close friend of mine, philanthropist, iconic musician and businessman, Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa (aka Mr Man), with whom I shared the same passion for music, left this earth. We used to live in the same street in Mabelreign in the 1980s and he would come to my house where I taught him to play the guitar. At the end of each year, for the past nine years, my sad memories of Prince Tendai come alive.

Prince Tendai of Mai Tendi, Chipo Babe and Character fame, born on June 10, 1955, breathed his last on December 28, 2011 and was laid to rest on New Year’s Eve at his farm in Karoi .

Prince Tendai had a great passion for music. He was a musician and a progressive entrepreneur. He died from a motor neuron ailment. His death robbed the music fraternity of a sincere, creative, innovative, serious and dedicated music businessman.

In his lifetime, the singer and performer was instrumental in bringing Zimbabwean music to a higher level. He assisted several musicians to excel in their own music careers. Names that come to mind include Mitchell Jambo, Andy Brown, 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.

“My attitude towards people with disabilities completely changed as these guys sang with great passion that I instantly fell in love with their music,” he said.

“Next year, I am going to appeal to all musicians in Zimbabwe to allow free entrance in 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,” Prince Tendai reiterated.

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.

He was a real philanthropist. When the body of the late Fortune Tendai Muparutsa, who had died in England, got stuck in the UK, it was Prince Tendai who paid the expenses of having it flown to Zimbabwe for burial.

Apart from his charity work, Prince Tendai was an established musician in his own right. He started his own genre of music which imitated the Caribbean calypso sounds. This, he called Barbed Wire.

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 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, Machanic Manyeruke, Newman Chipeni, Robson Banda, Hosiah Chipanga, The Frontline Kids, Clancy Mbirimi, Joseph Madhimba, Kenny Mwanza and The Real Sounds of Africa.

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.

Musician, accountant, songwriter and author Daniel Ngwira adds: “His smash hit, Character, despite being released in mid-90s, is still as fresh as ever.

Tendai was a humble man who respected everyone regardless of status. He had friends who were street kids much as he had friends in high places and naturally in music. I remember as we walked the streets from the First Mutual offices in Inez Terrace, Sapphire House along Angwa, and First Mutual offices in Jason Moyo Avenue on our way to our favourite eatery at Barbours, the Terrace Restaurant, it would be hard to reach the destination as Tendai gave attention to his street friends. I am humble, but not to the extent Tendai was. Despite the good life he led, living in Greystone Park, the great cars he drove etc, Tendai was very cultural and believed in Zimbabwe and its talents. He managed his life away from the media and the public view unless if it was necessary. His office was always congested with musicians looking for help even for bus fare. Tendai did his best. Tendai popularised the CD in the country. He founded Hi Density Records which nurtured us and other youngsters. Nearly all employees at Hi Density Records were musicians who included Mitchell Jambo, Noel Zembe and Kenny Mwanza. He is the first Zimbabwean musician to secure a Kora nomination and I have no doubt he could have secured a Grammy nomination if he had lived longer.”
In the final analysis, it is our conception of death which decides the answers to all the questions life puts to us. Where is Prince Tendai? All we can do is just to remember him.

In 2010, with finances from his Ekhaya Petroleum empire and other sources, Prince Tendai ventured into bringing Akon and Sean Paul to stage a concert at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. I advised him not to bother with Sean Paul at that particular time since he had already secured a deal with Akon. The number of people that would come to the concert by those two artistes, would be the same, I told him. He did not think so and insisted that both artistes should come at the same time. The show 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). He hired offices at Meikles Hotel to host Akon and Sean Paul. While I was at those offices talking to Prince Tendai, former first lady Grace Mugabe sent one of her officers with a letter from the President’s office, asking for 200 free VIP tickets. Again, I advised him not to give her as that would cost him $20 000, which she could afford. Prince Tendai found it difficult to refuse.

It is speculated that this financial loss 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 Tendai to come back home.

On Tuesday December 27, 2011, he arrived home and 10 hours later, he was no more. What a tragedy!

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!
l Feedback: frezindi@gmail.com

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