Andy “Muzukuru” Brown: Tribute to A Zimbabwean Musical Genius

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZivisoGlobal Editor-At-Large

Harare, ZIMBABWE – Andy  Brown  affectionately known as “Muzukuru” who passed away on March 16 2012 at age 50 left a significant mark on Zimbabwe’s musical repertoire and psyche. That mark, beatiful like a rising musical note, will forever have its own revered place in Zimbabwe’s musical trajectory.

That Brown was a musical genius who could make the guitar twang, twing, sing and speak a whole new language is now matter for historical record. One needs to have watched and listened to him play at his best of times to appreciate the genius which he brought onto the local music scene. With his guitar, vocal and compositions skills, Brown a new pathway into sound. What makes his legacy all the more great and brilliant is that he was willing to share his gift. As testimony to the magnanimity of his spirit as an artist, Brown worked with many young Zimbabwean musicians – far too many to mention – sharing his God-given gift, and through these young and upcoming musicians his story – particularly the mad beauty of his genius – will continue to be told.

Just to say, Brown’s music defied description due to its eclectic composition which still managed a strong sense of Zimbabwean identity. The void that he leaves in Zimbabwe is too huge for anyone to fill yet thank God for the rich legacy that he leaves behind. If anything, Brown ranks among the best musicians that Zimbabwe has ever produced.

Thematically, his music cut across many social strata.

What Brown managed to do through his music was to produce an eclectic sound which blended Zimbabwean traditional music with elements of blues, jazz, rock ectera. He was an artist in the true sense of the word. He raised Zimbabwe’s musical flag to new heights, sharing stages with some of the world’s best musicians such as Salif Keita, Yousor Ndour among others.

Brown manipulated the guitar and made it sing that one could attend his shows simply to marvel at his guitar prowess. As someone put it, his music was bolstered by a discography that included many approaches to ensemble sound. The trajectory of his musical career was charachterized by periods of rock & roll electric guitar and drums, the introduction of a horn section, a reggae crush, and a back to the roots probe in which cartons of mbira were hauled out. Put simply, Brown experimented with sound and ventured into territories that very few musicians dare to go to: breaking rules, iterating, innovating and inventing a whole new sound.

As much as his musical genius was legendary, Brown was also known for his fiery temper especially during rehersals and stage performances especially if someone in his band made a mistake.

“When we doing music, any musician of note who is worth playing with me should play their part. When it comes to music, I get into a mode that I myself don’t understand. I call it military mode and I leave out all the funnies. Some smart musicians have been patient with me and have come out winners because they learn the proper way to play,” he said once in an interview.

Talking to him off stage, Brown exuded a mystical quality, a metaphysical appreciation of the world round him. Unlike many musicians, Borwn was well read, and kept in touch with issues and events round him. It wasn’t always an easy feat as this saw him dabbling into divisive politics especially related to the land issue is Zimbabwe.

His fan base dwindled significantly over the past decade when he was perceived to be supporting often-violent d redistribution programmes in Zimbabwe. Whatever the cae, this does not in any way diminish Brown’s musican workmanship and genius.

At the time of his death, his sparkle was beginning to shine again at large, not that it had ever diminished except in the public eye. At his show shows, many fans marvelled at his guitar prowess. Even Brown himself ackowledged the maturity that now resonated in his sound.

At his most recent performances, there was none of the crowd-shouting and swearing long associated with Brown’s stage performances. By any global standards, his act were well polished and neat with a cosmopolitan feel. One cannot but say that like wine, Brown had matured with age and only God will know the beautiful music that this gifted musician still carried in his heart.

What is undoubted though is that Brown’s music will forever occupy a unique niche in the annals of Zimbabwe’s music history.

Legendary Zimbabwean Musical Genius, Andy Brown, Dies

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZimbabwe Publisher

Harare, Zimbabwe – Legendary musician, guitarist and music producer, Andy Brown aka Muzukuru died this afternoon at Parirenyatwa Hospital. He was 50.

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Born in 1962 in Mberengwa, Brown was so many things rolled into one: a musician par excellence, a philosopher, a vocalist, a music producer, a griot, a madman and above all a musical genius. To say that he was talented is to miss the point; it’s more appropriate to say that he was on a mission to bring music to life.

And that he did. With grace and a fiery passion, and a desire to expand the horizons of music. His quest for excellence is well know. At the time of his death, Brown had worked with anyone that matters in the music industry from the legends to upcoming musicians.

His latest 11-track album titled, Chiwoko, which was released in 2010 was a testament not only to his musical prowess but his ability to comment on social issues in Zimbabwe.

The sound on the album is rich, mature and lyrically provocative. In an interview last year Brown said it took two years of hard work and precision to make the album, something that he has never done on previous music projects.

“Now, I take my time, all the time I want to create, which means that my music has much more momentum and thought, and I can go back to the drawing board and change things at the click of my fingers due to new technology, hence the quality you see on Chiwoko,” he said.

Like many other Zimbabweans, Andy grew up in rural Zimbabwe and only moved to the big city to pursue an education. While in Bulawayo, he created his first band, Impact. A later move to the capital, Harare, would see him work with many different bands, including Grabb and the Rusike Brothers.

Andy joined the band Ilanga in 1986. Fornted by singer Comrade Chinx, Andy played lead guitar. Ilanga had a successful life-span, producing two albums, 1987’s Silver and Gold, and 1988’s Visions Untold. Their crowning achievement came when they graced the stage alongside Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, the Bhundu Boys, and Youssou N’Dour at the 1988 Human Rights Concert in Hahare. Although both Andy and Chinx left the band in 1989, Ilanga continued to record, releasing a solitary album under songtress Busi Ncube.

After leaving Ilanga in 1989, Andy pursued a solo career. He formed Andy Brown and the Storm. also toured abroad.

 

Steve Jobs’ Age of the Digital Lifestyle

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Steve Jobs without doubt affected my world view through his trendsetting personal computer designs.I know this post is rather overdue but its something that I had to take off my heart. I’m so convinced as exemplified by Steve Jobs’ genius that when you follow your purpose you can touch the soul of the world.In my world, celebrating genius and excellence in whatever shape and form it comes is as vital as my every breath.

I first encountered Steve Jobs through his trendsetting  “Think Different” advertising campaign. Even though I didn’t own an Apple computer I – just like the rest of my friends – could not resist the temptation to just hang the “Think Different” campaign poster in my room.

Apparently, the campaign was created for Apple Computer in 1997 by the Los Angeles office of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. That campaign made me think of anything Apple as a smart alternative, an idea that was confirmed by the out-of-the box designs that defined Apple products. I guess the miracle lay in the text of the campaign which set Apple products apart by influencing a way of seeing the world:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.

Apparently, the ad campaign marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as technical giant. Isn’t it interesting that the “Think Different” has been criticized as a slogan for being grammatically incorrect. “Think” is a verb and should take the adverb, “differently”, not the adjective, “different”. The bottom line is that is broke the rules, and the campaign symbolised counterculture and leftist artsy intellectualism.

As I see it, the underlying philosophy of that ad campaign was that it did not trumpet product features and price but instead focused on brand image. In fact, a key rule of the campaign was that there would be no products in the ads.

Besides the products that he fashioned and his apparent genius, Jobs was tenacious, persistent and resilient. He suffered so many setbacks in his career but always came back with super-fantastic personal computing designs that wowed the whole world. According to Newsweek.com, Jobs didn’t just create products that instilled lust in consumers and enriched his company.

All in all, Jobs was a brilliant and protean creator whose inventions so utterly transformed the allure of technology. To me, he left behind a concept that I will forever seek to apply in my life and work: the simplicity of intelligent design. Jobs valued simplicity, utility and beauty in ways that shaped his creative imagination. He certainly left a significant mark that will forever influence the age of the digital lifestyle.