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.

Music Diva, Cynthia Mare, Scoops BEFTA Award

By Chief K.Masimba Bririwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – UK-based Zimbabwean soul diva, Cynthia Mare, scooped an award for the Best Female UK based Afro/Caribbean Act at the Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts Awards (BEFTA) ceremony held recently in the UK. 

The voluptuous songstress, Cynthia Mare, who recently supported Sean Paul on his UK tour, described winning the award as “one of the best moments of her life.”

The BEFFTA is a distinctly special awards ceremony honouring the best showbiz and entertainment personalities in the black and ethnic communities in the UK, USA and globally.

“I really didnt expect to win although I had been nominated.  I was not expecting to win at all. It was quite a shock when they called my name.  I walked up to the stage with the crew from SWRadio Africa holding up Zimbabwean flags. Betty Makoni, Leah African Design  were among the great friends who proudly accompanied me to the stage to collect the award. It was brilliant,” said Mare.

The talented singer released her debut album titled Happy in 2007,  which she followed up with a string of singles. In 2008, her single, The Diet, topped the charts on UK radio stations like like BBC1xtra, Choice FM, Kiss FM, and Bang FM.Last year, she released a 14-track album titled, “Summer of Love.” She has also shared the stage with Zimbabwe’s groundbreaking musician, Oliver Mtukudzi. Due to her artistry, Mare has become a household name in the underground circles of British pop culture.

“I was the only Zimbabwean to win but I definitely share this award with the other Zimbabwe nominees who have been working very hard and deserved to be on that stage too,” said Mare, who sings mainly R&B but incorporates elements of rock, house, and afro-beat into her music.

Born and bred in Harare Zimbabwe, Cynthia moved to London at the age of 15 with her family and continued with her studies and university, but kept her eye on music.

“For one, people outside Zimbabwe are starting to recognise me for my music, another thing, I realize that I have support from my people who have believed in me from ages ago.  To all who voted, many thanks. I’ve had an amazing year. This year some great and some terrible experiences. Winning the Beffta award is one of the best moments this year,” added Mare who is scheduled to perform alongside popular Nigerian act, 2Face, at London’s indigO2 early November.

“I’m very much looking forward to performing once again with 2Face in London. I performed at his tribute show in Lagos, Nigeria in March this year and it was such an honour to be the only non- Nigerian welcomed to represent Zimbabwe on a  Nigerian stage,” she said.

Abra Simmz talks RIZE

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha, Global Editor At Large

Harare, Zimbabwe – Simukai Mandizvidza, aka, Abra Simzz, music producer of popular Jamaican musician, Red Rat’s monster track “Rise Up Zimbabwe,” recently announced the formation of Revolutionary Independent Zimbabwean Entrepreneurs (RIZE), a movement to promote self-belief, unity and creative entrepreurship among Zimbabweans.

In an interview with the, Abra Simzz who is currently studying in Bangladesh said the movement is aimed at inspiring Zimbabwe to develop a can-do mentality.

“It’s a stand that Zimbabwenas are taking with unity and patriotism on the forefront. It’s artists and entertainers coming together. The philosophy is about being proud of being Zimbabwean. We hope to start a youth movement across the nation,” he said.

According to Abra Simzz, besides the outreach programmes, RIZE will also have a strong online presence and will also heavily utilize the mobile phone to reach out to young people.

“We are doing this because we feel that Zimbawe has so much potential. But within the entertainment indsutry, we are lacking; there is a lack of entertainment and business working together. If we look at all the successful industries across Africa, there is a close relationship between business and entertainment. With RIZE, the ultimate goal is to build bridges,” he said.

Abra Simzz said that deals have already been put in place with a few businesses who are ready to endores the movement which will rolled early next year.

“RIZE will help flourish skeleton ideas from young minds fusing them with the expertise of our elders and fleshing them with the experience of those exposed in the diaspora turning them into sustainable recognised development projects or successful businesses,” quoted Abra Simzz.

Taku Mafika: Mbira Maestro Gone too Soon c.1983-2011

Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha, Global Editor-At-Large

Harare, Zimbabwe – Takunda Mafika, an amazingly talented musician, died on Monday in Harare. He was 28. The cause was a brain hemorrhage, according to a family spokesperson.

Born on 31 October 1983, the husky voiced nyunga-nyunga mbira maestro was definitely in a class of his own, and his untimely death has robbed Zimbabwe of yet another rising star. The versatile musician helped to take mbira to a wider audience, including young people steeped in hip hop and urban music. The freshness of his husky voice earned him an enthusiastic following across the globe.

If anything, Mafika was on a life mission to take the mbira to a whole new international level. He toured Europe frequently where his music received wide support and rave reviews. His fusion with other global rhythms such as RnB, roots reggae, hip-hop and South African influences such as mbaqanga in some of his musical stops has catapulted him to international exposure and discovery.

There was definitely a cosmopolitan touch to his music, and Mafika was always experimenting with the nyunga-nyunga in order to elevate its global reach. In spite of the glitter of his career, Mafika always maintained his composure, maintaining a cool, calm and collected self  which endeared him to many of his fans.

Before he was admitted into hospital a fortnight ago, Mafika was in studio putting final touches to a new album titled, “Black to Colour.” The music on his new project, constructed using an eclectic selection of musical instruments,  portrayed Mafika in a whole new light. His lyricism on the album touched on a wide range of issues, including, love, freedom and peace but the ultimate beauty of his work was in the precise manner in which he plucked the mbira keys and made them sing touching many hearts around the globe.

Mafika worked with about everyone that matters in the music industry in Zimbabwe. He had one album, Dzimwe Nguva, to his name and worked with artists including Alexio, Willom Tight and the late Sam Mtukudzi. He was also passionate about identifying and grooming young talent.

At the time of his death, Mafika was actively involved in putting together a High Schools Musical Concert at St. Peters Kubatana. He was selfless and dedicated to whatever he he his hand was allowed.

Taku Mafika Lights Up Bassment

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Fresh from a study and music tour in Germany, nyunga nyunga mbira maestro Taku Mafika and his band, Tru Bantu,  lit up the newly renovated Bassment Nightclub on Wednesday with fresh beats from his upcoming album.

Wearing a dashiki, the husky voiced musician showed mastery of different genres of music but putting his signature nyunga nyunga tune as he sampled songs from his forthcoming album titled, “Black to Colour.” The music on his new project, which is constructed using an eclectic selection of musical instruments,  portray Mafika in a whole new light. His lyricism touches on a wide range of issues, including, love, freedom and peace but the ultimate beauty of his work is in the precise manner in which he plucks the mbira keys and makes them sing.

A fervent crowd at Bassment Nightclub danced intensely for almost three hours as Mafika went through his musical repertoire with gusto and evident passion.

“I feel exhilarated to be back home performing in the motherland and before an audience I know best. We’re making art with the mbira and taking it to a new level. All I can say is that I want to move to a whole, new international level with my music. The response, thus far, has been positive both locally and in the countries that I’ve performed in abroad,” said Mafika who is also a UNESCO-ASPNET Schools  coordinator in Zimbabwe.

While in Germany, Mafika said that he was involved in media competency and journalistic studies. He also performed at the internationally acclaimed Intercultural Summer Party, a cultural festival that brings together changemakers from around the world to promote intercultural learning.

Mafika reiterated the need for local artists to take advantage of new media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr among other.

“I am simply saying srtists should be able to know how to use the Net because it brings the whole world int a single village. With the Net, the world is a click away. In the past Africa was regarded as a backward place but because of the Net we’ve an equal opportunity with the rest of the world. So artists should take advantage of social networks to market their products to the whole world,” he said.

Abra Simzz: Music is in my blood

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – US-based Zimbabwean music producer of popular Jamaican musician, Red Rat’s monster track “Rise Up Zimbabwe,” Simukai Mandizvidza, aka, Abra Simzz revealed that music is the passion of his life in an exclusive interview with the international online magazine,

“Music is in my blood. It’s largely influenced by the reggae and dancehall movement as well as Bob Marley,” said the music producer who is currently working on a mixtape featuring Winky D, Badman, King Shaddy, Sniper Storm and Lady B among others.

Simzz said that he developed a strong friendship with Red Rat while working on the mega-hit “Rise Up Zimbabwe.” In 2009, he sent an email to Red Rat and suggesting the idea of the son which the musician gladly welcomed. Working with his KU-based cousin and music partner, Jusa Dementor, he presented some beats to Red Rat who then developed the lyrics for the cong.

“Red Rat was my favourite artist growing up so it was a real pleasure to work with him on the project. We developed a lot of camaradie and friendship. He also had some deep knowledge about the state of Zimbabwe from a documentary that he had watched which made it all the easier t collaborate with him,” said Simzz.

“Rise Up Zimbabwe has been like a movement. Internationally, it’s got attention. It’s a party vibe that is quite uplifting,” he added.

While Red Rat composed the lyrics, Simzz and Dementor helped in providing some pointer to make the song relevant to Zimbabweans.  Apart from producing Red Rat, in the last two yers, Simzz has been producing works that have received rave reviews in the UK, US and Malaysia.

Simzz is also a founding director of ABRA Tribe, a project aimed at identifying and nurturing Zimbabwean talent, and marketing it to the world. ABRA currently has 25 representatives around the world.

“ABRA is a brand with music as the basis. But we are also into modelling, clothing and we are also aiming to get into the movie industry. Our model has worked by working with Zimbabweans in the diaspora in trying to market the Zimbabwean brand to the world,” Simzz said, adding that ABRA is working to penetrate the Zimbabwean market through a message of unity and patriotism.

Simzz dismissed the idea that reggae music is neither African nor lucrative.

“Reggae is from Africa, its about the drum and the bass. The true Rastafarian focuses on Africa. That’s why individuals like Bob Marley don’t hesitate to sing about Africa,” he said. “I feel Zimbabwean dancehall is growing, it is driving young people. Al we trying to do is to raise the flag – to put Zimbabwe on the map.”

He added that the brand of their music was consciously pro-Zimbabwen, and focused on positive things.

“Our whole drive is patriotism for Zimbabwe and unity. It certainly something that we are conscious about. We are trying to sell the Zimbabwean brand to the world as truly, original Zimbabwean brand,” he said.

Simzz’s Party Promises Fireworks

Harare, Zimbabwe – US-based Zimbabwean music producer of popular Jamaican musician, Red Rat’s monster track “Rise Up Zimbabwe,” Simukai Mandizvidza, aka, Abra Simzz is scheduled to be the star attraction at a welcome party being hosted for him at Red Fox hotel on Saturday night.

The who’s who of the urban grooves music scene are expected to perform at the event, including DJ’s Nash and Kritical, Ash Styles, Sniper Strorm, King Shaddy, Badman, and Cynthia Mare among others. Popular sound system  Stereo One and  Maddhouse Crew will also grace the event which promises to be filled with major fireworks.

“It’s more of a chance for Zimbabweans to get up-close with Abram Simmz who has producing such beautiful songs and is at the helm of taking Zimbabwean music to new levels across the globe,” said Marshall Chibamu, a top official from the local chapter of African Bred Recording Artists (Abra), which is coordinating the event.

“It’s a chance for Zimbabweans to celebrate the shining talent of one of their own. Abra Simzz will be visiting family in Zimbabwe so we decided to take the opportunity to get him to mix and mingle with his fans in the country,” added Chibamu.

Abra Simzz also produced award winning Nigerian musician, General Pype’s “Born Champions”, which features a host of Zimbabwe’s fledgling artists including Metaphysics , Carlprit & Tek Niq, Winky D, Jusa Dementor, Cynthia Mare and BK and Kazz. Simzz is one of the founding members of Abra, an organization responsible for promoting Zimbabwe’s brand of urbane music to the rest of the globe.

Simzz in collaboration with UK based-Zimbabwean musician, Jusa Dementor is also behind hits such as “Imagine” which features Jamaican artist, Hawkeye. His ABRA outfit is currently identifying an nurturing local talent. According to Chibamu, the group is working with Shinso-Man and more artists are expected to be  added to the stable. Shinso-Man is expected to be one of the performers at the welcome party.

“Introducing Tina” Awakens Fresh,New Sound

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – At the launch of her debut album self-titled Introducing Tina, upcoming musician, Tina Watyoka, 23,  graced the stage with a cool, confident elegance as she went through her musical repertoire. Dressed in a chic African garb, Watyoka expressed so much vivacity and energy as she swayed up and down the stage, and capped it it all with her soulful voice and punchy lyrics.

Her eight-track album which was produced by veteran musician Clive Mono Mukundu features songs such as Chii, Usapere, Ndakupihwa, True Man, Makamira Neni, Chii Intrumental, True Man Acoustic, and Mari. Watyoka’s music is so precocious it clearly highlights her potential as an artist. Her beat offers a fresh breath, to say the least. It is a blast of youthful energy, freshness, and life with a wave of promise so vibrant it shows Zimbabwe is replete with some raw talent. The album consists of a stew of disparate musical genres that Watyoka describes as mainly pop with a touch of jazz inspired by life, and the people around her.

“Through my music, I’m trying to portray myself as a musician and a wife. I have a dream of being a great performer and for my music to be the voice of voiceless women, girls and children out there. To girls and women, I just want to say do not be held back because you’re female. Whatever you can do in the form of art is what explains who you are, so women in in this industry should hold their heads up high,” said Watyoka, who is married with one kid.

In terms of music, Watyoka who started singing at 17, has been there and done that, singing with some of the best in Zimbabwe, including Busi, Thanda Richardson, Taku Mafika, and Comrade Fatso and Chabvondoka, Isaac Chirwa and others.

“It’s not been an easy road. But I’ve learned a lot from the greats. Singing with different bands has allowed me to be on my toes, learning new music all the time. And, as a woman, I have had to face a lot of competition from the guys. The thing is there are a few ladies who have the confidence to be in front of so many people,” she said.

Watyoka, who hails from the bustling town of Chitungwiza said that she started singing in her high school choir but her parents were initially resistant.

“From the beginning my parents did not support me till I started working with Busi. That’s when they started to understand and appreciate my work,” she said.

In 2010, she toured Europe with Taku Mafika and Gary Tight Muponda as part of the International Youth Orchestra, performing in five countries.  She also performed at the World Social Forum in Senegal early this year with Comrade Fatso and Chabvondoka.

Watyoka is currently enrolled at the Zimbabwe College of Music where she is studying for a National Certificate in Music with the help of the Zimbabwe Jesuit Mission.

“I decided to do this program because an artist without knowledge faces a lot of challenges concerning what’s going on with the music onstage, the audience and many things.  This programme also gives you what you need to be a better performer,” she said.

Faith Ministries’ Mbare Community Church Launches Gospel Album

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Mbare, Harare – MBARE, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest high-density suburbs, is often associated with all things negative, from crime, prostitution to poverty. An oft-repeated sentiment is: what good can come out of Mbare. Rarely does one hear of positive stories taking place in this bustling community of over 300,000 inhabitants.

But on Sunday, Faith Ministries’ Mbare Community Church (MCC) proved that there is so much to the neighbourhood beyond the negative hullabaloo. There was a hive of activity at the church as approximately 1,000 people crammed inside the church building to witness the launch of the MCC’s debut album titled, “Kingdom Praise Volume One.” It was all joy and celebration at the event which was graced by the church’s leadership, including African Sun CEO and Faith Ministries’ Senior Pastor, Dr Shingi Munyeza.

“It’s history in the making, we’re witnessing the launch of our first album. It’s been a dream come true. You often hear that what good can come out of Mbare but this album will transform people not only in Mbare but in the nation at large. What man has failed to do, God is able to do through men,” said Munatsi Sande, MCC’s pastor.

Popular acapella group, Shower Power, who were first on the stage, graced the launch with their mellow voices, evoking God with their version of African Doo-Woop, a form of acapella. They were followed by MCC’s Shabach Dance Factory who mesmerized the audience with their youthful, energetic dances.

The fifty-person MCC youthful choir, Kingdom Praise, dressed in flowing brown and yellow rimmed gowns then took to the stage with verve and pomp and sang with such soul-searching and spirit-invoking passion that aroused ululations, whistles and an occasional vuvuzela blow among the raucous audience. The songs on the album are not only richly themed but are also tight, well-arranged and exhibit maturity in subject matter which is essentially an invocation of God.

“When we began the journey here, we had a lot of issues to deal with in Mbare. Today, I can tell you that there’s a story of Mbare that is not being told but the time has come – this is it,” said Munyeza, quoting a Biblical verse, John 12:24,  on why the form of the seed must die to reveal its nature.

“There are somethings that had to die within us for us to achieve this feat. And I urge you all to let more things such as arrogance and pride die within you for us to reach new heights that God wants to take us to,” he added.

Stanley Gwanzura, popularly known as Pastor G, who also graced the event, gave a standing ovation, spirited performance that brought the church down, and left the audience crying for more. He was followed by Matthew Matsetse, a gospel musician from Botswana, who sang his heart out to much applause before Kingdom Praise took to the stage again.

“We’ve been witnessing a lot of change, especially among young people in our community. We believe we have a message for our community in Mbare and our nation at large,” said Tafadzwa Maramba, elder in charge of praise and worship at the church.

According to Nolan Kahonde, the church’s music director, the intention is to produce an album every year, hence the title, “Kingdom Praise Volume One.”

“It’s been a learning curve and the experience of going to a studio, writing and arranging the songs has been a real blessing from the Almighty,” said Kahonde, who composed four songs on the album.

Songs on the album except one were all written by MCC’s choir members include Ngatimurumbidzei, Mandisimudzira, Mweya Mutsvene, Kubwinya, Ndimi Moga, Ndinodavira, Tamirira Mweya Mutsvene, Arise Oh Church Medley, Fire On the Altar, and Zita Rashe.

Gary Muponda Tight in sterling musical performance

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – GARY Muponda Tight, son to popular Afro-reggae and pop musician, Willom Tight, gave a sterling performance at Mannenberg last week backed by his band, Zion Originated.

Tight, (15) who was an opening act for mbira maestro Taku Mafika’s homecoming show, exhibited a musical maturity that belied his age.

“I just want my music to go very far where no Zimbabwean music has gone before. I want my work to be known locally and internationally,” said Tight, who is currently pursuing Form Three educational studies at Churchill High School.

Tight revealed that he started playing at age two, and is in his high school’s jazz band. Last year, he went on a five-country European musical tour to with several upcoming local musicians including Mafika and Tina Watyoka among others.

During his performance, Tight played the mbira and sang with a high level of confidence that endeared him to the hordes of people that came to the show. The young musician paid tribute to his father for teaching him as well as mentoring him about the music field.

“My journey in music has been very smooth, thanks to my father. He has always been there for me. He has taught me much of what I know about music today. In addition, he is always giving me advice about how to conduct myself as a musician,” said Tight.

His act at the Mannenberg consisted of an eclectic fusion of the mbira, key board, guitar and drums. The young musician capped it all with his mellow voice and richly themed lyrics. Without a doubt, Tight is an emerging artist to look out for in the near future.