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.