Tawanda Marwizi Arts Correspondent
When Paradzai Mesi assumed the reins at sungura outfit Njerama Boys in 2000, they released an album “Zviripachena” that became an instant hit.
Before this, the group had unveiled a debut effort called “Zaru”, which did not make an impact. Under Mesi, the group that was based near Njerama Hills in Muzarabani, enjoyed tremendous success.
All went on well, enabling the singer to buy his own car, a commuter omnibus as well as a PA system. Success became their middle name, what with gems of albums like “Pane Chariuraya”, “Goneso”, “Masimba Towedzera”, “Zvavemuropa”, “Kambairai” and “Nguva”.
It is unfortunate that Gramma Records could not avail statistics in terms of the number of copies which these albums sold. Until 2006, the group was basking in glory with its music selling like hot cakes.
Hell broke loose in 2007 when the group split following a dispute over money they got from a live performance. Eronzi Makina and other band members left the group to form Njerepamwe Boys that could not last the distance.
From then, Mesi struggled to keep the name and traded his guitar for cotton farming. He tried to produce cotton in Muzarabani, but it failed to yield results.
This forced the gifted lead guitarist to sell his car, kombi and PA system to make ends meet. The “Tirihuruva” hitmaker relocated to Glendale in 2014 where he tried to revive Njerama Boys but his efforts were in vain.
Things got worse as he could no longer afford to pay rent and fend for his children. That is when he went to Nehanda Compound in Glendale where he is staying in a bedraggled thatched pole and dagga house.
When The Herald visited the struggling artiste, he was at home with his children. “This has been my life since I relocated to this place. I came here because I wanted land for farming,” he said.
Though he was reluctant to open up on the split, he said it was unfortunate that some of the original band members of Njerama Boys are late. “Makina and Zakaria are dead and I am not sure where the other band members are because after relocating I assembled a new band,” he said.
Mesi said he would not want to disclose what happened in the past as he was trying to revive his career. “People can say whatever they want, but I will only focus on my career. I have been performing in different parts of Mashonaland Central Province and some of the shows are not doing well,” he said.
He said he hoped the relocation to Glendale would pay off, but this was not to be. “Three years ago, I moved to Glendale hoping to get a piece of land as well as coming closer to town to boost my music career. Things did not go as I expected, forcing me to move to this compound,” he said.
However, his neighbours shared a different view. They described him as a “drunken master”. Some of them who refused to be named said he has fallen on hard times because of his love for the illicit brew “kachasu”.
“He spends t most of his time drunk with his favourite beer being kachasu, so he can’t take care of himself,” said one of his neighbours. Others said while he spent most of his time drunk, his wife Patricia Kapadza is taking care of the family.
“We have Chinese greenhouse projects a few metres from this compound and that is where his wife works. She is the one who is looking after the children while Mesi is always drunk,” said a neighbour. Mesi has 11 children and some of them are married.
From his marriage with Kapadza they have seven children, while he has four with two other different women. One of them is said to have dumped the musician after his fall from grace.
“I don’t want to talk about that because that is the thing of the past. For now I am only working on reviving my career,” he said. This publication tracked downed his father Vengesai Mesi who now stays in Madziva under Chief Nyamaropa.
He was not willing to talk to the Press. “People must give my son a break. What I know is he will come back on track musically,” he said.
Paradzai Mesi was born in Mazowe District in 1972 and grew up in Shamva before his parents relocated to Muzarabani.
Origins of Njerama Boys
Their name originated from Njerama Mountains, a few kilometres from Mavhuradona Mountains in Muzarabani.
When the band was formed in 1997 they played at local shopping centres in Muzarabani until they decided to record their first album. According to Mesi, who became the group leader some years later, they wrote a letter to Gramma Records in 2000 intending to record.
Unfortunately, that is the time when the area was affected by Cyclone Eline. “It took us time to get the response from Gramma because all communication systems were affected by the cyclone,” said Mesi.
“The response was overwhelming in Muzarabani and we felt we needed to record an album. We had to walk from our area to Muzarabani Growth Point where we could connect to Harare,” he said.
On their way to the popular growth point, they met three gentlemen looking for Njerama Boys. “We were lucky to meet Bothwell Nyamhondera and we had our first auditions under a baobab tree. He was not convinced then and told us to go back and perfect our songs,” he said.
After a month they decided to go back to Harare again and successfully recorded their first album “Zaru” in 2000. It was their following album “Zviripachena” that brought glory to the group.
“After making considerations with Makina and Zakaria they agreed to have me as the band leader,” said Mesi. Following the success of their second album, they recorded a number of albums.
Sixteen years down the line, everything is now history. Nyamhondera said the group had much potential and said the musician can revive his career if he becomes “serious” with his work.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Business and Arts Hub (Zibah) is organising a Paradzai Mesi Gala that is set to be held at Joy Centre in Highfield this coming Saturday.
Zibah Entertainment director and promoter David Mudzudzu said they feel Mesi has got the talent that can carry him through the journey. “It all calls for relevant stakeholders to come through and support him so that he can once again find his footing in the industry.
“The benefit concert will thus be wholly organised by Zibah and all artists willing to perform as a way of supporting their own can come on board and perform,” he said.
Group finance director at Nash Paints Tinashe Mutarisi said they believe in equal opportunities for all and they continue engaging and lobbying relevant stakeholders for more support towards local arts.