Music industry robbed of more talent

Fred Zindi Music
After the devastating news of Harare Mambos founder, Greenford Jangano’s death on November 28, last year, the year 2016 has also started on a sad note for the Zimbabwe music industry.

On Friday, March 11, 2016 I received the devastating news of Munya Nyemba’s death. He was the bassist for the reggae outfit, Transit Crew since 1988. I will do a special feature on Munya next week.

On Thursday February 25, we also received the shocking news of Robson Nyanzira’s death,

Nyanzira was the organising secretary of the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians (ZUM) who worked with the late ZUM chairman, Michael Sekerani, alongside Samaita Zindi. He had been ill for over two years.

Zimbabwe Union of Musicians’ patron, Webster Shamu called me on several occasions to remind me that Robson was seriously ill and that we should go and visit him, but regrettably, I kept postponing until his death.

He was buried at Nyanzira Village in Chihota where several relatives, friends and fellow musicians including patron Shamu attended.

Commenting on his passing away, Transit Crew’s lead guitarist, Samaita Zindi, who worked closely with Robson Nyanzira said: “Zimbabwe has lost a man who was a great worker and a pillar to the music industry.”

As organising secretary of ZUM, Nyanzira played a pivotal role in organising the yearly Musicians’ Day.

He working together with the musicians union patron, Comrade Webster Shamu, Harare South Member of Parliament, Hubert Nyanhongo and the then Harare mayor, Sekesai Makwavarara, managed to achieve what many musicians had failed to achieve in the past.

He secured 100 residential stands for musicians and today musicians such as Noel Zembe, Wilson Mbarea aka ‘Sekuru Weeds’ and Samaita Zindi are enjoying the benefits of such effort as they have built houses on the donated stands in Hopley, Waterfalls.

Robson Nyanzira grew up in Mbare. In 1961 he joined the Red Carnation Band which was sponsored by Kenneth Chogugudza better known as ‘Mudhara James Bond’ of Zata Street, Mbare.

Together with his band they played as contract musicians in places such as Vito Tavern until 1964 when the band was lured by Francis Mubayiwa who renamed them the New Pop Settlers. At this juncture, the band was made up of Robson Nyanzira on drums, Jackson Mangwere on lead guitar, Patrick Mukwamba on vocals, Abdul Musa on rhythm guitar and Robert Nekati on bass.

After their stint in Mutare, Robson went back to Harare where he married Catherine Mazodze, popularly known as ‘Machipisa’ of the “Mukadota Family” television series. He later joined the Afro Jazz Fiesta Band and the Seasons Band which consisted of Wilson’ Mbare aka Mudhara Weeds, Langa and Andrew Chikwanha of Mbirimi Drive in Mbare as its members.

Nyanzira also played a pivotal role in persuading the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe to donate musical equipment worth over $50 000 to the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians. This effort was meant to resuscitate the “Musicians’ Day Festival which had gone quiet for three years due to lack of musical equipment and a decent PA system.

The donation from Culture Fund included a PA system, back-line equipment comprising a drum kit, a bass combo, lead amplifier, keyboards and a rhythm combo together with guitars and keyboards.

He had also formed a business relationship with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority which encouraged all musicians in Zimbabwe to participate in the promotion of Zimbabwe’s tourism events.

Indeed, Nyanzira’s death is a great loss to the music industry. Nyanzira will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.

He is survived by three children.

As if that is not enough, another great loss occurred last week.

On March 6, the music fraternity also lost another great musician, Timothy “Timmy” Makaya who played the lead guitar in several Jazz bands.

I first heard about Timmy’s illness in 2007 from an American lady who was desperately looking for someone who knew Timmy, after he suffered a stroke.

The US-based sympathiser had heard about Timmy’s illness and wished to send him some money so he could purchase an air ticket to fly to America where he would receive medical attention. I gave this information to Timmy’s close relatives but I think there were complications in arranging a visa for him. He stayed in this state for a long time until March 6 instant.

Timmy Makaya’s career started off with the St Paul’s Musami Band in the early 1960’s together with the late Basil Kampeu, Peter Tamburai, Francis Chakanyuka, Sylvester Gano, Christopher Matanhire, Fanuel Chikukwa and Arthur Chipunza.

The band from St Paul’s Mission was one of the most respected musical acts of the time in the country.

After a long stint with the St Paul’s Musami Band, Timmy moved to Harare where he joined the Springfields Band which was based at Vito Tavern.

This is the same band which the likes of Thomas Mapfumo, Chris Chabuka, Manu Kambani, Dave Dimingo and Elias Banda had also participated in.

After the Springfields, Timmy teamed up with the late Cookie Tutani, the late Simangaliso Tutani, Jonah Marumahoko and the late Chris Chabuka to form Body & Soul Jazz Band after securing residency at Oasis Hotel.

His last known band, Jabavu Drive in which his son, Kudzi also played the drums, was not established until 1988 when Timmy Makaya teamed up with the late Charles Mangena, Phillip Svosve, Dr Roger Hukuimwe, Dave Dimingo and Nicholas Mugona to form the band which took its name from a street in Highfield, Harare. Together they released their first album titled “Isabella” in 2003 which featured the Timmy Makaya composition titled “Tsuro Nembwa.” This was soon followed by another album, “Moto Moto” and later another scorcher simply titled “Jabavu Drive.” On all three albums, Makaya exhibited his excellent guitar prowess and composition skills.

In the year 2006, Timmy suffered a stroke that saw him bed ridden for a long time. After ten years of suffering, he passed away on Sunday March 6.

He will be sadly missed. His wealth of talent and experience cannot be compared with anyone’s.

To the three giants of the music industry, Nyemba, Nyanzira and Makaya, your great contribution and passion for music is now in the wilderness but these will be greatly treasured and will give future generations something to smile about. May your dear souls rest in eternal peace!

The band from St Paul’s Mission was one of the most respected musical acts of the time in the country.

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  • tafamutekwe

    A moving human encyclopaedia on the A to Z of Zimbabwe music.