Godwin Muzari Arts Editor
The name Filda Muchabaiwa is mainly associated with Jah Prayzah’s rise to fame. Popularly known as Mama Filo or Mai Shinda, Muchabaiwa was Jah Prayzah’s manager for many years before she briefly worked with Andy Muridzo and then moved to be with Pamela “Gonyeti” Zulu.
She is currently managing Gonyeti, who acrimoniously left Jah Prayzah’s Third Generation band last year. Jah Prayzah, Andy Muridzo and Gonyeti are all interesting characters that are interlinked in numerous ways. This writer sought to understand their respective characters through a lengthy interview with Mama Filo, who shared her perspectives about and experiences with the three musicians.
Despite her bitter departure from Jah Prayzah’s camp, Mama Filo still has a lot of respect for the musician and does not blame him for their split. She blames people that she called Jah Prayzah’s advisors that gradually fanned disparities between the singer and his former manager until they part ways. Mama Filo says she still treats Jah Prayzah as her son since she was part of his rise to fame and can relate to his rags to riches tale.
“I have nothing against Jah Prayzah. I left him in unfortunate circumstances but it is water under the bridge now. I was angry at first, but I later realised that it was not his fault. Some external forces led to our separation,” said Mama Filo.
“I respect him for his hard work and persistence, which have taken him to where he is today. I met him around 2008 when he approached my late husband for assistance. We had a bar in Chihota and he would accompany my husband to the place at weekends. He would play CDs in the background and perform alone. Despite lack of popularity, he did not give up. My husband almost gave up on him but Jah would always knock at our door and say ‘mudhara let us keep on pushing’. When my husband died in 2010, Jah Prayzah was severely heartbroken. He cried leaning on my shoulder. We cried together. He had lost a brother and a friend and he still talks about the sad loss.” Mama Filo said it took Jah Prayzah a long time to heal emotionally. She said she continued running the Chihota bar for sometime and that is how she started working with the musician.
“He said ‘mhamha you are the only one who can assist me. Let us take it from where mudhara left’. I had never managed a musician before, but we decided to move together. We started looking for shows and that is how we got the famous Wednesday slots at Jazz 105 where Jah Prayzah was almost chased off the stage in the first days when some people denounced his music as noisy.” Mama Filo also recounted the highs and lows of her work with Jah Prayzah.
“It was hard in the first days. I recall of a show in Shamva that flopped and the promoter ran away without paying us. We had to confiscate a generator and a television set in order to get our money. There was nothing we could do because we did not have money for transport back to Harare. Many shows had similar results and Jah Prayzah was at times really touched by what was happening but we encouraged each other to move on. Things started taking shape after the release of ‘Tsviriyo’ and the rise to fame began. By the time I left, Jah Prayzah was a big name and he is still one of the best in the country. It was a long journey to where he is now. He worked hard.”
Mama Filo has no kind words for Muridzo. She says the young man is arrogant and does not take advice. She said she sacrificed her integrity when she began managing Muridzo and was taken as someone eager to nurture a competitor who would bring Jah Prayzah down. Whether she really wanted to do so or it was a coincidence, Mama Filo found herself having to deal with a hard nut to crack.
“That young man has potential but he might never reap the fruits of his talent if he continues to be hot-headed. I tried my best to mould him into a polished musician, but he somehow went offside when we thought we were on the right track,” Mama Filo lamented.
“We planned several things together and he would just decide to go his own way without notifying me. When I asked him he would say whatever came to his mind. He does not have respect at all. He needs serious counselling.” Mama Filo said people are being unfair to claim that Jah Prayzah swallowed Muridzo because the young man always wanted to be part of Jah Prayzah’s projects.
“I know the whole story. He would come to our shows when I was still with Jah Prayzah and we assisted him. Assisting was good but Andy failed to grow to be his own man. He always wants to be in Jah Prayzah’s shadow. People should not blame Jah. Andy decided to be his tail and it will be difficult to convince him otherwise. He is arrogant. He almost ruined my relationship with Jah Prayzah because he would say bad things about him to me and vice versa.”
However, Mama Filo salutes Muridzo for his immense talent.
“What pains me most is that Andy is talented. He just needs direction and he will be a big name. The day he agrees to take advice is the day he will start his journey to success.”
Pamela “Gonyeti” Zulu
Again, when Mama Filo took Gonyeti under her wings, she was perceived to be fighting a subtle war with Jah Prayzah because of the way the former backing vocalist left her master amid heated counter accusations. But Mama Filo says her relationship with Gonyeti is personal and claims the musician approached her for assistance and she initially refused. However, she admits that Gonyeti needs serious handling to build her brand.
“I am her manager but I admit that she has a problem with alcohol. I have to be hard on her for our things to move well. When she gets drunk she becomes a problem, but I make sure that she does not drink when we are going to work. It is a principle that I had even when I worked with her at Third Generation. Men also stalk her and at times she finds herself in a sea of temptations but I do my best to advise her not to sink.
“She has a bright future because she is one of the finest vocalists in the land. Her music appeals to mature listeners and she has a lot of potential. Her days with Jah Prayzah taught her to be energetic and she defies her weight when she gets on stage. One thing I like about her is that she has passion for what she does. She has gone through a lot in her life and I have been like a mother to her. When I initially refused to be her manager, she cried and said she could not think of anyone else who could assist her. We are working well together and the future looks bright.”