Macheso lost winning team Alick Macheso
Alick Macheso

Alick Macheso

Godwin Muzari Arts Editor—
Why should Alick Macheso evade his band members to hire other instrumentalists to record his new album? It has been proven that Macheso called back former drummer Obert Gomba and guitarist Noel Nyazanda to the studio to record his upcoming album that is long overdue. Sources say Macheso’s producer said the album he had done with some members of his current team was below standard and the musician had no option, but to call back those who deserted him. Gomba and Nyazanda left Macheso with other former Orchestra Mberikwazvo members Franco “Slomo” Dhaka and Jonas Kasamba to form splinter group Extra Kwazvose that was known as “The Rebels”.

Although the group also split later and Franco remained with the name, it seems Macheso has failed to go beyond “The Rebels”. It seems he has not been able to assemble a team that surpasses the achievements that he got when his talented guys were around him. Now, people are waiting for a new album, but the musician has been giving various reasons for its delay.

If it is true that his producer told him that the current team cannot come up with something to satisfy his market, then Macheso is in a fix. It is common for musicians to cut ties with their talented members and to use other instrumentalists in studio without problems, but Macheso seems cornered. He has a tough task to fulfil and, with competition from Jah Prayzah and Suluman Chimbetu, Macheso should be feeling the pressure.

For more than a decade, Macheso was known as the king of sungura. He was crowned because he introduced a new type of sungura that changed the face of the genre.

Although the likes of Ephraim Joe and Jonah Moyo pursued the fast beat type that defines sungura, Macheso hewed a unique type and his invention still stands out above many attempts to re-invent the genre. His type of sungura is mainly hinged on the bass guitar. The bass guitar assumes the role of the lead guitar and the emphatic sound is unmistakable.

Since Macheso successfully experimented with this beat, a lot of other upcoming sungura musicians went after his footsteps. Musicians like Njerama Boys, Romeo Gasa, Simon Mutambi and Obvious Mutani found themselves in the same tunnel with Macheso. It is now common for lead singers to belt out songs in apparent exciting cohesion with the bass guitar. Bass guitarists are now lead vocalists in sungura and it seems they all have to play the bass guitar to make the music.

The bass guitarist is now the lead vocalist and many sungura musicians are seem convinced that this type of music is the actual definition of sungura. Sungura was known for its sharp lead guitar and complementary melodies from the rhythm and sub-rhythm guitars that had a laid back support of the bass guitar.

Musicians like Marshal Munhumumwe, Leonard Dembo, Negyab Brothers, Pengaudzoke, Wrist Brothers, Admire Kasenga and Nicholas Zakaria carved their creative hits along this common genre. Then, sungura was the music of the day and there were so many variations surrounding the music type.

Sungura Boys are credited for coming up with this unique type that is heavily influenced by music types from Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. This is the music type that Macheso popularised beyond the usual sungura that made names like John Chibadura, System Tazvida and Mitchell Jambo with his Marunga Brothers. Macheso became the godfather of sungura and enhanced his title as the king of the genre as sungura took a deliberate slant towards his new type of music.

It seems the “lead” bass guitar is now the backbone of sungura music since Macheso’s invention. In fact, Macheso began this new type of music when he was still with his mentor Nicholas Zakaria at Khiama Boys. Macheso made his name when he was still with Khiama Boys and his bass guitar skills were well documented before he became band leader. When he split from Zakaria to form his Orchestra Mberikwazvo, Macheso took his bass guitar skills to another level.

Although he is good at other instruments, Macheso’s love for the bass guitar led to the improvisation that now defines sungura music. The bass guitar leads other instruments and in most cases the lead vocalist play the bass guitar. This is the sungura that has flooded the market. The style subtly says lead vocals are hinged on bass guitar and then everything falls in place.

When Macheso came up with his exciting beat, he went on to recruit other instrumentalists that were up to the task of taking the genre to his desired levels. Macheso worked with fiery rhythm guitarist Zakaria Zakaria to form Orchestra Mberikwazvo and their combination was extraordinary. They recruited a number of other instrumentalists over the years and all seemed well as the king of sungura continued to reign.

Despite the departure of Thomson Chauke, Samuel Mugende and Rodgers Fatiya in 2003 when they sneaked from camp during the musician’s tour and stayed in the United Kingdom, Macheso remained strong. He recruited new members and his star continued to shine. His albums “Zvakanaka Zvakadaro”, “Vapupuri Pupurai”, “Zvido Zvenyu Kunyanya”, “Ndezvashe-eh” and “Zvinoda Kutendwa” kept him on the crest of the sungura wave that he had started.

Many tried to copy his style, but Macheso remained on top of his game. However, it seems the musician is struggling to fill the gap left by the departure of some of his most experienced band members that made serious impact at Orchestra Mberikwazvo. Many musicians lose key band members and manage to move on, but Macheso’s situation seems complicated.

It seems he has the predicament that Peter Moyo had after the departure of Spencer Khumulani, Gaison Sixpence and Shiga Shiga, which was only solved by the trio’s return. Does Macheso need “The Rebels” and some former members back in order to come up with an album that satisfies his producers and fans? Indeed Macheso worked with the best instrumentalists in Zakaria Zakaria, Obert Gomba, Noel Nyazanda, Innocent Mjintu, Lucky Mumiriki and Jonasi Kasamba.

Some of these instrumentalists made Macheso’s winning team and it might be difficult for him to build such a crew again. Maybe that is the reason why Macheso would confidently call their names out in the studio for the famous “one-by-one” style that popularised the instrumentalists.

He would call them by their nicknames and places of origin like: “ Zakaria Zakaria anobva KuMazowe”; “Lucky Mumiriki wekuHurungwe Kwakaruru . . . Ndiyahwee; “Noel Nyazanda . . . chimufana chepaBanket”. The team had talented and experiences instrumentalists.

Obert Gomba
The drummer worked with a number of groups before joining Macheso. He is a talented drummer that many upcoming instrumentalists look up to and he has worked as a session musician for various artistes. He played drums for Boyz DzeSmoko, Jonah Moyo and Leonard Zhakata before joining Macheso. The flavour that he brought to Orchestra Mberikwazvo can be felt on the precious albums and this might justify why Macheso needs him back in his studio.

Noel Nyazanda
The lead guitarist is well-known for his exceptional style. He made a mark in Macheso’s team and left lasting impressions with his style. He left Macheso with “The Rebels”. Before working with Macheso, he played lead and rhythm guitars for Leonard Zhakata and went to join Suluman Chimbetu before making a rebound to Orchestra Mberikwazvo and quitting again.

Zakaria Zakaria
He was regarded as Macheso’s closest ally since they started Orchestra Mberikwazvo together after they were left stranded by their former band leader Nicholas Zakaria. Zakaria Zakaria is a talented rhythm guitarist who left Macheso under unclear circumstances. He is said to have left the group to attend to a family problem and was booted out during his absence.

It was the second time for him to leave the group. He had initially quit the outfit to work with his brother Nicholas and returned to Orchestra Mberikwazvo before finally quitting and forming his own band, Chilli Boys. He has so far released two albums.

Innocent Mjintu
He made a name as Leonard Dembo’s guitarist and was linked to Barura Express revival on several occasions. He has worked with Dembo’s sons Morgan and Tendai, but music politics complicated their relationship.

He had a conflict with Macheso after announcing that he wanted to record an album. After leaving Macheso, he formed his band ZARE and then worked with Energy Mutodi before joining forces with his son Learnmore on a new project that could not yield much.

Jonas Kasamba
The chanter, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo introduced himself to Zimbabwe’s music lovers when he was working with Lubumbashi Stars. Like Utakataka Express’ Shiga Shiga, the chanter brought life to Macheso’s crew and left with “The Rebels”.

Although Macheso’s team latter said he was “noisy” at Orchestra Mberikwazvo, the gap that he left seems hard to fill because new chanter Zhili Mumbamulapi is not up to the task.

Franco “Slomo” Dhaka
The versatile dancer was responsible for choreography in Macheso’s camp. He was replaced by Selemani “Majuice” Mpochi. The two briefly worked together, but their different styles also brought a great difference on stage. Majuice does not appeal to the crowd as Franco did. Franco will always be remembered for his “cherebu” dance that he did at a music gala and left many asking for more.

Lucky Mumiriki
Lucky’s talent is phenomenal. It is unfortunate that he suffered a stroke and is still to be back on stage. Macheso is said to have assisted Lucky on a number of occasions hoping that he would get well on time, but he is still to fully recover.

He was recently quoted complaining that he is facing hard times because his former employer is no longer fulfilling his promise of looking after him until he fully recovers. Lucky was an integral part of System Tazvida’s Chazezesa Challengers and when he joined Macheso, he made a difference and many still miss his touch.

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