Madzibaba recounts painful tour of Malawi

Madzibaba recounts painful tour of Malawi Nicholas Zakaria
Nicholas Zakaria

Nicholas Zakaria

Godwin Muzari Memory Lane
Welcome to Memory Lane. On this platform, artistes take us through the highs and lows of their careers. They share happy and sad memories of their journeys in the arts and how the twists and turns have shaped their trade. They take us down memory lane.

Obviously, artists that have been around for a long time have more to tell and their memories are important in comparing the yesteryear arts industry and current trends. One such artiste is musician Nicholas Zakaria, who is popularly known as Madzibaba. He got the nickname because of vapostori beliefs that he followed for a long time before he dumped his Mugodhi apostolic sect in 2014 for Prophet Walter Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverance ministries.

To many of his followers, he is still Madzibaba or Senior Lecturer. (By the way, he recently upgraded his status to Senior Professor).

Zakaria started his career in 1975 in Mazowe with a farm band that was known as Green Mangoes that also had yesteryear musician Robson Kaitano. He then joined Vhuka Boys in Harare around 1980 before co-founding Khiama Boys, his current band, in 1984.

In his 40-year journey, he has seen a lot and his tales actually need a thick-volume biography to be exhausted.

He has had his happy and sad moments, beginning music at a time when the art was condemned socially and going through the changing music terrain for 40 years.

One of his worst moments unfolded when he toured Malawi, his country of origin, in 2008.

It was his first time to perform in the country and he went hoping for an emphatic homecoming feast, but returned with a miserable report of a three-week nightmare.

“It was a trip of shame and three weeks of suffering. We went through a hard time because someone misled us,” Zakaria recalls.

“We were working with promoter Notice Chigome of Frontran Promotions and we lined up 10 shows for the tour. Two shows were in Mozambique while the rest were in Malawi.

“Chigome sent the late DJ December to Malawi to prepare for the shows and he messed up everything, leading to our nightmare.”

(When DJ December or Dhiziri — real name Esau Ganizani — died in 2014, he had publicly admitted he erred during the trip and apologised to Chigome. By the time of his death he was still good friends with Zakaria and Chigome – may his soul rest in peace.)

“DJ December was given marketing material and money to book venues. He returned and told us that everything was perfect and people were looking forward to our tour. We were excited. I wanted to prove a point in my home country and show them I was flying their flag high in Zimbabwe. Everyone in camp, including the promoter, was optimistic.”

Zakaria said they had their first show at Angonia in Mozambique and everything went well. Their trip looked brighter and everyone saluted Dhiziri for a job well-done.

But Dhiziri did not bask in his glory for long. Hell broke loose when they headed for their first show in Malawi.

“When were at the Mozambique-Malawi border, we were first alarmed by the absence of posters in the area because the venue was a few kilometres from the border. Dhiziri told us not to worry because word in that area had already spread. We just thought the posters had been put in some strategic.

“Our hearts sank when we arrived at the venue. We were told it was not booked for our show. We also realised that Dhiziri had just dumped the posters at the venue and promised to return for booking and distribution of posters. We knew the trip was doomed. Dhiziri was evasive and we had a day to market the show and hope to convince people.”

Zakaria said members of their crew rushed around spreading the word and distributing posters but the last-minute arrangement did not work. The show was a monumental flop.

“Our second show confirmed that it was going to be a trip of pain. We sent an advance team hoping that our show in Blantyre would bring returns but that was not to be. We exhausted our coffers. We ran out of fuel and food. We did not have accommodation. It’s painful to be stranded in a foreign country. Back home we were used to flops and similar hard situations, but it was easy to find a way out with friends and relatives around. Not in a foreign land.”

The musician said Chigome asked his wife back home to send them money for upkeep. All shows in Malawi flopped and the promoter had to arrange for more shows in Mozambique to finance their travel back home.

They finally got home empty-handed after a month on a tour that Zakaria vividly remembers for the suffering they endured. But the Malawi nightmare is just a tip of the iceberg.

Having been in the industry for such a long time, Zakaria is willing to share many other experiences of his career.

He recalls the 1997 separation with Alick Macheso and Zakaria Zakaria when the duo formed Orchestra Mberikwazvo. Hard times in music at that time had forced him to get a job as a truck driver. As he toured the region in his new job, his band members found the going getting tougher and decided to form their own band. Zakaria said the media blew the issue out of proportion and tried to fan hatred between the musicians.

“It was unfortunate there was so much talk of animosity, but the guys (Macheso and Zakaria) had informed me about their intention to form a band and I gave them a go-ahead.

“We have never been enemies but their song “Pakutema Munda” seemed to confirm our separation was acrimonious and people said a lot of bad things about me. Music is about growth and it is anticipated that any instrumentalist may choose to go solo.”

He gave the example of how Cephas Karushanga left Khiama Boys when his composition “Mabhauwa” became a hit.

When he returned from truck-driving in 2002, Zakaria did the album “Munongedzo” that had hit track “Mazano”. Other albums that followed include “Mbuva Yeupenyu”, “Ida Anokuda”, “Kurapa Namazwi” and his latest release “Rumbidzo”. He has a total of 26 albums. Zakaria spoke of happier times when they would earn a lot from record sales. He is bitter musicians no longer get reasonable royalties due to piracy. He also remembers how his combination with Macheso was on demand here and in Mozambique.

Those were the days of albums like “Kubva Kure”, “Kutambura”, “Chikumbiro” and “Mabvi Nemagokora”.

He recalls the ups and downs in the early days of Khiama Boys when he worked with Tineyi Chikupo, Cephas Karushanga, Lovemore Tom, Sam Chikudzura and Margaret Gweshe before Macheso replaced Tom when he fell ill.

Most of them had come from Vhuka Boys when their leader Shepherd Chinyani decided to pursue other interests outside music. Zakaria later married Gweshe and she dropped out of music to become a house wife. They are still together and have three children.

Through his music income, Zakaria has managed to build houses in Chitungwiza and Dema. He is putting final touches to his 14-roomed house in Norton. These are just a few parts of the journey of a man who strummed his first guitar strings at Belgown Farm in Mazowe in the early 1970s. He has been through a lot.

Next week Somandla Ndebele takes us through ties and secrets of his friendship with Tongai Moyo. feedback: [email protected]


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