Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior Arts Reporter
One wintry morning in 2005, a dark cloud hung over Zimbabwe following the death of jit-sungura musician Paul Matavire.
Matavire, who was visually impaired, had hard hitting diction and descriptive lyrical power that swept everyone off their feet. He was an enigma. Very, very rare.
Matavire also sang in many languages, at times in the same song to capture a wider audience.
He also used and abused Bible verses to effect humour.
Back to the script, years later, Matavire fans always asked who could succeed him.
Did he take skills to the grave??
But five years later a Muzokomba High School A’ Level student, Knowledge Mbavara has come out as Paul Matavire incarnate.
Thanks to his late father Oliver “Doctor” Mbavara who was best friends with Paul Matavire.
The father and son would not miss the Matavire live shows as they also got to get “easy passes” — free tickets, obviously.
In fact, Mbavara’s talent, then was discovered by his elder brother Oswell who pushed him also to take part in variety-talent shows during his high school days.
Like Hollywood celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Beyonce Knowles and One Direction group, these talent shows have paved way for their careers.
Today they are successful, but what is the story with our own Mbavara?
If you are behind the wall and you hear him sing, one could think it is the late Paul Matavire singing.
Mbavara has same resemblance of voice and body structure of the late but they are far from being related.
However, Mbavara who last month successfully launched his debut album “Sekera Mudende”, on National FM opened up his story to The Herald Arts.
The 32-year-old from Buhera, Muzokomba revealed his love for Matavire and said he will do anything to protect his legacy.
“When my album was launched on radio, those who knew me called me asking if ever I had done the songs with the late. I always did sing along backstage each time when I was at his show with my dad. I just grew up listening to his music. My schoolmates used to tease me that I am backward and I should move with latest trends. During those days, musicians like Rihanna, Eminem and Justin Bieber were just dominating the mainstream and they were followed by my peers,” he said.
“My brother then pushed me to do music and take part at variety shows as my voice was said to be similar to Matavire’s. It was not an easy road trying to penetrate the market. I then stopped, focused on looking for a job and did other projects.”
The City of Harare Council worker said late last year is when he decided to take the music serious.
“There was this inner voice in me which also pushed me to do music. I got married then put the music aside, but then last year I went into studio and started working on my album,” he said.
He said his debut album “Sekera Mudende” was inspired by societal settings.
“My first album carries six tracks such as ‘Chikomba’, ‘Zorora wawana’, ‘Usaore moyo’, ‘Hukama’, ‘Ndiri kufara’, and the title track ‘Sekera Mudende.’
“I wrote all the songs and I did lead vocals and acoustic rhythms.
“‘Sekera Mudende’ gives emphasis on the need to follow our cultural values aspeople who are facing problems in societies must be heard or helped than being discriminated.”
He said his voice was natural.
“Yes, I sound like Paul Matavire, but naturally that’s my voice. I grew up listening to his music and he was my father’s best friend. l like all his songs.
“He is my role model because of his deep Shona, Ndebele and English in his music artistry, hence my music also has the same composition.”
Surprisingly just like Matavire who rose to prominence in the 1980s when he joined the Jairos Jiri Band based in Bulawayo, Mbavara has also followed the same footsteps as he likes performing at Jairos Jiri in Harare.
“I was performing at Jairos Jiri before I formed my band called The Hot Machine band which is an incantation of Hit Machine which was Matavire band name. We are seven band members,” he said.
Some of Matavire’s former band members have joined him.
“Astoundingly, Shanangurai Gwan who is a former Jairosi Jiri and Hit Machine band member who worked with the latter has joined us. We are preparing our second album which will be dropping in November,” he said.
Mbavara said it was his dream to collaborate with Dorcas Moyo because of her composition which he says suits his style.