Noel Zembe back on the road again

01 Dec, 2014 - 00:12 0 Views

The Herald

Fred Zindi Music
Last year, we brought you the rather sad news that Noel Zembe had been injured in a car accident where he broke his left leg. After being hospitalised for several weeks at Chitungwiza Hospital, he went through physiotherapy for a further six months. Well, we are glad to announce that he has fully recovered. Over the last two months Noel has been busy doing what he knows best, that is recording a new gospel album. Its title is “Nguva YaMwari”.

I have listened to this eight-track album and I must say it is a real scorcher.

Noel managed to rope in the services of ex-Frontline Kids’ Emmanuel Thomas, Tapiwa and Brian Nhanhanga on guitars, Boldrich Makeredza on bass, Blessing Masanga, Ushe Jere and Balt Mudepfu on keyboards and three female plus two male backing vocalists, namely Dorcas Zvirikuzhe, Beatrice Matewere, Nyaradzo Mutetwa, Micah Nyaumwe and Edson Masangoma.

The album consists of Zembe’s righteous Frontline Kids rocking (what with Emmanuel Thomas on guitar) and is bound by an inextricably ethical gospel stance.

It preaches social justice, sobriety and Christianity.

All the eight tracks largely consist of vestigial takes on material I have listened to before as I was also involved with the Frontline Kids.

However, they take on a more advanced role and are satisfyingly chunky as they encapsulate more wiry and funkier firecracker dy- namics.

The first track in which Noel Zembe features Jah Prayzah is titled “Risvike Ikoko”.

The combination of voices is just incredible and it is easy to fall in love with this track at first hearing. I asked Noel how he managed to rope in Jah Prayzah who is 2014’s man of the moment and he replied: “The last thing I expected after writing ‘Risvike Ikoko’ was to work with another artiste on the song, but when it was suggested by my producer, that it would sound even better if Jah Prayzah added flavour to the song, I could not resist the temptation as I have held Jah Prayzah in high esteem from the time I first heard about him.”

“Rudo” and “Ariko’ are my next favourites on the album. These are followed by “Chiedza”, “Ikoko”, “Chichemo”, “Chishuwo” and “Vomirira”.

In “Ikoko” and “Chishuwo”, Noel also does a collaboration with Hick Gwarimbo, another great gospel artiste.

This is a must-buy album as it certainly relaxes the mind.

Diamond Studios are busy distributing this gem of an album.

Noel himself, as seems to be the trend now, will also be standing on some street corners in Harare selling the album.

I have seen other established artistes such as Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Pastor G and Somandla Ndebele doing the same.

Please do not mistake him for a pirate. To prove that Noel is a hardworking individual, he has simultaneously released another gospel album called “Best of Noel Zembe” with all the old hits which include “Ndaiwana Hama”, “Rangariro” and “Dai Pasina”.

When The Frontline Kids Band was formed in December 1988, their average age was 16 years with drummer Wellingtom Masvosva, aged 14, being the youngest.

He was the admiration of all his schoolmates at Dzivarasekwa High School.

Within two years the Frontline Kids had recorded three albums in which Noel Zembe was the lead singer together with Jevas Dzotizei.

The albums were “Children of the Frontline”, “African Jive” and “Hupenyu”, two of which were in Zimbabwe’s top 20 charts for over eight weeks each.

In 1989, soon after the formation of the group, they were invited to perform for President Mugabe during the National Youth Week and in 1990 they were the supporting act for well-known South African musicians Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and the Soul Brothers. They also shared the stage with visiting Jamaican singer Dennis Brown at the National Sports Stadium in the same year.

The Frontline Kids – Jevas Dzotizei, Primrose Sithole and Noel Zembe on vocals, Bob Manwere on bass, Emmanuel Thomas on guitar, Philbert Marova on guitar, and later on keyboards, and Wellington Masvosva on drums – defined their music as Afro- acid, which was a fusion of jiti and Western music.

Today, Noel Zembe, although it is 21 years later, has hardly moved away from that beat.

This music saw the Frontline Kids going as far afield as Botswana, Mozambique and the United Kingdom. One of the highlights while touring the UK in 1991, was when they were invited to perform at St Andrews University where Prince William went to college. Because of the hype they had received over the radio from one BBC 1 Radio DJ, John Peel, who announced them as “new African Kids on the Block”, the attendance ballooned to 5 000 people.

At another venue within the same university was the British reggae band, UB40 performing.

They had less than 50 people in attendance.

In 1992 The Frontline Kids split after most of the band members had reached the age of 20 when by consensus they no longer represented the kids.

Members went to seek individual careers, with Philbert joining the Rusikes, Jevas joining the Ndochi Stars and Emmanuel becoming a gospel musician.

Wellington went back to school while Noel formed his own band.

Primrose Sithole, the only female member left the group and got married.

She later died after a long illness.

While others sought their own dreams, Noel Zembe who seemed to be highly ambitious, went into chemical manufacturing.

After a while, he decided that chemical manufacturing was not for talented musicians like him.

He later returned to music in 2000 and recorded the single “Baba Thoko” with High-Density Studios under the Zeal project.

Hundreds of music fans warmed up to his “Baba Thoko” single which encouraged him to record yet another entitled “Rangariro” which was also successful.

A year later, the monster gospel hit, “Ndaiwana Hama” was released.

This sold over 50 000 copies and did well for Noel. Noel managed to introduce a fresh gospel beat with inspiring lyrics which saw him becoming one of the best gospel musicians ever to come out of Zimbabwe.

The rest of the members of the Frontline Kids saw the success which Noel had built up for himself.

They decided to persuade Noel to re-group with them.

In 2002 the group reformed with three of the original members Emmanuel, Jevas and Noel being at the fore front while new members, Pablo Nakapa, Forward Mazuruse and Tendai Zaranyika filled in the gaps of departed members or those who failed to rejoin such as Philbert Marova.

A new album “In Africa” was released. Due to their advanced ages the group was renamed Frontline Krew in 2003. It failed to compete with the new groups of youngsters who were now on the scene and the Frontline Krew died a natural death.

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