Fred Zindi Music
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I write about the passing away of Tymon Mabaleka one of Zimbabwe’s best music producers who began his illustrious career in the then Rhodesia as a footballer and ended up a music producer. He is gone but not forgotten and he shall be sorely missed.
I first met Tymon in 1982 in New Ardbennie, Southerton, Harare when he was working for Gallo Records which later became Zimbabwe Music Corporation before it finally merged with Gramma Records.
Mabaleka became one of the directors of the company working alongside Ralph Glover, Tony Rivett, John Grant, the late Elvis Chimene and Silvanos Mutizwa. These “boys” had migrated from Bulawayo to Harare in search of greener pastures. The Bulawayo branch of Zimbabwe Music Corporation was manned by the late Elijah Ngwenya and Abel Jonga who remained there for family reasons.
Zimbabwe Music Corporation and Gramma Records which Tymon worked for, became the biggest music recording and production firms in the country in the 1980’s and 1990’s before the advent of music piracy and home studios. Mabaleka, in his capacity as music producer, produced one of Matabeleland’s most recognised and adorable musicians, the legendary Lovemore Majaivana (who had also moved to Harare) with albums like “Stimela”, “Salanini Zinini”, “Sono Sami Kuleliyani’zwe”, “Dabuka Mhlaba”, “Inyoni Bani”, “Engelamathambo”, “Mkhwenyana”, “Bambulele uMajola”, to name a few.
Mabaleka also produced the late Solomon S’kuza’s “Love and Scandals” album and many more of Solomon Skuza’s hits. In his passion for high quality productions, he also came up with gems such as Ebony Sheikh’s “Emhlabeni Kunzima”, Shepherd Chinyani and the Vhuka Boys’ “Mai Vakakosha”, “Mugove” by Leonard Zhakata, the late John Chibadura’s collections. He worked and produced some of the top hits from Oliver Mtukudzi and Ilanga. Mabaleka was a quiet, soft spoken and likeable personality and we got on straight away. He told me that after his football career with Highlanders, he had been hired by John Grant, who was at the time the managing director of Gallo Records which had set up base in Bulawayo before moving to Harare where they felt there was more business . Tymon was born in Matabeleland at Nswazi in Umzingwane District.
He attended Losikeyi Primary School in Bulawayo. After that, he attended Mpopoma High School where he received secondary education and later moved to Mzilikazi High School. On completion of his O’levels he became a great footballer, playing for Highlanders Football Club.
During one of my conversations with him in the early 1980s, I asked him what musical skills he had and he simply said: “I have no musical skills. I cannot play any musical instrument, but I just love music. It is on the strength of this that I will train to be a music producer.”
Indeed, in no time at all, Gallo Records which shared the same premises with Teal Record Company in Southerton soon had Tymon Mabaleka competing with Chrispen Matema of Teal Record Company and Steve Roskilly of Shed Studios as producers. Other producers who came along the way such as Henry Peters, Bothwell Nyamhondera, Peter and Golden Muparutsa had Tymon to contend with as he was already established in the business.
Tymon’s influence on the shape of today’s Zimbabwean music as its producer, will remain with us forever. He is one of the country’s most revered music producers. The list of musicians he worked with is endless. As mentioned above, he did work for Oliver M’tukudzi, James Chimombe, Lovemore Majaivana, Solomon S’kuza and the Fallen Heroes, Ebony Sheikh, The Frontline Kids, Shepherd Chinyani and the Vhuka Boys, Leonard Zhakata, the late John Chibadura, The Essentials, Kassongo Band and the Zimbabwe People’s Band as well as many others.
Tymon who now lived in Mandara, Harare was a God-fearing person. On several occasions I met him going to church with his wife, Susan and his three children. He would stop to talk about the power of music and how it can influence society and the rest of us to become good citizens. He had become so passionate about his role in music that one could not persuade him to become anything else.
When Zimbabwe Music Corporation was amalgamated with the former Teal Record Company which had now become Gramma Records, Tymon was made the company’s artists and repertoire (A&R) executive. The company then moved from its Southerton base to Williams Way in Msasa. As a way of showing his elevation and appreciation for his loyalty to the company, Tony Hagelthorn, the then Managing Director, bought Tymon a Toyota Venture which he used for both business and private affairs. Hagelthorn had become the managing director after the departure of John Grant and Tony Rivett and the split with Mike Ralph who went on to form Record and Tape Productions (R.T.P.)
Tymon had an excellent public relations record with many musicians as he was easy to talk to. Musicians who found it difficult to talk to management at Gramma Records or Z.M.C. found solace in talking to Tymon when expressing their grievances. At one point he even became the personal manager to John Chibadura as he would advise the musician on how he ought to spend his royalties. He would also arrange tours for performances on his behalf.
In 2008, during Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, Elias Musakwa, who had established Ngaavongwe Records, a gospel music record company and who also worked for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, negotiated with the owners of Gramma Records and ZMC to take over the running of the two music companies. He succeeded in doing so. After Musakwa’s take over, a number of the former stable’s employees were retrenched, but Tymon and Emmanuel Vhori, whom Musakwa felt were assets to the company, were kept on.
Despite the dwindling figures in record sales due to piracy as well as other economic hardships, Tymon kept producing more and more groups and individual musicians up until the time of his death. He was also responsible for transforming local music which had been recorded on vinyl records to CDs.
Mabaleka was buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo last week.
It is hard to forget a man of that calibre. He will remain one of the best revered music producers of our generation and all his hard work will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Feedback: [email protected]