Godwin Muzari Memory Lane —
A lot of things happened while Memory Lane was on a long festive season break. It is good to be back. Among events that took place towards the end of the year was the launch of Chazezesa Challengers album titled “Smoko Revival Zvachose”.
The new album brought together Lucky Mumuriki, Isaac Tazvida and Leeroy “Kamusena” Lunga who worked with the late Smoko music founder Fanuel “System” Tazvida in yesteryear Chazezesa Challengers.
Since System’s death in 1999, Chazezesa Challangers has gone through a lot of challenges, most of which were born out of haggling between potential heirs to the ‘smoko’ crown.
The band was intact for about three years when System’s brother Peter took over but after his death in 2002, nothing special has come out of Chazezesa Challengers.
As the feuding unfolded, Mumiriki was out of picture since he had moved on to join Alick Macheso’s Orchestra Mberikwazvo before he suffered a stroke that has made him inactive in the industry for many years.
On the new album “Smoko Revival Zvachose”, Mumiriki mainly provided guidance on the beat and also composed some songs. He is not fit for the stage, but he still has great passion for the art.
As the talented guitarist was with Macheso, his other companions Kamusena and Isaac spent more time quarrelling than making music.
They fought over the name of the group, over instruments and over control of smoko music. At one point they reportedly had a fist fight when they met at a record company.
Serious counter accusations derailed attempts to revive smoko music.
Kamusena made serious efforts to keep the genre alive and has toured Mozambique, which was a foreign stronghold of the genre, on numerous occasions.
When the going got tough for Isaac, he quit music and relocated to Mozambique before moving to South Africa, doing other business.
In that period, another brother from the Tazvida family named King also came aboard and announced he would revive the genre. It seems he is also finding the smoko shoes too big for him.
It could be out of realisation that haggling over the genre was burying smoko music deeper that the trio of Isaac, Kamusena and Mumiriki decided to come together and craft “Smoko Revival Zvachose”.
Although they tried their best to maintain the basic elements of the genre on the album, the release is not likely to make much impact. Isaac and Kamusena should have joined hands many years ago.
It is sad that after all these years of fighting for control, smoko music followers still find solace in System’s songs like “Anodyiwa Haataure”, “Mushandi Ndimambo”, “Vanotipedzera Mashoko” and “Cellular Ndizvo” because the other guys have done nothing to celebrate about.
Maybe the reunited trio will make it if they keep working together, which has been the challenge over the years. In an interview with Memory Lane, they all showed commitment to the revival of smoko music.
They also shared their memories of the late System and how they worked with him. Below are some of their memories:
By the time of System’s death, Mumiriki was the longest serving member of Chazezesa Challengers. He remembers a lot about the late musician, since they were together from the formation of the group.
“We recorded our first single “Vaforomani” together after practicing for a long time without resources to go to the studio,” he recalls.
“The single was followed by ‘Bhuku Rerudo’ and both were very successful. I can say Chazezesa Challengers started on a high note.
“System wanted his work to be done strictly according to his instructions. He liked me a lot because I created most of the beats.
“I recall how he kept Isaac on his toes. Isaac would at times sing his own lines in the studio, but System was always livid and would shout, ‘sing what I tell you, don’t twist my songs’.
“He was short-tempered and did not tolerate nonsense, even from his fans. We enjoyed so much support in Mozambique and we could attract about 10 000 people to a show.
“However, his dance with Mozambique ended on a sad note. It was in 1998 and he was ill, but promoters in Mozambique forced him to go for a tour. He struggled during the shows, he could hardly sing and he was frail. He was worse after the shows and we had to drive straight home when he got off the stage because he was in pain.”
That was System’s last tour of Mozambique, but they did more local shows after his brief recovery. Mumiriki said their last show with System was on December 31, 1998 in Bindura.
“It was New Year’s Eve and the hall was packed. System was full of energy that night and we had a brilliant show. We did not know it was his last show and he was bidding his fans farewell. We took our annual January break after that show. During the break his condition deteriorated and he died on February, 4 1999.”
Leeroy “Kamusena” Lunga
Kamusena also worked with System for a long time. He joined Chazezesa Challengers in 1995 when he crossed floor from Kasongo Band.
He began as lead guitarist and then learnt backing vocals before being appointed band manager.
“I learnt a lot from System. He was strict, but he was also open to everyone. He encouraged every member to learn to sing and that is how I became a backing vocalist. He gave his band members different administrative roles and it taught us to be responsible,” said Kamusena.
“We travelled to many parts of the country together and he was the first musician to take me for an international tour. I got my first passport when we were about to go for a tour.
“We mainly performed in South Africa and Mozambique. We were together through thick and thin.”
Kamusena recalls how they were punished in Victoria Falls after failing to listen to their master.
“We were on stage and he started behaving like a possessed person. He began singing a new song and removed his hat to expose his dreadlocks. He rarely removed his hat on stage. He told every band member, except the drummer to dance energetically. It was a tiresome exercise and some of us stopped dancing to concentrate on our guitars.
“After the show he was angry with us and our wages for the show were cut as punishment.
“There was another unfortunate incident in 1997 in Odzi when we clashed with fans. System spent some minutes singing from his car using a codeless microphone and people said we were playing a backtrack because they were not seeing him on stage.
“Hell broke loose before he could go on stage as bouncers fought with fans. There was serious commotion and we had to seek refuge at a nearby Police Station. Fans followed to the Police Station making noise and demanding to see us. It was a bad incident because the show could not go on.”
Kamusena says he owes most of his experience to Systerm, which is why he continues pursuing smoko music.
“As brothers to System, myself and Peter had the toughest time. He was always strict with us and wanted us to do many things than other band members.
“He had serious principles and we had to live by them. We used to blame him, but we later realised he was doing so to groom us. He loved us as his brothers.
“I learnt a lot from him. He taught us to work hard. We faced various challenges, but he urged us to keep focused,” said Isaac.
He also recalled some of the unfortunate incidents they encountered with his brothers and the band. One of them was an accident that occurred in Mazowe on their way from a show in Mazowe.
“The car that was carrying band members overturned and instruments were damaged, but no one was injured. System was following behind with his car and he found us shaking after getting out of the car.
‘‘We were supposed to go to launch our album ‘Wadenha Mago’ and the event was cancelled.
“Instead of being sad, we had an all-night party at his home in Chitungwiza and that is when he composed the song ‘Zvawaida Zvakaramba’.
“He had a way of finding easy solutions to big problems and I learnt a lot from him.”