5 January 2003

Zimbabwe: New Crop Challenges Veteran Musicians

Photo: Bayhaus
Zimbabwe sungura guitar legend Aleck Macheso

THE last decade certainly belonged to star musicians Simon Chimbetu, Leonard Zhakata, The Four Brothers, Thomas Mapfumo and the late great Leonard Dembo. These artists took turns to hog the limelight as they dominated the local music scene

First was Leonard Dembo with the gem Chitekete, a four-track album which gave him local and regional stardom. Its popularity spread as far as Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. In 1991, it became the first local album to sell over 100 000 copies

Four years later, a young man called Leonard Zhakata stunned both himself and the nation and with the success of his all-time hit song, Mugove, off the album Maruva Enyika. Aged 26 then, he became the youngest musician to eclipse the 100 000 copies mark. The 'shy guy' was not finished yet as only a year later, he sent more shockwaves across the music industry with the release of another scorcher, Nzombe Huru, which sold 77 000 copies within two months of release. Having set himself such lofty standards, subsequent releases failed to match his previous success

For Simon Chimbetu, 1998 was an unforgettable year as his album, Lullaby, sold over 200 000 copies. He was at it again in 1999, setting a new record with his African Panorama 1 album which sold 37 000 copies on its first day of release. The album contained hits like Ndaremerwa and Suduruka

The Four brothers and Thomas Mapfumo also did very well during those days

Things have, however, changed especially since the turn of the century with the emergence of a new crop of stars to steal the thunder from the veterans. When Aleck Macheso left Khiama Boys in 1996 to form his Orchestra Mberikwazvo band, many predicted the end of the once popular group, with Gramma bemoaning the fact that the split would affect its revenue as very few people were likely to buy music from the Khiama Boys without Aleck Macheso. But Macheso quickly established himself with his hit album, Magariro. His next, Simbaradzo, did even better, selling 400 000 copies and he followed this up with Zvakanaka Zvakadaro, which is also selling well

Today, Macheso shares top status with star musician Oliver Mtukudzi. After some uninspired releases, a rejuvenated Tuku bounced back with his immensely successful Tuku Music in 1998, and continues to ride the crest of a wave

Kwekwe-based musician, Tongai Moyo's patience and hard work have also paid off. His debut album Vimbo was a gem but it did not win over fans who are sceptical of new artists. However, his sixth album, Murozvi Mukuru, which he released this year, has placed him among the country's best in terms of sales and popularity

The gospel music scene has seen singers like Charles and Olivia Charamba, Ivy Kombo and Fungisai Zvakavapano dominating and ensuring this type of music continues to hold its own.

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