The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: The Return of Patrick Mukwamba

Mutare — After a 12-year-lay-off, Patrick Mukwamba, the astute musician who coined the anthemic festive season jingle "Wapenga Nayo Bonus" is back on the scene with a dynamite new album bound to keep your head bobbing for a long time to come.

The last the nation heard from Mukwamba was way back in 2000, when he joined the Seasons Band at George Hotel in Avondale, but it proved costly and he had to return home and shelve his 34-year-old career.

Mukwamba, who has relocated to Rusape, is riding on the crest wave of his new offing- "Zvichanaka Rini", which has eight songs that are enjoying a fair share of airplay on all national radios.

Mukwamba and Four Brothers made a name during the early 80's, but his career is bigger than the late Four Brothers front-man, Marshall Munhumumwe's and indeed a whole lot others.

He is one musician who churns out golden hits and those who grew up during his time know about "Usanyare Basa Raunoita", "Vambozha Vauya" and "Wapenga Nayo Bonus" (Jonas) -- which blurred radio stations especially the then Radio2.

"Music is in my blood. I am still alive and this album marks my return. I am sitting on over 60 songs at the moment, which are all ready for recording. I am not yet decided on what to do with them yet.

"I am not going to form a full time band but will work with session musicians. I will also prefer a situation whereby an already established group backs me because I already have a bank of songs. I am ready to start live performances with any established group that requires my expertise," said Mukwamba, whose major problem throughout his career has been lack of musical instruments.

"I am focusing on promoting my current project "Zvichanaka Riini". It has the potential to do well. The songs are classics. These eight songs comprise of a variety of beats ranging from Tsava-tsava, reggae, afro-jazz, shangara and museve," said Mukwamba.

A perusal of the album confirmed that this new set is cleaner and shiner than its predecessor -- the drums, keyboards, guitar and chords- expertly mastered, and it proves to be well worth the wait.

First on the album is a love song, "Cecilia", which talks about a shy-guy who lacked the courage to court a girl, and has to recruit his auntie as a go-between.

The second song is "Sarura Wako", which talks about the power of marriage. The song challenges a man who impregnates a woman to take up the responsibility to avoid social ills like suicide and abortion.

The third song, "Munamato", has wormed its way on Radio Zimbabwe Top 20. Then there is the "Lord's Prayer" borrowed from the Anglican hymn, laced with a heavy reggae and horns presence.

The song, "Nhamo Yekufambira Chikwereti" will certainly melt even the most pretentious listener. Its composition is detailed, and accurately identifies with the problems encountered when one tries to recover what is owed them by credit unworthy person.

It is a departure from the past trend when the artist would just coin phrases and lace them with choruses.

In this song which reminds many of "Uchapenga Nayo Bonus", Mukwamba has proved himself as one of the best songwriters and not to be outdone was his dynamite beam voice, which will certainly got him into national prominence.

Warmth, humor and his sorrowful bravado could be tracked throughout this song.

The fifth song is "Marufu" followed by "Kana Nhamo Dzikawanda", which retain the same fast beat as "Ramba Murume Timwe Hwahwa".

Mukwamba borrows from Mike Mopo's "Riye-Riye" on the song "Hurombe Hakusi Kuda". The eighth song is the tile track, "Zvichanaka Riiniko".

Mukwamba refuted claims that he has hit hard times.

"I have not hit hard times. Do I look like I am singing for my supper? I am gainfully employed (as a mechanic) and I have a house in Unit K, Chitungwiza, which has tenants that remit rentals to me on monthly basis. Of course, we all face challenges in that mari haikwanire munhu wese, but to say I have hit hard times is an exaggeration," he said.

Mukwamba made his debut in the 1960s as a member of the Carnations Band, then based in Mbare.

He released a string of hits such as "Zvinonaka Zvinodhura", "Vambozha Vauya", "Shamwari Tenga Gumbeze", "Usanyara Basa Raunoita" and "Zvinonaka" as a member of the Four Brothers, The Seasons Band and later, Band Mukwasha.

He started as a pop musician in Mbare in the late 60s after teaming up with the likes of Robson Nyanzira, Robert Nekati, Jackson Mangwiro and the late Abdul Musa. They called themselves the Carnations.

During those days, Mukwamba sang copyright songs done by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The group became so popular that in 1967, the owner of the New Gift Hotel in Sakubva, Mutare contracted them to replace another group, the Pop Settlers.

He then moved to Mutare, where they assumed the name the New Pop Settlers. In 1970, they were contracted to promote Tanganda Tea and they changed their name to Tanganda Tycoons, but they still played at the New Gift Hotel where they met the late comedian, Safirio Madzikatire.

Safirio then had a group of female dancers known as the Farai Sisters and he worked with Susan Chenjerai and Earnest Kachingwe.

Impressed by the band's play, Safirio struck a deal with the owner of the hotel so that he could tour with the backing of the New Pop Settlers using the hotels transport and equipment.

The group then moved back to Harare using the name Tanganda Tycoons and the Farai Sisters.

In 1971, Safirio had a misunderstanding with the hotel management and he left an intact group that had to go back to Mutare and tour Mozambique for 10 days. On its return, the group was loaned to Mverechena Hotel in Domboshava where it played for about 18 months. New Gift Hotel then sold the equipment to Mverechena Hotel in 1972.

Under new management, working conditions became difficult and Mukwamba left for Harare where he joined a resident band at the now defunct, but once popular nightclub, Mutanga.

After six months with the group, Mukwamba relocated to Victoria Falls in 1973 where he joined the Rollicking Band that was based at Victoria Falls hotel.

Fed up with the falls, he returned to Harare in 1975 where he joined Harare Drive that was resident at Skyline Motel. After three months, he left for Mhangura Mine to replace Thomas Mapfumo as the lead vocalist for the Hallelujah Chicken Runn Band.

Nekati with who he was in Mbare was already a member of the group. In order to fit into the gap left by Mapfumo, Mukwamba had to abandon pop music and adopt traditional songs.

His first song was Chemutengure that was released in 1976. At the time, the group was disbanding slowly with Nekati becoming the first to leave for Harare where he got a contract with the Chitungwiza Municipality to play at Chikomo Bar. Later, Mukwamba and Joshua Hlomayi followed Nekati to Harare.

He recorded most of the songs with the backing of the Four Brothers who were resident at Machipisa Nightclub in the 80s.

Mukwamba could not join the group during live performances because the club wanted only four people. As a result, the late Four Brothers front-man, Marshall Munhumuwe had to sing Mukwamba's songs during live performances.

While playing at the bar, the trio became very popular when people found out that the Mukwamba was original singers of a version that was being played on radio then.

When Chitungwiza Council decided to sell off its instruments, they opted to buy them on a rent to buy in 1981.

The instruments allowed them to tour the country for a few months.

When a leadership crisis hit the group, they decided to sell off the equipment. Mukwamba went Paul Mkondo who owned Hideout 99 in Lochnivar where an outfit known as the Seasons was resident.

He recorded Tenga Gumbeze with the group's backing in 1982. He could not complete recording Zvinonaka Zvinodhura when the group had an argument with Mkondo. Left with an unfinished product, Mukwamba approached the Four Brothers who agreed to help him finish recording songs.

When the Four Brothers saw the success of his songs, they encouraged Mukwamba to write more songs. The relationship led to the release of other popular songs such as Dai Ndiri Shiri, Vambozha Vauya, Sara Mwana Wandaida and his only album, Tinosangana Ikoko.

But following unfair working conditions, Mukwamba once again joined the Seasons Band that was then based at Chikomo Beerhall.

This short-lived reunion resulted in the release of Usanyare Basa Raunoita.

Mukwamba put together a group of session musicians who later called themselves Band Mukwasha to record Zvemadzimai in 1986. But with no instruments to keep them going, the band did not last.

And Mukwamba left for Rusape where he bought wood carvings for sale in Harare. Eventually, he acquired his own machine, which he used to make carvings that he sells.

He abandoned the profession in 2008 as the carving business was affected by dollarisation and shifted his attention to motor mechanics.

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