The Herald (Harare)

27 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Jordan Chataika's Sister Raring to Go Again

Mr Jordan Chataika, who has been described as a "gospel music trailblazer", started singing in 1959 and became popular in the 1960's and 1970's. He is viewed by most people as the pioneer of local gospel music.

As a matter of fact, some argue that he was the first gospel artiste of African origin in Zimbabwe.

Jordan who passed away in 1990 was born in Bulawayo in 1939. His father worked for the Cold Storage Commission but left work in 1940 when Jordan was only one year old. Life became a struggle thereafter but Jordan survived. He was diagnosed with cancer at an early age so his movement was limited to the village. He did not spend much time in school either. He started working as a musician, on his home made guitar, after trying his hand at several other occupations.

He started off by leading his whole family including his mother during the evening in singing hymns from the Methodist hymn book. His favourite tunes from the Methodist hymn book included "Jerusalem Musha Wakanaka" and "Garai Neni Usiku Hwasvika". It is said that Jordan took to singing from his mother who was a great singer. She also sang in the church choir.

The older generation will recall early gospel hits such as "Vana veIsrael" and "Muponesi Wangu", but the hit that really made Jordan a household name was "Ndopatigere Pano".

The song "Ndopatigere Pano" was released when the war of liberation was drawing to an end. It was around 1979 in the dying minutes of a brutal war that had left the country scarred and its people traumatised. The song was about homelessness and desperation. The song was released at a time when half of the black population was in protected villages and others in squatter camps such as Chirambahuyo in Zengeza 4 and Epworth. Before that, he had released "Mudzimu Mukuru" and "Vakomana veWenera" in 1977.

In 1960, at the age of 21, he moved to the then Salisbury's Kamfinsa area as a petrol attendant and befriended a white man whom he taught how to play the guitar. In return, the man's mother bought Jordan a guitar as a token of gratitude. According to Mbuya Chataika, his guitar playing skills were perfected during that time. She also believed that it was at the same period when Jordan met Safirio Madzikatire with whom he recorded three songs. In 1961, he recorded his first seven single Vana Va-Israel, with Safirio's help. Safirio's influences were apparent in the earlier versions of songs done by Jordan that were full of humour. One of the songs was called "Mufana Ndiri Dhiraivha" which was about a young man who carried car keys but could not drive.

Then years of searching for the right formulae came when he worked with the Great Sounds Band of "Anopenga Anewaya" fame. At that time, he changed jobs too from being a petrol attendant to working for Nield Lukan, a carpet merchant company, and then to window dressing for several fashion houses. Jordan's final break came when the late poet-cum-radio presenter for the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation, Wilson Chivaura noticed his talent. Chivaura used to recite poetry on radio and he asked Jordan to provide music to his recitals on air. With this confidence, he needed assistance and thought of his sister Edna who had been married then. Edna was asked to listen to some music from South Africa and told to imitate the backing vocals of the women on the record. According to Edna, she managed to satisfy him and together they released the single "Ndipo Patigere Pano".

Jordan also released two more singles - "Amai VaChipo" and "Muchechetere" around the same period. He later decided to rope in his two sisters, Molly and Edna to give his music more strength. Together, they formed the Highway Stars in the 1970s with Molly and Edna on the vocals and one, Emmanuel Kutama, on guitar and backing vocals.

At this stage in his life he had decided to become a purely gospel musician. More songs came. There was "Tichanoimba Hosanna", "Seri Kweguva" and "'Hatina Musha Panyika".

Together with his two sisters, Edna and Molly, the trio became household names. Even today whenever some of their music is played, it still sounds fresh. When Molly left for boarding school at Usher Girls' High, she lost contact with Jordan but Ambuya Chataika, Jordan's 93-year old mother said her son never stopped working towards being a musician.

"Jordan had cancer on the legs from an early age," she said, "and so he could not leave the village like any other youngster of his age for distant schools. His early days were then spent practising music."

She revealed that Jordan's first popular song was taken from a folk tale about an orphan whose parents' wealth was shared unequally leaving him with an egg.

"Jordan used to sing the song "Zaiwe" at the time. It used to be very popular with the people in the village but he left for Harare where he was meant to study through correspondence and find a job," she explained. Jordan later recorded the song "Zaiwe" in 1978.

His two sisters, Molly and Edna, are still itching to sing again. They tried to re-form the Highway Stars again with Ronnie, Jordan's son, but this project failed.

"If there are people out there willing to back us, we are ready to provide our melodious voices," says Molly. Married to Mungate brothers -- Edna is married to the elder Mungate while Molly is married to the young. The sisters, now in their 60s, still reminisce about their past glory with Jordan and would like to give it another go even though their brother is gone. Chataika's sisters and his backing vocalists, have one wish -- to be given another chance to let their voices be heard again. Emmanuel Kutama, who was in The Highway Stars has already released an album dubbed "Mupururu."

"Jordan had introduced us to his good music and together had blazed a trail that all these gospel musicians are following today but with him dead, we sit by watching and hearing even some people who can't pass as gospel artists. It pains us," said Edna, the young sister who was first recruited by Jordan back in the 70s.

"His death was a blow to us as it also jeopardised our singing career," added Molly the elder sister.

The two, who used to travel from Domboshava to Harare for practice and recording with their brother, are proud farmers and parents who look at life as both a blessing and a challenge.

"We know that the role we played in popularising gospel is unprecedented. We are glad that we did it for the sake of gospel and not money or fame," Molly put in."Ours was gospel steeped in belief and not what we see these days when one sings gospel and dances ndombolo. I do not believe that God wants to see such kind of dance accompanying his music," added Edna.

The women have great respect for Oliver Mtukudzi though. "He is such a great man".

They also spoke glowingly about Baba Mechanic Manyeruke who entertained mourners at Jordan's funeral. With Jordan gone, Edna and Molly teamed up with his son Ronnie and released an album called "Iwe Rega Kuchema."

Meanwhile, New Sofala Entertainment headed by Tsungi Zvobgo is organising a rather unusual concert at Alliance France on the 4th of December. From a deeply rooted history within Zimbabwe's roots-rock-reggae musicology, emerges Emmanuel 'Mannex' Motsi, to deliver an eye opening, raw and deeply enthralling once-off live performance, for the first time ever.

Unplugged and entirely acoustic, 'Many Shades Of Mannex' brings into sharp focus the artist's thrilling, powerful and seductive soprano vocal range and musical arrangement prowess.

Intimately bearing his soul, Mannex strips himself of his backing band Mo Familee, and everything he has ever been known for in live performance. With his audience he candidly shares unique renditions of his favourite popular classics, which cut across various genres and combines them with his own original compositions in UNPLUGGED!.

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