The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Mashanda Hits Hard Times

THE story of yesteryear musician Job Mashanda, famed for the hit song "Amai Mandigona" in 1979, is one riddled with misfortunes. From his heydays as a musician where he won fame and fortune following the release of hit songs that include "Denga Rababa", "Independence" and "Moyo Muchena Unouraisa", to his current status where he is living off well-wishers, it is undoubtedly clear that the artiste has hit rock bottom.

Despite his undying wish to make a comeback on the music scene, it appears the odds are heavily stacked against him.

Apart from living off well-wishers, he has had to contend with heartbreak after one of his band members fled with his wife.

Although he appears to be moving on, though with difficulties, he says his deteriorating health has become a cause for concern.

Saturday Lifestyle tracked down Mashanda at his residence in Granary, Whitecliff, on the outskirts of Harare and was met with a pitiful sight of an old rugged man who seems to have lost all hope in life, coming out of a substandard two-roomed cottage.

Mashanda uses a single room, while renting out the others.

It was clear all is not well for the once mighty singer whose only piece of furniture apart from the bed, is a small stool he handed over to his "visitors" to sit on.

Soon after joining the news crew, he immediately asked for a sip of bottled water that one of the newsmen was carrying!

Lately, life has been a tale of spills for the 63-year-old who now lives alone after his wife ran off with a band member some years back, while all his children who are living in South Africa, seem to have turned their back on him.

When the news crew arrived, Mashanda who was wearing a torn T-shirt and a patched pair of trousers, immediately dashed into the room for a change following a request by the photographer to take a few snapshots during the interview.

In less than a minute, he emerged wearing a tainted formal jacket, probably his best apparel.

"I have been living here alone since 1998, and I am trying to revive my music career," he said with a piteous look.

Traces of wrinkles on his face and grey hair showed that age has finally caught up with the musician.

However, on the other hand, one could be forgive to think that the look has not necessarily been precipitated by his age, but has come about as result of years of suffering and hardship.

"My children used to bring groceries so that I could get by, but of late I have not heard from them," he said.

Mashanda, who is now partially deaf, however, clearly skirted around the issue of his wife's whereabouts, until Tichaona Mudzingwa, who has been assisting him with food and other necessities, chipped in.

"He has not opened up to anyone about his wife until recently when he told me that his wife eloped with a band member around 1998 and since then he has been living alone," said Mudzingwa, who has shown an interest in assisting Mashanda revive his musical career.

"He had no one to tell his problems and every one thought he had become mentally ill. He would drink and live on the streets because of stress, but now he has pulled himself together and ready for a new lease of life.

"He has written a number of songs and has since started rehearsing them," he said.

The yet-to-be-titled album, which is expected to revive Mashanda's waning fortunes, is expected this year and comprises some gospel tracks.

Born in 1948 in a devout Christian family, Mashanda grew up in Zvimba and attended Chikaka Primary School where he sang in the choir and helped the school to win medals in singing competitions.

He then went to Gweru for his secondary education.

After that he took typing and bookkeeping courses.

Mashanda's first job was with a transport company and he later hopped from one job to another in search of greener pastures.

During his spare time he would practise with an outfit called Mbada Jazz Band.

After holding a series of talks with another yesteryear musician veteran Zexie Manatsa, Mashanda approached Gramma Records, who immediately recorded him.

His debut single "Amai Mandigona", scooped the gold disc in 1979-1980 because of his high intoned voice and its deep lyrical content.

The song describes the trials and tribulations of marriage.

The musician became a household name from 1980-84 when he fronted the Muddy Face, before sinking into oblivion.

He left the Muddy Face and resurfaced with a group called the Spiders.

The nomadic musician left the group and in 1994, recorded with Leonard Dembo's Barura Express under the pseudonym African Mhitsai.

The polyglot Mashanda said Mhitsai was a mixture of Siswati and Suthu which means moneymaker.

He indeed made money in 1994 because the album was received well.

That was the last time Mashanda released an album.

It remains to be seen if Mashanda still has his lyrical prowess that made him a darling of the fans.

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