31 December 2013

Zimbabwe: Remembering Prince Tendai

Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa first made waves in the 90's as Producer and Musician with his label " HIGH DENSITY STUDIOS". He had hits such as Character, ... ( Resource: Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa- Naked Fire )

Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa, known in some circles as "Mr Man", had a great passion for music. It is almost two years now since his death. He was a musician, a brother, a philanthropist and a progressive entrepreneur. He died on the 28th December, 2011 from a motor neuron ailment. His death robbed the music fraternity of a sincere, creative, innovative, serious and dedicated music businessman who was prepared to change the face of the music industry in this country.

In his own words, and I quote: "Fred, we should not wait for the Government to change things for us. We are our own liberators. Those people in Government except perhaps for two Cabinet ministers, do not understand or care about our plight as most of them think music is for vagrants only.

"We should, therefore, devise our own policies which will help musicians instead of waiting for the Government to do so on our behalf. We can make a change.

"This is the reason why I have established Ekhaya Petroleum in order to raise enough money to push forward the country's music programmes without bothering about a begging bowl asking for assistance from anyone."

In his lifetime, the singer and performer was instrumental in bringing Zimbabwean music to a higher level. He assisted several musicians to excel in their own music careers. Names that come to mind include Mitchel Jambo, Kenny Mwanza, Noel Zembe, Kanda Bongo-Man from the DRC, Hamza Kalala from Tanzania, Toyin Adekale from the UK, MC. Wabwino from Zambia and Soul Bone.

The latter group, Soul Bone must have been hit the hardest by the death of Prince Tendai as they were all disabled and depended heavily on his financial support and mentorship. At the time of Prince Tendai's death, the group consisted of Flinx, Jay D, Spicy B and Chris Joe. Before that there were seven members in the group, but some of them succumbed to medical complications associated with their disabilities.

Prince Tendai elevated this group from obscurity to recognition, as he who played a mentorship and supportive role to the group.

In 2001, Danhiko College offered an opportunity for the fledgling group to lay their skills bare to fellow students and lecturers and Prince Tendai happened to watch that show.

"It was then that I saw their potential. I decided to put up some money to support these guys", Tendai told me in 2009.

"My attitude towards people with disabilities completely changed as these guys sang with great passion that I instantly fell in love with their music".

"Next year, I am going to appeal to all musicians in Zimbabwe to allow free entrance in their shows to all people with disabilities in Zimbabwe because these people face a harder struggle than ours. These are some of the policies we can devise on our own without intervention from the Government," Prince Tendai reiterated.

It is unfortunate that he died before these ideas had come to fruition. Indeed, for that reason, persons with physical disabilities, visual impairment and other disabling disorders should be allowed into gigs free of charge. Musicians should take Tendai's humanistic ideals more seriously and move them forward. That will be their contribution to society.

Apart from his charity work, Prince Tendai was an established musician in his own right. As he became more confident in his song writing and composition skills, he made up his mind to be different from what was going on in the Zimbabwe music industry at the time when every musician was forced to play "museve" because, according to Gramma Records and Zimbabwe Music Corporation, the two music giants then, that was the only music which appealed to the masses. He started his own genre of music which imitated the Caribbean calypso sounds.

This genre of music called "Barbed Wire" is exclusive to Prince Tendai and it is generally believed that it is Prince Tendai's music which gave birth to what is known as "Urban Grooves" music today.

He immediately took on the music industry by starting his own music label, Hi-Density Records, and formed his own band Midnight Magic. He soon learnt how to package and promote music with assistance from established and experienced experts in the field such as Clancy Mbirimi.

He then started investing heavily in the music industry when his company bought a cassette duplication plant, inlay printer and also created music distribution departments.

Prince Tendai, born on the 10th June, 1955, was not only a genius in music but soon proved to be an intelligent businessman as he started to interact with different musicians nationally and internationally.

His Hi-Density label even signed on artistes who had made it elsewhere such as Kanda Bongo-Man from the DRC, Hamza Kalala from Tanzania, Toyin Adekale from the UK and M. C. Wabwino from Zambia.

He also co-ordinated successful and memorable music projects such as campaigns against road carnage as shown in "Bus Driver" where he sponsored the making of the single record and video featuring artistes like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, Biggie Tembo, Isaac Chirwa, Mechanic Manyeruke, Newman Chipeni, Robson Banda, Hosiah Chipanga, The Frontline Kids, Clancy Mbirimi, Joseph Madhimba, Kenny Mwanza and The Real Sounds of Africa.

Going back in time, Prince Tendai released several albums, the most notable being "Serious" with hits such as "From Zambezi to Limpopo". This was followed by the albums Midnight Magic 2 and 3 with hit singles "Sweet Temptation", "Amai Tendi", "Problem" and "African Cowboy".

As Midnight Magic grew in strength, the album which took the nation by storm, "Uprising" was created. Its hit, "Character" became a household sing-a-long-song for a long time. There is still a big demand for this song even up to now.

It is through this brilliant tune that saw Prince Tendai rise to greater heights when he was nominated for the KORA AWARDS ceremony which was held at Sun City in South Africa in September 1996.

There Tendai rubbed shoulders with Africa's musical giants such as Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Kofi Olomide and Youssou Ndour. The following year, Prince Tendai won the NAMA award of best video of the year.

Despite gaining national and international fame, Prince Tendai never forgot his roots.

In 1997, he created an album entitled "Mother and Son" dedicated to his mother and which featured the 75-year- old Ambuya Mupfurutsa performing on the album. That was remarkable and it set a few tongues wagging. This went to show how close Prince Tendai was to his mother.

For ten years from 1999 until 2009, Prince Tendai was the chairman of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura), an organisation formed to stand up for the rights of music composers.

Not only was Prince Tendai a musician, but he was also a dedicated music promoter who organised successful shows for South African gospel artistes such as Sipho Makhabane and Zairean rhumba maestro, Kanda-Bongo-Man.

In 2010, with finances from his Ekhaya Petroleum empire, Prince Tendai ventured into bringing Akon and Sean Paul to stage a concert on the 4th of September at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. This was attended by over 40 000 fans, but unfortunately made a financial loss due to poor organisation as only 1 400 had paid to attend the concert (according to figures released to me by Prince Tendai himself). It is speculated that this became the source of his health problems as he was completely stressed out due to the financial pressures that were brought to bear through this venture. Immediately after the concert, he was involved in a car accident.

In early 2011, he sought medical help for the motor neuron disease that had developed and none was forthcoming locally. A decision was made to fly to Beijing, China where he hoped he would get treatment.

He came back in June, but his condition had not improved. He went back the following month and was adamant that he would not return to Zimbabwe until he got better.

Several trips by members of his family to China in a bid to convince Prince Tendai to come back home as they saw that his condition was not improving, failed.

It took his elder brother, Amos Mupfurutsa, to finally make the difficult trip that convinced Tendai to come back home.

On Tuesday December 27, 2011, he arrived home and 10 hours later, he was no more. What a tragedy!

Tendai will be remembered forever for his wonderful contribution and lasting commitment to the music industry.

Fred Zindi is a Professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a musician, a music producer and an author of several books on music.

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