31 January 2016

Zimbabwe: Alick Macheso Bares His Soul

Photo: Bayhaus
Alick Macheso

Alick Macheso is undoubtedly one of the greatest musicians to ever come out of Zimbabwe. He is a fiery guitarist par excellence. His lyrics, laced with deep social messages, have endeared him with many people.

It is against this background that this reporter sought to find out how the Sungura kingpin spends his time away from the stage that has given him fame and fortune.

Last week on Saturday, this reporter arrived unannounced at Macheso's house in Waterfalls, Harare.

Strong instincts told this reporter that he would find the enigmatic singer sitting outside his gate -- as is his habit. However, there was no joy the first time I passed through.

But come the second time, there he was sitting on a brick leaning on a pre-cast wall wearing a pair of shorts, a golf t-shirt and designer sandals, smoking.

I know from the interactions that I have had with the musician that he can be short tempered sometimes and I had planned my approach well in advance.

I was also wearing a pair of short trousers and a Chelsea Football Club jersey -- just to make him feel comfortable. I also vowed that I would not introduce the subject of his much-awaited album.

It was time to break the ice. It is not everyday that I go to people's homes unannounced.

"It is very hot these days, that is why I am wearing this pair of shorts. In fact, I bought them in Beitbridge. Hwange and Beitbridge's temperatures are always high," he said as I found myself a place to sit before exchanging greetings.

The musician warmed up and for the next four hours Macheso touched on a wide range of issues as the conversation meandered on several life issues.

While many musicians are finding the going tough, it is evidently not the case for the Sungura maestro. His house stands out as one of the posh homes in Waterfalls. It is colourfully painted, thanks to his deal with a local paint company.

While a peep over the pre-cast wall showed a fleet of cars adding up to about seven, Macheso divulged to this reporter that he loved bicycles.

"I have two bicycles that I ride occasionally. The bicycles are very strong and I can go up to 80km/hr. I hate motor-bikes and I have never ridden one," he said.

This is not surprising for a man who grew up as a farm labourer in Shamva.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the Sungura kingpin divulged that his most memorable show was when he was still with the Khiama Boys. He said most of the time they would spend time outside Harare as they toured the country-side.

This is evidenced by the great knowledge he has of most parts of the country.

"During my time with Khiama Boys, we would travel a lot; most of the time we would go outside the country. I have been all over," he said.

While Macheso has carved his name as a fiery bassist, he has a soft spot for the rhythm guitar.

"During our heydays, we used to play the banjo and one had to master all the sounds from the instrument. However, over the years I have fallen in love with the rhythm guitar and it is very close to my heart," he said.

Macheso also said he missed the ghetto life where he would interact with his neighbours freely. The musician said it was rare for him to chat with his neighbours in Waterfalls as most of them would be locked inside their gates.

"I only got inside one neighbour's house once when I was paying my condolences. It is unlike in Chitungwiza where we would gather around and chat with people. Here people mind their own business. It is very rare to see people," he said.

However, Macheso proved to be a man of the people as our conversation was constantly interrupted by passers-by who would constantly exchange greetings with the Sungura musician.

A rather touching moment was when a builder who was working some metres away called his friend to see the veteran musician.

"Today is the most memorable day of my life. I only saw you on discs, I listen to your music. I am happy to see you in person. I grew up in Mwenezi and only came here this year," said the man.

The conversation was only cut short by Macheso's wife who reminded her husband that it was almost 4pm and he had not taken any food.

And I had to say good bye with a sense of satisfaction.

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