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African Artists in the Spotlight

Down Memory Lane with Jambo

Part of this story was published in The Herald on 6 December 2012. Here is the whole story:

Constance van Niekerk

Vereeniging

Zimbabwean music is rich, pregnant with potential hit makers and chart toppers. The country’s music scene prides itself on a variety of genres which include Mbira, Jit, Rhumba, Gospel, Urban Grooves and the ever so popular rhythmic Sungura among others.

Sungura is Swahili for ‘hare’ and it was named such because of the high velocity in which the hare can run. It’s also popularly known as Museve/ arrow because an arrow travels at a very high speed. Sungura, the mother of genres is characterised by lengthy songs with fast tempos and full of high energy enough to keep the most tired of travellers awake for a week long journey. It is said to be the offspring of Kanindo and Rhumba.

Jonah Moyo, Ephraim Joe and John Chibadura were some of the pioneers of Sungura music whose birth could have been right in the middle of the Rhodesian farms in the colonial era.

Ndini Uyo, Zimbabwe’s longest ever recorded song (25 minutes) proudly belongs in this interesting genre. It was sung by one of the fathers of Sungura, seasoned musician and songwriter Mitchell Jambo who sings with his band, Marunga Brothers.

Mitchell was born on the 17th of October in 1960 in Dandazi in Hurungwe, Mashonaland West province, in the then Rhodesia. He attended Karuru Primary and Secondary schools in his home area.

Mitchell did not need to look for inspiration as his father was a solo artist although he never recorded any songs. He is the second born in a family of ten who include Mickron, a solo artist l who somtimes sings with his own band, Shanduko Brothers and has 3 albums under his belt.

“I started singing around the age of 10. We formed a small band of four in my home area, Karuru. We made guitars or banjos as we called them from cooking oil tins and fishing rod twine,” he explained.

“I wrote my first song in 1979,” said the Sungura guru.

Mitchell moved to the big city, Harare in 1983. This was the place where everyone who wanted to earn a spot in the entertainment industry went. It didn’t take him long to enter the competitive world of music. He settled in Chitungwiza and before long, he had the rare and exciting opportunity to meet the members of Sungura Boys backstage at a performance at Mushandira Pamwe Hotel in Highfield. As luck would have it, soon after this meeting, he had an encounter with Bata Sintrawo one of the members. Thanks to the outgoing personality that he has, he grabbed this chance with both hands and approached Bata for a job with the band. Bata invited Mitchell to come and talk to the other band members.

“I started my music career in 1984 when I joined Sungura Boys which was then led by the late Ephraim Joe. I started off as a doorman but due to the talent in me, I was promoted to a backing vocalist. I worked with this group for a year. There were 10 of us in the group with the likes of the iconic Ephraim Joe, who was the bandleader, John Chibadura, Bata Sintirawo, Never Moyo, Ronny Gatakata, Moses Marasha, Mike Gunde, Simon and Naison Chimbetu )of the Marxist Brothers fame) and myself,” said the humble, friendly Sungura guru who has a very colourful sense of humour. There is never a dull moment in this musician’s company.

“In 1985, Chibadura went solo to form the Tembo Brothers and I joined him as a backing vocalist. My stay with the Tembo Brothers was short lived. I felt I wasn’t growing career wise so I left the group in the same year and joined the newly formed Shika Shika Brothers. The group had three members who had brothers who were with the Sungura Boys. The three were the band leader, Kumbukai Sintrawo, Andrew Joe and Edward Moyo. We had a contract at Saratoga Club in the high density surburb of Highfields in Harare.

After the contract was terminated in 1986, I packed my bags and joined the Zimbabwe Cha Cha Cha Kings led by the late David Dick Ziome who had just left Vhumba Jazz Band. We recorded our first 7-single, Kare Kare which received three gold cups. We also recorded Hupenyu Hwangu, Nhamo yepaGweru, Totosevenza Nesimba and Selina. In 1989, we released our first album, Vimbiso. It has vibey tracks which include Mudiwa Lucy, South Africa, Mari, Jimmy Shamwari Yangu and the title track, Vimbiso.

“I wrote ‘Vimbiso’ for the woman of my dreams who later became my wife and is until now. Her name is Vimbiso. After the release of Vimbiso, I went back home to Hurungwe and there I met Admire Kasenga. We formed Marunga Brothers a name derived from my totem. Other band members are Joseph Soza, Succeed Matara, Christopher Kasiyabvumba, Sifiso Ngwenya and last but not least the late Chemanashe Jim who passed away last year in Zimbabwe. We miss him dearly,” said the clearly upset musician.

Admire left the band in 2007

In the same year of the band’s birth, Marunga Brothers released the singles Peshi and Rudo Runokosha. The same year saw yet another addition to the offspring of the newly formed family, Ruvimbo. The first born of Mitchell and Vimbiso whose name is also the title track of Jambo’s first album. The song is a dedication to the first flower in Jambo’s garden of 3 beautiful girls; Ruvimbo, Rumbidzai and Ruvarashe and 1 boy, Ruby. It is a 6 track album with Tigere Mushe Mushe, Sisi Vangu, Chirombo, Shurai, Loice and the title track.

After a seven year drought, Jambo released Simba Nesimba in 1999, the home of the longest song ever recorded in Zimbabwean history Ndini Uyo.

“Sungura is not about just singing a 2 minute song and that’s it. The longer the song the more your expertise and craftiness is displayed,” chuckled the Sungura expert.

“Zimbabweans are going to remember me as the first man to sing a song for 25 minutes,” heartily explained the sociable Sungura giant.

“I took my time before releasing this album because you can’t rush perfection.” He continued.

In 2003, Mitchell released the 8 track album ‘Ndinotenda’. The 4 track album Asi Chii nhai was released in 2004. the album is a tribute to the late Sungura comrade Leonard ‘Musoro Wenyoka’ Dembo. Jambo takes us down memory lane as he does a remix of the popular love song ‘Chitekete’ the song that put Dembo on the map in the early 90s.

That was not all. Jambo was on fire as in the following year he released Chikekedza Chimwe Chisipo, a 5 track album with the love long Rudo Rusina Muganhu, Sarudzai, Haashandike Naye and Mbandamire.

“I enjoy music and I especially like singing romantic melodies.” He said.

Who can blame him; it is after-all love that makes the world go round.

In 2006 Mitchell released ‘Zvine Nguva’ an 8 track album with the songs, Ndangariro, Ndapera Nguva, Open Prison, and Chariga Duri among others.

In 2006, Marunga Brothers were among the many bands that performed in Bindura at the Mzee Bira in Chipadze Stadium. They and a few other bands which included Njerama Boys, Khiama Boys and Tongai Moyo and Utakataka Express were chosen for a performance in the place of gold, South Afrca, the country he has been living in since later that year after his performance until now. He lives with his daughter Ruvimbo and runs a successful business. Mitchell lives in close proximity with another Sungura legend, Jonah Moyo. Since he came to South Africa, he has not recorded any albums.

“It is very painful to see someone getting rich through your sweat and blood. I spend money recording an album and do not get anything out of it but the one who is enjoying the fruits of my labour is the pirate. Piracy has really crippled the music industry and there is nothing we can do about it,” he pointed out.

This entertainer has not yet left the building. He has recorded 3 videos Live in 2006 Vol 1, Live in Musina in 2007 and Live in 2010 Vol 2. Jonah Moyo features in some of the videos as the two gurus at times perform together in their adopted province of Limpopo.

This enigma’s musical career is far from being over. He has a melodious, rhythmic, stimulating mysterious drink brewing to quench the thirst of his fans that have been thirsty for seven years. The album is titled ‘Ko Kana Ndisipo’. It is due to be released in a few months time. Jonah Moyo and Mitchell Jambo are at the moment discussing a possible collaboration for next year.

The Sungura star advises the up and coming musicians to take the music industry seriously just as they would any other industry, “It is not a platform to get yourself many girlfriends as if you do not control yourself and resist from temptations you may cut short your career. Always remember that we only live once. Once you make the wrong decision that might lead you to your grave there is no prayer after the grave.”

Mitchell Jambo is still very much alive and kicking. He is still as active as ever and as sharp as ever. He is still as lyrical as ever and as melodious as ever. He is still a force to reckon with in the Sungura cicles. Underestimate him at your own risk.

Mitchell and Vimbiso Jambo

Mitchell and Vimbiso Jambo

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About Editor

Constance van Niekerk is a South African-based Zimbabwean-born creative writer, poet, music lover, spoken word artist, freelance writer, blogger and educator. She has contributed to several anthologies and published her own collection, Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection available for purchase on all Amazon Stores Worldwide. She is also Editor at ZimOnlineNews. Follow her on Twitter : @convanniekerk Connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

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Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection by Constance van Niekerk

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