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African Artists in the Spotlight

The Unsung Heroes of Song

Bothwell 'African' Nyamhondera

Bothwell ‘African’ Nyamhondera

The Southern Times
Sunday, 16 September 2012

‘How many of us, after listening to a song, ask who produced it?

The passing away of Pedrito — a Namibian musician and producer – early this year was not a loss to Namibians only, but to the African music industry as a whole. May his dear soul rest in peace.

It is sad that producers do not get much recognition. How many of us, after listening to a song, ask who produced it?

Producers are the major players in the music industry, but they rarely ever get any recognition.
They spend hours in the studio making sure the beats and vocals mix well and that the total package is something that we will enjoy.
One of these unsung heroes is Zimbabwean producer Bothwell “African” Nyamhondera; one of Zimbabwe’s best, born with music in his blood.

He was born on the 11th of May in 1959 in the Eastern border city of Mutare.
At the age of 15, he was playing music semi-professionally. Bothwell’s inspiration came from his brother Vasco (now late) and artistes of that time such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Otis Redding.

Bothwell played drums with Santana Sounds, Pepsi Combo, Stardust, Vibrations Band, Sound Power Band and the famous R.U.N.N (later the R.U.NN Family) before he moved to Harare, then Salisbury, in 1978.

There he teamed up with Louis Mhlanga, Ernest Tanga wekwaSando, Henry Peters, Barney Desousa, Chris Chabuka and Eppias. Paradza to form the band Octave.
This line up didn’t last long as in 1979; Louis and Tanga left the country.
Bothwell started doing session work on advertising jingles with SHED Studios.
Just after Zimbabwe’s independence, SHED Studios offered Bothwell a chance to train him as a recording engineer and he accepted.
During that time, he played with a group called Celebration which also lasted for a while before he joined the famous and very talented Rusike Brothers and also did a lot of session musician work in the studio with David Scobie, Vuli Yeni, Arshely Parker, Thomas Mapfumo, Rusike Brothers, I)evera Ngwena, Paul Matavire, Zexie Manatsa, R.U.N.N Family, Brian Sibalo and a host of other groups.

At SHED, he started trying his hand at producing for groups like Same Age Boys, the original Bhundu Boys, and Rising Power, in 1982; Bothwell joined Gramma Records – who had just built a studio as their resident engineer.

Three years later, he started producing for them where he worked with Mitchell Jambo and Marunga Brothers, Jonah Moyo and Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, Zexie Manatsa and the Green Arrows, Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Leonard Dembo and Barura Express, and Nicholas Zacharia.
That was not all.
He worked with Khiama Boys, Tineyi Chikupo, Leonard .Zhakata, Zhimozhi
Jazz Band, Kenneth Chigodora and The Sweet Melodies, RUNN Family, Zimbabwe ChaChaCha Kings, Paul Matavire and the Jairos Jiri Band, and Charles and Amai Charamba and the Fishers of Men as well.

Bothwell also worked with Njerama Boys, The Outsiders, Alick Macheso and
Orchestra Mberikwazvo, Tongai Moyo and Utakataka Express, Shirinhema Jazz
Band, Marshall Munhumumwe and the Four Brothers among others.

Bothwell was the engineer for the internationally-renowned Oliver Mtukudzi on the single “Mbombera” and the albums “Live at Sakubva”, “Nyanga Yenzou” and
And if you remember Party Night by the talented and beautiful, Rozalla Milla, Bothwell was the man who played the-drums and produced the song as well.

Bothwell worked with so many artistes it would take a day or two to mention them all.

The romance with Gramma Records! ZMC ended in 2004when he left to work as a freelance engineer/ producer.
He however continued doing some work for Gramma/ZMC and also started doing work for other production houses like Metro Studios, Crossline Music Video and Fishers of Men Studios.

In 2009, Alick Macheso, Laston Murerwa and Bothwell started a production house called Last Power Media, by which time; piracy had taken the industry by storm.
As a result of that, coupled with economic hardships and other factors the country was experiencing, he felt it just wasn’t worth the time and effort they were putting into productions. Hence Bothwell decided to move on. He is still doing freelance engineering and production from his base in the United Kingdom.

His advice to the up and coming artistes in Africa is, “Take the profession seriously and not as a platform for cheap publicity or to attract unwarranted attention to oneself. It’s a job which must be approached like any other.”

He also urges originality’.

Bothwell gives a friendly warning to would-be musicians: “it’s not as rosy as it seems. There are a lot of disappointments and frustrations associated with the industry.

“Remember it’s not easy to please the public. That’s why some artistes have turned to drugs and other vices, some even suicide. So be warned.”

Bothwell is however not all doom and gloom as he goes on to say, “if you happen to make it, it is a rewarding profession indeed and discipline and proper management become very essential.”

Success has not got to this man’s head. ‘I dedicate all the work I have produced and talent that I have to the Most High Jehovah. “May his name be blessed.

“And of course I have to thank my wife and kids for putting up with long periods of time without a husband and father because of work commitments.”

And what does he see for the future of the music industry in Africa?
“Africa’s music industry has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, however, pirates have also grown more sophisticated hence the downsizing and even closure of major recording companies and the sprouting of lots of independent studios.
“So at the moment the African music industry is in a sorry state. There is
piracy problems the world over but in many Western countries, the musician is still enjoying reasonable legal sales.

“There is need to clamp down on piracy. It cannot be stopped completely, but there is need for stiffer regulations. Heavy penalties must be put in place for pirates.”

Behind every successful man is a hardworking woman.
Behind this successful producer is a lady by the name of Spiwe. And behind every successful artist, is a hard working and well-knowing producer.

Let’s give our producers the recognition they deserve!

Constance van Niekerk is based in Vereeniging, South Africa. She wrote
this piece for The Southern Times http://www.southerntimesafrica.com. She can be contacted on constancevanniekerk@gmail.com

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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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