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All That (African) Jazz

Independence message from up yonder

Constance van Niekerk, Vereeniging SA

After publishing the fanzine ‘Shabini’ for The Bhundu Boys, British fan Roy Mitchell promised to do one for The Four Brothers in April, and true to his word Mitchell just released ‘Makorokoto’, the tribute fanzine for The Four Brothers, which can be accessed by emailing him. The fanzine brings back wonderful memories of this much-loved band, one of the earliest bands from Zimbabwe to attain international stardom, and to thus continue the tradition of musical excellence set by August Musarurwa of ‘Skokiaan’ fame all those years ago.

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On the fourth page of the fanzine is an article by ace Zimbabwe journalist and author Fred Zindi, ‘Four Brothers: Lost Musical Heroes’ published in The Herald of December 23rd 2014. It traces the band’s origins and spreads right up to page 6. Zindi explains that ‘Makorokoto’ means ‘Congratulations’ in English. This phenomenal track was composed to celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence in April 1980. At the end of Zindi’s article is the front and back cover of Zindi’s book, Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe. Mitchell takes us on a journey back in time to the 2nd of March 1991 through a BBC2 episode called ‘Viva Zimbabwe’ that was part of the programme Rhythms of the World (p.7). Several Zimbabwean musicians were featured on this programme, namely, Thomas Mapfumo, dubbed ‘The Lion of Zimbabwe’, now based in the USA, Germany-based Ambuya Stella Chiweshe, Baba Mechanic Manyeruke and,  of course, The Four Brothers!

At the end of the interview with Thomas Mapfumo, the interviewer mentioned to him that he has had a big influence on the music of The Four Brothers….” Thomas Mapfumo’s response was, “Of course, one of them is my Uncle! He’s a brother to my mother. So he actually knows about me and how I grew up.”

Thomas Mapfumo

Thomas Mapfumo

Thomas went on to say, “He used to teach me everything. Even, when I started playing, he’s the one who taught me to play drums. So from the day after playing drums he taught me how to sing. So I can say he is the one, I’m following in his footsteps.” Splendid tribute indeed from ‘muzukuru waSekuru’ Marshall (Marshall’s nephew), the Chimurenga guru, Thomas Mapfumo!

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Thomas Mapfumo

Mitchell’s thirty-six-page Four Brothers fanzine is replete with photos, album covers, interviews and articles on this urbane and suave group of great talent. It is for everyone who was not spared by Marshall’s infectious mellow voice and charming smile and the band’s outstanding performances. The fanzine will also make everyone who was touched by the group’s lyrics nostalgic. The evocative lyrics lingered long after the songs stopped playing. The fanzine is also for everyone and anyone who enjoyed those much-awaited appearances of The Four brothers on Mvengemvenge, a TV programme that marketed Zimbabwe’s musical talent soon after independence. It is for everyone who braved the cold nights on the streets of Salisbury just to be in some night club where the band was playing! So basically, this fanzine is for every Zimbabwean (well, almost).

Mitchell says that the timing of the fanzine release is not a coincidence, “The plan was always to release it in April to coincide with independence celebrations, especially as this year marks 35 years since independence was won. This is a special time for the people of Zimbabwe so I wanted to mark that with the release of the fanzine.” According to Mitchell, “Makorokoto is one of the most popular and iconic songs from The Four Brothers and the fanzine has been put together as a celebration of their music. As Makorokoto means Congratulations, the fanzine is celebrating their music and saying congratulations to The Four Brothers for giving us such great music and so many wonderful memories. It is a tribute to their legacy which they have left us.”

Roy Mitchell’s message for Zimbabwe at 35 is, “There is so much I could say about the music of The Four Brothers but with independence looming, the most appropriate message I could give would be a quote from a concert that The Four Brothers recorded in London back in 1989. It was recorded in March, just prior to independence celebrations so it is very appropriate at this time of the year. This is how Marshall Munhumumwe introduced Makorokoto to an adoring UK audience:

Makorokoto means congratulations. This song which made us to be known back home in 1980 when we got our independence. So on the 18th of this month, this coming month April, we will be celebrating our independence back home. Makorokoto means celebrations, that was in 1980 when we got our independence, everybody was jumping up and down in the streets! I hope you are going to jump up and down also!

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The Four Brothers might be gone, but their music is alive here with us. So are the band members’ offspring and fans like Mitchell who are striving to keep the band’s legacy alive. Let us rally behind them and support them in their endeavours to keep the legacy of The 4 Brothers alive!

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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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