MORE THAN JUST BUSI’S TWIN

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Soccer Cricket Sport - Sun­day Life Cor­re­spon­dent

ON 15 JUNE in 1963, when his twin daugh­ters were fi­nally break­ing free of the womb in which they had taken res­i­dence for nine months, Sun­day Ncube, was per­form­ing in South Africa as part of Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo leg­endary ensem­ble.

Upon hear­ing the news, Sun­day dropped ev­ery­thing, rush­ing to his wife’s bed­side to wel­come Siphathisiwe and Sibu­sisiwe, two girls who would later shorten their names to Busi and Phathi.

Sun­day never went back to join Black Mam­bazo, and when the group won its first Grammy Award in 1988, he was another long for­got­ten voice lost in the group’s il­lus­tri­ous his­tory.

How­ever, while the im­bube leg­ends were win­ning ac­co­lades for mu­sic made in then apartheid South Africa in 1988, Sun­day’s twin daugh­ters were shak­ing an eight-year-old Zim­babwe’s mu­sic scene.

When Phathi burst on the scene Busi was al­ready es­tab­lished, work­ing along­side stars that would later be­come leg­ends.

“Busi started singing well be­fore I did. I started in Harare in 1986 when I went to visit her at a time she was al­ready singing with the likes of Fanyana Dube and Love­more Ma­jaivana as part of Jobs Com­bi­na­tion at Job’s Nightspot,” she said in an in­ter­view with Sun­day Life.

Un­known to even her­self, Phathi was a gem hid­den by the bril­liance of her twin and older sis­ter, Doreen. Her dis­cov­ery in the back al­leys of Harare’s thriv­ing night scene was com­pletely by chance.

“One day when I went to visit I saw this group called the Zim­babwe He­roes, an all-male group, at Saratoga Night Club. When I got there they said this is Busi’s twin and Doreen’s younger sis­ter so ob­vi­ously she can sing. Back then when Busi was re­hears­ing I would write lyrics for her so I knew the songs by heart.

“Mem­bers of the Zim­babwe He­roes asked me to sing and I gave it a try. I sang a song by Gir­lie Ma­fura. At Saratoga the night­club was just be­hind the club of­fice so the man­ager heard me and came to en­quire about who I was and later asked me to join the band and Busi ap­proved,” said Phathi.

Phathi quickly be­gan to turn heads, and soon Thomas Map­fumo had re­cruited her to his band.

“Af­ter­wards I joined Thomas Map­fumo for the first time and when he toured Botswana I was left be­hind be­cause my pa­pers were not in or­der. I was then forced to re­turn to the Zim­babwe He­roes,” she said.

How­ever, the story of Phathi, which seems for­ever des­tined to be told along­side that of her sis­ter by virtue of their nine months side by side in the womb, does not be­gin in the bright ght lights of the Sun­shine City.

Long be­fore she found her voice in the cap­i­tal along­side her twin, she had,, like many Zim­bab­weans, found her­self get­ting fed onn a daily diet of song and folk­lore in the ru­ral ar­eas. This early ed­u­ca­tion was to prove cru­cial later in her ca­reer.areer.

“My grand­mother was a tra­di­tional dancer and that’s why I have al­ways lovedved afro jazz with a touch of tra­di­tional mu­sic. I like that style be­cause I have a strong ru­ral back­ground and nd my grand­mother used to be a tra­di­tional dancer. I ba­si­cally take the songs she used to sing and just put gui­tars on them,” she said.

While the song­bird’s re­la­tion­ship with her grand­mother was strong, her re­la­tion­ship with her il­lus­tri­ous twin was just as solid.

“We were in a nor­mal ru­ral ral set-up so I was stay­ing with my grand­mother andd Busi was at my un­cle’s home just a stone’s throw away. We did most of our pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion in the ru­ral ar­eas be­fore Busi came to town to go to schoolol in 1977 to do her Grade 7.

“She was at So­lusi Mis­sio­n­ion but she had to re­peat be­cause she had moved be­fore­fore the year ended. When I got to Bu­l­awayo my brother er also asked me to re­peat be­cause he felt that I shouldn’t uldn’t move ahead of my twin sis­ter,” she said.

So strong was their bondd that they were vir­tu­ally in­sep­a­ra­ble in their ear­lier years. Even now in their later years, sep­a­rated by sea a and land as Busi makes a liv­ing in Nor­way, the stron­gong link be­tween the two twins has not been bro­ken.

“We were al­ways very close. ose. If one of us slept, we would both sleep. We ganged ed up on peo­ple at school and had each other’s backs. s. In­stinc­tively, when Busi gets sick in Oslo I can feel it and when I get sick she feels it as well. So we see each other twice a year as I visit once and she also vis­its. When I go to Oslo we do four or five shows to­geth­ero­gether in front of packed crowds,” she said.

While the two sis­ters, far r away from home, al­ways feel the lov­ing and ap­pre­cia­tive­cia­tive em­brace of Oslo’s mu­sic lovers, the same can­no­tan­not be said of crowds back home. Only a fort­night ght ago, as spring be­gan its bloom, they felt Bu­l­awayo’s yo’s cold shoul­der as Busi Ncube launched her al­bumm at the Bluez Café.

With the cold breath of a de­part­ing win­ter still in the air, the twins were im­pres­sive, pres­sive, prov­ing that age has only re­fined their voices,ces, as they poured sweet melody af­ter melody from Busi’s lat­est of­fer­ing down the ears of an at­ten­tive but mod­est crowd. Phathi, like other afro jazz artistes, feelss like they de­serve bet­ter.

Things, she re­called, were re not al­ways so hard for artistes es­pe­cially af­ter shee joined hus­band Ge­orge Phahlane to form the group p Ebony Sheikh in 1988.

“There was a sin­gle called led Cel­e­brate on our first

Bruce Ndlovu

al­bum, Mag­wegwe via Mpopoma that Vice-Pres­i­dent Muzenda used to love and he would play at his birth­day cel­e­bra­tion ev­ery year. We toured all over and there’s no cor­ner of Zim­babwe that I don’t know ex­cept Nyanga.

“We toured ev­ery mine and com­mu­nity mak­ing money and liv­ing pretty. The clo­sure of mines and firms hit us hard. I look at the young mu­si­cians nowa­days and these guys are strug­gling. We re­ally had nice lives,” she said.

Years af­ter their fame be­gan to wane, Ebony Sheikh are about to re­lease another al­bum, a project that was de­railed by the death of Andy Brown. Be­fore he passed away, the leg­endary mu­si­cian had given them free use of his stu­dio while he en­gi­neered the al­bum on which Zim­bab­weans will hear him play bass gui­tar for the very last time. It is a part­ing gift that the group hopes will bring them the fame and for­tune of old.

“The al­bum is called Ntabez’kude. It’s a six track ef­fort. Be­fore he passed away, Andy gave us the masters of the al­bum. He was the en­gi­neer on the project and Tshakaza Stu­dios, at his home is where we recorded it. He gave us his free time, we didn’t pay a thing and we’re very grate­ful. Once we se­cure a d i s t r i but i ono n deal, then we push this al­bum the coun­try even beyond,” can around and she said.

Siphathisiwe Ncube

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