Did Ton­gai Moyo fore­see his death?

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Garikai Mazara

THERE is some­thing spir­i­tual about mu­sic — es­pe­cially all the great tracks, those that have stood the test of time. You get the sense it is not the mu­si­cian singing, that it is some voice speak­ing.

On the flip side, do mu­si­cians dream their lyrics, where do they get the in­spi­ra­tion from? Do they know or see some­thing that us, mere mor­tals, don’t see?

It has been more than a fort­night since the coun­try has re­mem­bered the sad pass­ing on of Ton­gai Moyo, Murozvi Mukuru, Mopao Mukonzi, Dhewa or Sa­manyemba. In fact, he gave him­self a litany of praise names.

But as the coun­try re­mem­bered the artiste largely cred­ited with bring­ing a fash­ion sense to sun­gura, some­thing caught my at­ten­tion, some­thing tick­led me. Did Ton­gai Moyo, as early as 2005, know that he was walk­ing in the val­ley of the shadow of death? Did he know that his time with us was go­ing to be short-lived?

For it was in 2005 that he re­leased the al­bum “Naye”, which car­ried the song “Han­didi Navo”, which didn’t make it much to the charts then. But on lis­ten­ing to the song to­day, you get to do some soul-search­ing: did Dhewa know some­thing was to be­fall him?

In the song, he asks the Almighty, in the event that he dies, to spare his chil­dren from any pun­ish­ment, on ac­count of his sins. He pleads with the Lord to pun­ish him and him only. Quite soul­ful and rich. Which begs the ques­tion: did Ton­gai Moyo, by 2005, know he had can­cer? Did he know he was dy­ing? And if he knew, did he keep it a se­cret un­til three years later, in 2008, when he went pub­lic with the dis­clo­sure? Or it was one of those songs or­di­nar­ily com­posed?

Th­ese are ques­tions that any of us can­not an­swer. He went into the grave with th­ese and many other an­swers. But he is not the only mu­si­cian to have seen his death ap­proach­ing. John Chibadura gave us “Zuva Rek­ufa Kwangu”, whereas “Mar­shall Mun­hu­mumwe gave us “Rwendo Rusina Mu­perekedzi”.

In the week that we also re­mem­ber the pass­ing on of James Chi­mombe who died on Oc­to­ber 23 1990, af­ter giv­ing us “Siya Wa­woneka”, we can only but won­der about where the in­spi­ra­tion to th­ese lyrics come from.

DEATH is said to have saved many arts leg­ends from their in­evitable fall from grace. But a sec­tion of arts crit­ics ar­gue that the lo­cal creative sec­tor could have been on an­other level had some fallen leg­ends lived longer. Names usu­ally thrown around in­clude Leonard Dembo, James Chi­mombe, John Chibadura, Sys­tem Tazvida, Big­gie Tembo, Paul Matavire, Fanyana Dube, Safirio Madzikatire, Solomon Skuza, Phillip “Par­rafin” Mushangwe and Dam­budzo Marechera, etcetera.

How­ever, only the cre­ator knows the va­lid­ity of this hy­poth­e­sis, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that there are sev­eral liv­ing yes­ter­year greats that have long be­came pale shad­ows of their former selves. Talk of Zexie Manatsa, Love­more Ma­jaivana, Pa­trick Muk­wamba, Jonah Moyo, Mitchell Jambo, Busi and Ncube, among oth­ers.

How­ever, the late Chi­mombe’s daugh­ter, Tendai, be­lieves her fa­ther was go­ing to di­rect the mu­sic in­dus­try’s course had fate not acted oth­er­wise 28 years ago on Oc­to­ber 23rd.

In an in­ter­view with The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety, she ven­er­ated her fa­ther, say­ing she be­lieved death de­prived her dad the op­por­tu­nity of real­is­ing his full ca­reer po­ten­tial. She opines her fa­ther was on the path to be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star of re­pute.

“His mu­sic was be­gin­ning to tran­scend bor­ders and that was cut short by death. He had started cross­ing bound­aries for shows and de­mand for his ser­vices reached as far as the United King­dom,” said Tendai.

“I’m sure by now he would have been in the same league as Dr Mtukudzi (Oliver) and Mukanya (Thomas Map­fumo) or even bet­ter than them. I know of a lot of his com­po­si­tions left un­re­fined.”

In­deed, Chi­mombe’s mu­sic was unique in ev­ery sense.

The late singer, also known as Bin­dura, was heav­ily in­flu­enced by stars like Lionel Richie, Phil Collins and Michael Bolton. But that did not in any way com­pro­mise his com­po­si­tions.

The revered singer, whose list of hits in­clude “Ce­cilia”, “Siya Waoneka”, “Bin­dura”, “Ku­dak­washe” “Ge­orge Mudiwa”, and “Jemedza” man­aged to cre­ate a sig­na­ture sound, which was a blend of for­eign in­flu­ences turned into a Zim­bab­wean res­o­nance.

Like­wise, Chi­mombe’s sound cap­tured for­eign artistes’ at­ten­tion and was adored mostly in South Africa. One of his songs - “Zvaitika” in­spired a com­po­si­tion by the late Brenda Fassie and Steve Kekana did a ren­di­tion of “Ce­cilia”.

Chi­mombe’s ex­ploits on stage and in the stu­dio are well doc­u­mented.

lt is now close to three decades since he went to the world yon­der but his mu­sic con­tinue to stand the taste of time. It is ev­er­green.

Prob­a­bly this is one of the rea­sons why Tendai says it feels like yes­ter­day when she lost her fa­ther.

“I of­ten lis­ten to or play his mu­sic at my shows and this some­what keeps my mem­ory of him fresh,” she said.

“I still miss his love. He was a lov­ing dad who would make time on his busy sched­ule to come home in Cran­borne, Harare, sit and dis­cuss is­sues with us since our mother was not around.”

Nev­er­the­less, the os­ten­si­bly gen­tle, quiet and car­ing fa­ther fig­ure was a dis­ci­plinar­ian.

“Md­hara (dad) did not want us to be in­volved in any form of mis­chief. I re­mem­ber each time I went off line, he would heav­ily rep­ri­mand me. In some in­stances, he would give me a thor­ough beat­ing, of course af­ter spend­ing some time chas­ing me around the yard (chuck­les).”

The leg­end, who was born in 1951, passed on in 1990 when Tendai was still 18 years old.

Apart from mu­sic, he worked as a Cul­tural Of­fi­cer in Chi­tung­wiza. He was also a mu­sic teacher at Eth­no­mu­si­col­ogy, which later on be­came the Zim­babwe Col­lege of Mu­sic.

“My life is like a copy of my fa­ther. I’m into mu­sic, at the same time I’m for­merly em­ployed else­where, do­ing live gigs at night and week­ends. I did not ven­ture into mu­sic be­cause of him. I was born a mu­si­cian and de­vel­oped in­ter­est in the trade long be­fore I knew he was a pro­fes­sional singer,” re­vealed Tendai.

Among the var­i­ous bands he per­formed with were the Pop Set­tlers, OK Suc­cess, The Acid Band (where he worked as Thomas Map­fumo’s gui­tarist), Real Sounds of Africa, The Ocean City Band and The Huchi Band.

Tendai has lined up a “James Chi­mombe Com­mem­o­ra­tion Gig” that will be held on Novem­ber 24th at Usah­wira in High­field.

Chi­mombe’s other off­spring in­clude Ku­dak­washe, Linda, Lin­den, Ta­tenda and the late Freddy.

Ton­gai Moyo

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