Did Tongai Moyo foresee his death?
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.