Artistes who made it big after splits

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By Fidelis Manyange

IN last week’s edition, this writer dealt at some length with a slew of artistes who dumped their paymasters but subsequently fell on hard times in the dog-eat-dog world of music. 

This week the focus shifts to those who made it big after parting ways with their mentors. 

The Shona adages, ‘Kuipa kwechimwe kunaka kwezvimwe’ or ‘Kukava datya kuriyambutsa’, aptly capture the case of Nicholas ‘Madzibaba’ Zakaria who left his brother Zakaria Zakaria and Alick Macheso in the cold when he took a sabbatical from music to pursue a career as a truck driver in 1997.

The writer met Macheso during those desperate times at Munyarari Night Club in Budiriro where  Jonah Moyo and the Devera Ngwena Jazz Band were performing. The year was 1997.

In those dark days, an unemployed Macheso was doing his best to get an audience with the ‘Solo naMutsai’ hitmaker who appeared to have other more pressing issues on his mind.

On the night, Macheso was clad in his trademark attire — a black leather jacket, yellow shirt, tan trousers and brown Gatsby shoes.

The Macheso-Moyo talks must have hit a snag, but that did not spell the end of his budding music career. Thereafter, with the help of friends such as General Luke and Shepherd Chinyani, he formed Orchestra Mberikwazvo and soon recorded his debut album ‘Magariro’.

With Zakaria Zakaria on rhythm guitar, the new kid on the sungura bloc hit the right chord from the word go as the album became an instant hit.

Such was Macheso’s prodigious talent that he went on to overshadow his mentor, Nicholas Zakaria, beating him to the title of the ‘King of Sungura’.

And who can begrudge him? After all, ‘Simbaradzo’ sold a record 300 000 copies upon release. ‘Baba Shero’ must have been laughing all the way to the bank since piracy was still in its infancy. 

No doubt, many sungura fans will remember the Sungura Boys which spawned the likes of Simon Chimbetu, Ephraim Joe and John Chibadura. It also gave birth to the Marxist Brothers and Tembo Brothers.

Similarly, the original Kassongo Band gave rise to Ketai Muchawaya, Knowledge Kunenyati and Marko Sibanda.  

From the ashes of Kassongo Band arose Kunenyati’s Muzokomba Movers while Sibanda and Muchawaya fronted the Insiza Brothers and Simba Brothers, respectively.

The duo of Maungwe Brothers — Leonard Zhakata and Thomas Makion — split after the mega-hit ‘Tungidza Gwenya’ and the two would, in their solo careers, churn out such hits as ‘Mugove’ and ‘Makorokoto’.

The duo’s split must have come as a blessing to their fans.

The disintegration of the Muddy Face, which comprised Cephas Mashakada, Paul Mpofu and Job Mashanda also gave rise to a new crop of successful artistes.

Hits such as ‘Murambinda’, ‘Amai Mandigona’ and ‘Samson’ were a product of that split.

System Tazvida was the Khiama Boys doorman when it was the resident band at Bhora or Juru Growth Point in Goromonzi. He was given the opportunity to record his debut song ‘Mabhauwa’ which became an instant hit. It was, however, credited to band leader Cephas Karushanga.

‘Mabhauwa’ was a tribute to a prominent businessman of the time by that name. Thanks to its phenomenal success, Karushanga later named his band Mabhauwa Express. When Tazvida left Khiama Boys, he joined the late sungura icon Ephraim Joe’s Sungura Boys as a backing vocalist. While there, he recorded ‘Dhiya Ungwarire’,which became an instant hit. 

Its success inspired Tazvida to form his own band, Chazezesa Challengers, which churned out hit after hit until his untimely death at 36. 

Baba Harare also made it big after quitting Jah Prayzah’s Third Generation Movement where he was the lead guitarist and backing vocalist. Since then he has become is one of the biggest crowd pullers when it comes to live shows with his inimitable jiti lyrics and electrifying dances.

Not to be outdone are the womenfolk, with Feli Nandi (pictured) leading the parade.

Born Felistus Chipendo, Feli Nandi is a singer, songwriter and fashion designer par excellence. Her music is a combination of soul music containing elements from afro-fusion.

She is also the owner of the clothing line Feli Nandi Apparel, which she formed in 2021. Chipendo started her music career as a backing vocalist for Mbeu’s Mhodzi Tribe for two years.

 During her time with Mbeu, she recorded six singles including ‘Ndega Ndada’, which was  accompanied by a captivating video. She then left to pursue a solo career and gained popularity in 2020 after releasing the single ‘Mufudzi WeMombe’ with Trevor Dongo.

She was inspired by local traditional music artistes, such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo as well as Chiwoniso Maraire; she began writing her own songs when she was in secondary school.  

In 2021, she released her self-titled album ‘Feli Nandi’. Her singles, such as ‘Munhu Wangu’, ‘Unotyei’ and ‘Kukurumidza’, gained popularity and airplay on local radio stations.

In February 2022, she was nominated for outstanding newcomer and outstanding female musician at the 2022 National Arts Merit Awards.

In May 2022, she released her debut album, ‘Izwi’. The album was nominated for Best Album at the 2023 Zimbabwe Music Awards. That same year, she also won an award for Best Female Artiste at the Zimbabwe Music Awards and Best Alternative for her single ‘Ndoona Iwe’ at the Star FM Music Awards.

She has performed at major music events in Zimbabwe and has toured the UK for the JamAfro Family Festival Show.

On the international scene, a split in the Wailers gave birth to two reggae greats in the cast of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.

Left to right: Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are usually recognized as the original Wailers.

The cause of the split was one white producer, Chris Blackwell, who wanted Marley to be aligned to the white community.

Blackwell wanted the Wailers to play in ‘freak’ white clubs.

Wailer and Tosh did not want to be compromised into violating their Rastafarian faith to the extent Wailer called him ‘Chris White-worst’ as he was responsible for the bad blood between the band members.

Little did they know that it was a blessing in disguise as they all became greats in their own rights.

The three enjoyed considerable success as reggae music continued to gain popularity during the 1970s and 1980s.

Such is the topsy-turvy world of music. Splits can spell either success or doom. It just depends on which way the dice rolls.

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