Musicians and their identities

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By Fidelis Manyange

BESIDES being known by their music genres most musicians have chosen to be identified by their hairstyles, dressing, dance routines or entrance to the stage. 

John Chibadura was known for strumming his lead guitar as he embarked from his car en route to the stage. The ‘Zuva Rekufa Kwangu’ hit maker also had a reputation for his long glistening curled hair or ‘perm’, which was associated mostly with the womenfolk. 

On the other hand, upcoming artistes, in their quest for recognition, are modelling themselves in the casts of established celebrities such as chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo, Cedia Shoko aka Andy Brown, mbira queens Chiwoniso Maraire (pictured) and Stella Chiweshe, and Jah Prayzah, to name but a few. 

The late dendera king, Simon ‘Chopper’ Chimbetu, was famous for his unique dances and haircut which his successor, Sulumani Chimbetu, has since perfected. The haircut, which can be more or less described as the traditional box cut, is now known as ‘dendera hairstyle’.  Chimbetu’s die-hard fans and copycats are now identifying themselves with that iconic haircut. 

Sulumani Chimbetu

The senior Chimbetu, one of the first music musicians to own a cellphone upon their launch in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s, popularised the habit of showing off his handset by keeping it close to his waist, earned him the moniker ‘Chopper Cellular Chimbetu’. He also endeared himself to his legion of fans  by his signature chant ‘iiiii . . . aa’ in nearly all of his hit songs.

According to producer Bothwell Nyamhondera, the chant originated in the early 1980s during a recording session, more by accident than by design. 

This was also the case with ‘Samanyanga’ Oliver Mtukudzi, who was unable to contain a cough during a recording session. It would have been costly in terms of precious recording to start all over again. So that cough became Tuku’s trademark throughout hid illustrious career that saw him record a whopping 66 albums.

The late sungura Tongai ‘Dhewa’ Moyo was easily identifiable by his box haircut which was also inherited by his heir, Peter Moyo, and has become synonymous with their legions of fans.

Once upon a time, Zimbabweans were mesmerised by the infectious sounds of the Zvishavane-based Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, led by Jonah Moyo. Its members became famous  for their high-heeled platform shoes, ‘Revo’ trousers and long Afro hairstyles to the extent the high-heeled shoes became known as ‘maDevera Ngwena’. 

‘Ngivulele’ hitmaker Lovemore Majaivana also loved his jet-black Afro hairstyle and glittering, tight trousers which made him look feminine — more like, you know . . . a drag queen!

South Africa’s chart-topping mbaqanga group, The Soul Brothers, were also spotted Afro hairstyles, which set them apart from their peers. 

 Chitungwiza-based Callisto Nyamhute, of ‘Special Meat’ fame, appeared to be a cross between Chibadura and Majaivana given his penchant for the ‘perm’ hairstyle and glittering outfits.  

Jah Prayzah’s military-inspired stage outfits and his dreadlocks have inspired not only his fans and copycats, chief among them, fellow Uzumba-born and bred Andy Muridzo.

Comedian and musician Freddy Manjalima, aka Kapfupi, put the sleepy suburb of Epworth on the map thanks to his music, drama and streetwise attire. His one-arm jacket cut, one trouser-leg cut and shabby sun hat are now popular with Epworth residents. 

Dreadlocks appear to be quite fashionable among both performing artistes and practitioners of other art forms. Names that immediately come to mind include mbira exponent and sculptor Brian Mteki and internationally acclaimed fellow sculptor Dominic Benhura. The same goes for Tendai Gahamadze of Mbira Dzenharira.

While Zimbabwean artistes have not broken the internet in terms of their fashion sense, the same cannot be said about some of their overseas counterparts. A case in point is American musician Lady Gaga (pictured), whose main claim to fame is  her outrageous dress sense. For instance, in 2010, at the MTV Video Awards, she appeared on stage clad in an outfit made entirely from raw beef. 

Apparently, Zimbabwe has its own Lady Gagas in the form of Kiki BadAss, Vimbai Zimuto and dancer Beverly Sibanda, among others, whose signature dressing, if one can call it that, is the barest minimum. 

However, away from the fashion scene, local artistes have also come up with their own ‘customised’ dances and chants. 

Sungura king Alick Macheso ‘invented’ the ‘Borrowdale dance’, based on the movements of a galloping race horse at the Borrowdale Racecourse. When the ‘Borrowdale dance’ began to lose its lustre, ‘Baba Shero’ came up the ‘Zora Butter’ and ‘Kochekera’ dances. 

Not to be outdone, the Knowledge Kunenyati-led Kassongo Band popularised the ‘Gofingo’ dance in the early 1990s while Sulumani’s stage performances are enlivened by his ‘Hammerkop’ dance, in which he imitates the medium-sized wading bird (kondo in Shona). 

The late Oliver Mtukudzi and Picky Kasamba were associated  with their own version of the traditional katekwe dance which has since been adopted by the former’s daughter, Selmor. 

The ‘nquzu’ dance, which is linked to the Ndebeles and Zulus, now has keen followers in Mashonaland, thanks to Lovemore Majaivana.

All in all, Zimbabwean musicians have done the nation proud in terms of their modest dress code and innovative dance routines, some of which have been embraced beyond the  country’s borders.

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