Of band names…

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By Fidelis Manyange

ONCE upon a time, a local sungura band went on tour of one of the European countries.

It held several shows. 

The band is called Orchestra something. 

The Europeans, upon seeing the posters bearing the band name, attended the show in their hundreds wishing to see how an African orchestra sounded and looked like.

To their disappointment the orchestra lovers found themselves staring at a 10-member band comprising five instruments, that is four guitars and a drum set. 

The other six band members were male dancers. 

According to musicgateway.com an orchestra is really a large ensemble of instrumentalists playing together in one of four ‘families’. 

Orchestral families are groups of instruments that comprise strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. 

In Zimbabwe, many band names are prefixed with the word ‘orchestra’.

We have Alick Macheso’s Orchestra Mberikwazvo, Suluman Chimbetu’s Orchestra Dendera Kings, Kapfupi’s Orchestra Ndoozvo, Romeo Gasa’s Orchestra Valembe, Rony Mudhindo’s Orchestra Vazvamburi, Orchestra Ruomba, Orchestra Kokorigo and many others. 

It seems the word ‘orchestra’ amuses our musicians so much that it has to be part of their band names.

This trend was most likely derived from Kanindo groups like Orchestra Sega Sega, Orchestra Mangelepa and Orchestra Jemba Jemba, among others. 

The European fans were surprised by an Orchestra without even a single wind or brass instrument.

One of my favourite sungura bands which was popular in the 1980s once fell victim to its name when they decided to relocate to South Africa. 

The group uses ‘Jazz Band’ as part of its name. 

Their music is nowhere near Jazz. 

Jazz lovers were disappointed after they found out that the group played Zimbabwean sungura only. 

In Zimbabwe, we also have got our sungura groups, like Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, Shirinhema Jazz Band, Shirichena Jazz Band and Mbada Jazz Band.

These groups do not play jazz but just liked the ‘Jazz Band’ part of it. 

Again this style was copied from kanindo and Rhumba bands from East African countries.

Jazz music is a broad style of music characterised by complex harmony, syncopated rhythms and heavy emphasis on improvisation.

The other word loved by local sungura bands and infused in their names is the word ‘express’.

We have Barura Express, Utakataka Express, Samaita Express, Marumbe Express, Mbama Express and Mhondoro Express, among others.

Express, I feel, is appropriately used as one of its definition is ‘…to give expression to the artistic or creative impulses or abilities of (oneself)’.

Other band names have been derived from places of origin of the groups, like Mark Ngwazi’s Njanja Express, Mbuya Madhuve’s Guruve Stars, Obert Chari’s Hakireni(Chegutu), and Knowledge Kunenyati’s Muzokomba Movers, the village he came from. 

Lovemore Majaivana’s Jobs Combination was after the place in which they were a resident band. 

The place was Jobs Night Club along Julius Nyerere way which was owned by the late Job Kadengu. 

Just after independence, several musical bands assumed the names which were related to the war and black pride as well. 

Oliver Mtukudzi’s band was called the Black Spirits, while Thomas Mapfumo’s band assumed the name The Blacks Unlimited. 

Chegutu based Robson Banda called his band The New Black Eagles. 

The late Cde Chinx’s (Dick Chingaira) group was called The Barrel of Peace, referring to the gun. 

The late Givie Nare, a former ZIPRA cadre, named his acapella group The Light Machine Gun Choir. 

A light machine gun is a light-weight gun designed to be operated by a single fighter with an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. 

It was mostly used by ZIPRA cadres. 

Simon and Naison Chimbetu named their band the Marxist brothers after Karl Marx’s teachings which were taught during the war. 

Marxism is a social, political and economic philosophy named after Karl Marx. 

It examines the effect of capitalism on labour, productivity and economic development and argues for a worker revolution to overturn capitalism in favour of communism. 

Such is the doctrine in which the two brothers believed in. 

Some groups, like Shumba Stars and Hyena Stars, derived their names from animals.

Marshall Munhumumwe’s band, which comprised only four band members, was called Four Brothers. 

The inimitable Nicholas ‘Madzibaba’ Zacharia’s Khiama Boys has never had a boy member since inception, it could have been called Khiama Men. 

Names like, Fishers of Men, Puritans, House of David and Vabati VaJehovah simply tell you the type of music the groups play.

In some European countries, we have some bands using weird, blasphemous and evil names. 

Each band will be trying to be more wicked and more evil than the other band. 

We have Western band names like, Goatwhore, Eyehategod, Christ Inversion, Burn the Priest, Nunslaughter, Rotting Christ and Dark Funeral, among others. 

Despite carrying such scary names, they have large followers who fancy those names and identify themselves with the lifestyles of the band members. 

Most of the band members are heavily tattooed.

Fortunately, in Zimbabwe we do not have such type of band names.

Band names carry lots of meaning for fans and members though some initially mislead as to the type of music they play; but with time, fans get used to the names.  

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