By Fidelis Manyange
THE song ‘Masawu kuGombe’ is not new, especially to those who were avid radio listeners during the early 1990s when it was receiving massive airplay on all radio stations.
And the album received deserving remuneration and royalties. The song was composed and sung by the late Mazowe-based Patrick Nyarambi and his group Akimbo Brothers.
In the song, Nyarambi, who is coming from their sekuru’s funeral, is heard castigating his brother for asking about the funeral instead of asking about the masawu fruits he has brought for him from Gombe.
Nyarambi, the man who was known for fixing radios and televisions in Jumbo, in the small mining town of Mazowe, abruptly turned into a formidable force in the music industry, popular throughout the country, especially in mining and farming areas as well as beyond borders in Mozambique and Malawi since his songs were a mixture of Shona and Chikunda.
Akimbo Brothers was formed in 1990 in Jumbo, Mazowe, the same year that Gakamoto Jumbo stars of the ‘Chiramwiwa’ fame was formed.
The two groups came together under the management of a local businessman, Chikaonda, who had his own group called Chikaonda Jumbo Stars.
Chikaonda had resources, such as instruments, and since he was an ambulance driver, he used it to ferry the band members to performance venues.
As he was in charge of all the groups, he denied the two groups, Gakamoto and Akimbo brothers, to record their debut albums without his approval fearing they would leave him as they had become his ‘cash cows’.
He had been monitoring their popularity with fans at live shows.
Gakamoto Jumbo Stars’ Khumulani brothers, Varly, the late Chakanetsa and Spencer Khumulani who went on to become Tongai Moyo’s trusted lieutenant in the battle for the sungura crown, were the first to leave and recorded their debut album ‘Chiramwiwa’ which became an instant hit. Seeing the success of Gakamoto, after their departure from Chikaonda’s manipulative grip, Nyarambi and his Akimbo Brothers band, comprising Peter Wariyeke, Funny Kanzenze and Mafukeni Ephraim, went their separate ways, leaving Chikaonda’s fold.
They recorded their debut album ‘Masawu kuGombe’ at Grammar Records which was widely received by music fans.
An admirer, known by the name Big Sam, helped them with instruments for live shows. The group, which had started making a name for themselves throughout the country due massive airplay, began holding shows all over Mashonaland Central, in mining towns and farms such as John Lore, John Ekesi, Katakwara, paKambama, Riverside, Msonedi and Mvurwi.
As they grew in popularity, they extended their shows to bigger venues in Mt Darwin, Uzumba, Mutoko, Murehwa and other towns.
When Nyarambi died a decade ago, the group under him had recorded albums like ‘Masawu kuGombe’ and ‘Mudyandakasungwa’.
Later, the group decided to carry on under the new name Streamline Express and recorded the album ‘Wagarira Acid’, in 2012, which sadly flopped though radio presenters tried their best to give them airplay.
Mafukeni Ephraim, who currently resides in Shamva, former backing vocalist and rhythm guitarist, reassembled the band as Masawu kuGombe Express.
Mafukeni is the man behind the Chikunda voice at the beginning of the song ‘Masawu kuGombe’.
After assuming the new name in 2015, they recorded the album ‘Chawagona Hapana’.
The group now uses both names Masawu kuGombe and Streamline Express.
The group comprises Patrick Chipeta on lead and rhythm, James Zacharia on bass, Tichaona Edward on drums, Enos Chigarisano and Fungai Dhizara on lead and bass while Patrick
Jusa and Mafukeni’s wife Felistus Madimati take care of the backing vocals.
They have male and female dancers.
The band is currently holding live shows in and around Shamva which are attracting decent crowds.
Mafukeni, born in Malawi in 1972, grew up in Concession at Watakai Farm and later worked at Pachatikita Farm. He used to walk from Jumbo to Mazowe to practise with the Khumulani brothers before joining the late Nyarambi.
It is this same courage and determination which he hopes will see him taking the group back to its heyday.
Listening to the group’s forthcoming album, one will surely conclude that Mafukeni is a talented artiste who undoubtedly assisted Nyarambi in his compositions.
Those who want to get a feel of the artiste’s works can sample the video song ‘Wagarira Acid’ on YouTube.
Mafukeni who is married, with six children, is also involved in cotton scouting, fruit and vegetable production and drying as well as maize and soya bean production in Shamva.