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The local dancehall scene has grappled, for a considerable time, with issues of identity.
Either they were issues of decency, violence, even up to lack of depth in some, if not most, of the lyrics. Some from the older generations, those who grew on a diet of Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, John Chibadura, James Chimombe, Paul Matavire — the old school listener — might have sworn that they would never take a listen to local dancehall.
Until Tocky Vibes walked onto the scene — with a cleaner attitude that would leave you with no option but to love him. Those who might not have bothered to listen to the young man, yes the 20-year-old young man (in fact, he is yet to celebrate his 20th on November 29) should have taken notice when he did “Mhai”.
For someone who does not seem to know where and how he came to be called Tocky, one would assume that he is not in control of his faculties when it comes to his identity, but speaking to him, he is quite sure where he is coming from as much as he knows where he is going.
“Most of my songs are inspired by the things around me, some might be personal experiences and others might be what I see happening to others. Most importantly, they are real-life issues and situations,” he explained.
Which might explain why some, if not most, of his songs are that soulful and heart-rending. “On one occasion, an elderly woman stopped me in Kambuzuma when she heard I was Tocky Vibes. She was almost in tears as she narrated how she got healed, and she said she was on her deathbed, as her son played her the song “Mhai” on rotation,” he narrated. “That must be one of the most humbling encounters I have ever had, but I always say it is not within my power and means but it must the hand of God at work. Especially when your work has that kind of reach.”
Someone who does not know the trials and tribulations that Tocky has gone through in life might not readily understand what inspires him. Growing up in a large and polygamous family (“from my mother’s side we are eight, two boys and six girls) the going has not been easy. Add to that, being raised in a ghetto, Rugare to be specific.
“So when I started singing, both my parents did not take kindly to the idea and in 2010 when I did my first hit song, Ndiri Kumhanya, things turned upside down in my family. My father, especially, was adamant that I should not do music.”
Seeing that it was not easy to suppress the music running in the young man’s veins, the father resolved to send Tocky to Chivi, Masvingo, ekhaya, so that the young man concentrates on his schooling. So it was goodbye to Kambuzuma High 1 to Chamasvinga Secondary for his fourth form. A year after completing his Os, he headed back to Harare.
But his troubles were not over. Still his father did not approve of his music, even though he had completed his O-Levels. Which saw him moving on with the Kapondo family, which relationship has given birth to his marriage with Peter Kapondo, aka Pound, who now is one of his two managers – the other being Elvis Bokosha.
The love-hate relationship that Tocky Vibes had with his father should have inspired him to pen Mhai, an indication that his mother must have spurred him to carry on, and not forget her when things got moving.
“After Mhai was successfully received by my fans, my mother loosened up and openly told me that I could do whatever my heart was pleased to do.”
But his father was still hard-hearted. In fact, soon after arrival from Chivi he was shoved off to Rusape, where the father, a long-distance truck driver, has a plot, received under the land reform process.
“That was a tough time, when I was consigned to Rusape, as I had to battle to find bus fare to Harare to record, as well the money for the recording. At one point, Guspy Warrior came to my rescue and he met some of my obligations.”
Then the good time started rolling. “It might seem like the good times started rolling just like that, but truth is I went through a lot. But again I had to go back to my father and I told him of my desire to pursue music. This was after I had sent him the song Simudza, Usakande Mapfumo Pasi. He asked me what kind of help I wanted and I was very frank with him.
“I told him I wanted nothing more than his blessings and if only he blessed me, then I would be the happiest person on earth. And for sure he blessed me and that’s when I can say I started to see a change in my fortunes.”
Tocky Vibes, born Obey Makamure, says he was born singing. “I must have started singing in my mother’s womb for I don’t know when I started singing. In primary school I was always the attraction, same as in high school. What I can tell you with certainty is when I started recording.”
So how did the name Tocky came about? “I don’t even know. It started when I was in primary school at Rugare Primary that they called me Tocky. Up to now I don’t know what the Tocky was all about, whether it was because I was too talkative or that I walked like a turkey, I don’t know. From hating the nickname, I turned to loving it and I have left it to stick.”
Dating a girl that he said should remain a secret, “because we both can’t be celebrities, because I am the only one who should be known”, Tocky said he has no time for anything except music. “If I am not listening to music, I am rehearsing in the studio or I am on stage. That’s my life.”
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