Innocent Mjintu at the crossroads

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Inocent Mjintu (in red suit) is likely to face resistance in rejoining his Zare as a leader, though sources claim he can be just another band member

Tanyaradzwa Munouya
Fiery rhythm guitarist Innocent Mjintu is torn between re-joining his former bands, Barura Express and Zare.
Barura is a group that Mjintu helped structure back in the 1980s while Zare is an outfit he handed over to his son before joining Mutodi Express some two years ago.

The Sunday Mail Leisure is reliably informed that after dumping the fraught Mutodi Express, Mjintu has been struggling to make ends meet.

The talented guitarist was said to be presently having talks with Tendai Dembo, son to the late Leonard “Musorowenyoka” Dembo, for a possible return to Barura. Before coming up with this option, Mjintu was said to have tried to reclaim his top spot at Zare, but the move is proving difficult.

His equally talented son, Learnmore, already has a strong grip within the band, a development that is making it difficult for Mjintu’s comeback.

In an interview last week, Tendai confirmed that Mjintu approached him in search of employment.

“I can confirm that Mjintu has approached us. It’s true that he wants to return and we have been discussing about how we are going to work together. The discussions are progressing well such that I’m sure we will soon be working together. He will be part of our show tomorrow (last Thursday) and others to come,” he said.

Tendai further added that the return of Mjintu and the touch of Bothwell Nyamhondera on their forthcoming album would help the band regain the glory that characterised it in its heyday. “As a band we would be glad to finish our project with Innocent (Mjintu) since we have always appreciated his experience, talent and touch when it comes to playing the guitar and music in general,” added Tendai.

However, when this publication sought to find clarity on this development, Mjintu was not willing to reveal his cards, deciding to play them close to his chest.

He denied having approached Tendai, but instead said the young lad (Tendai), came to him for advice on how best to go about his music business.

“I am not back at Barura Express. I’m simply just helping these guys perfect their project since they come to me in need of assistance for a number of projects that they have lined up,” explained Mjintu.

He added, “Actually I’m working on a new project with my son’s group and I hope it will be on the market soon.”
A band member at Zare, who spoke to this reporter on the sidelines of a family show that was held in the capital, indicated that Mjintu had been considering re-joining the group, but not as a mere employee (guitarist).

The Zare Band member revealed that the development did not go down well with some of the members that had to endure some days of crisis after Mjintu decided to abandon ship for the so-called greener pastures at Mutodi Express that were, however, not to be.

“We are comfortable with his son (Learnmore). He is doing just fine and I think if he is given time, he has potential to go far. If Innocent (Mjintu) comes back, some of us might be forced to abandon the group,” said the band member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. With this pressure, Mjintu has naturally been forced to search for other avenues to earn a living.

According to information gathered by this publication, the rhythm guitarist has been given the green light to record some of his songs with the group.

But the idea of him getting back to the helm of the group has been completely dismissed by the band members.

“As a group we have no problem with him recording some of his stuff with us. What we just want is Learnmore at the top,” said the Zare Band member.

Mjintu started his career at Barura Express under the tutelage of the late Leonard Dembo. He was to later join sungura maestro Alick Macheso after the group (Barura Express) struggled to find its footing soon after the demise of Dembo (Leonard).

It was during his stint with Macheso that his graph was to transcend to another level. He became so popular to the extent that he was convinced that he could go it alone. Indeed, he went on to secretly record his debut album with his new group, Zare. However, the album did not do so well.

Eventually, he left Macheso’s Orchestra Mberikwazvo and tried to boost his new ensemble’s popularity.

Success proved elusive. And it was during those tough times, around 2012, that a new lifeline was to come from Energy Mutodi at the then Real Sounds of Africa.

On his move to the Real Sounds of Africa, Mjintu said his job was to ensure the group’s versatility and carve a niche in sungura.

He, together with Mutodi, managed to record a number of sungura albums under the new name Mutodi Express.
But again the group flip-flopped and failed to create the desired impact on the music industry. This created problems for both Mutodi and the band as they were now not getting their hefty salaries as had been promised.

Again, Mjintu was on the move.

But this time around with the various reports doing rounds, we are yet to see what card the talented guitarist will play. Mjintu’s career in music spans more than two decades.

He started playing a guitar when he was in Grade Five.

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