Open letter to JP

I hope this epistle finds you a bit more stable than the last time I saw you at Jongwe Corner as you bade farewell to Braveman “Bravo” Chizvino aka Baba Harare, that fine guitarist who was with you since your formative years.

It is my hope that your nerves have settled even before your replacement guitarist strums the first string of that lead guitar popularised by Baba Harare and risk the obvious comparison.

I hear you had auditions and struggled to pick someone, not because talent was in abundance but because you failed to find that special thing that made Bravo tick. It is also my sincere hope that this letter finds you more focused and decided on who or what you really want to be, that guy who charmed the nation with deep traditional beats and rich lyrics or the urban type that wears tight pants and baseball caps, and sings about women shacking their bums.

Are you still that guy emotionally attached to his mbira instrument or have you been swayed by the seemingly glitzy lifestyles led by the likes of DJ Stavo, Diamond Platinumz and the tenderpreneurs we hear you hang out with a lot these days?

Is this a transition to something beyond comprehension by people like me and other ordinary Zimbabweans who do not fly first class, or you really need help figuring all this out? Things can get confusing at times when the change becomes too much.

Remember it was just a few years ago when you left Uzumba on your way to Kambuzumba, which led you to comedian Mabla 10 in Budiriro, then Chitungwiza, before you hit the jackpot.

I was tempted to think it was a transition until I saw how depressed you were with the whole Baba Harare fiasco plus the fact that a lot other guys wanted to leave you. It must be confusing.

Could this be the same confusion that has gotten into your band and seen your crème de la crème abandon ship when talent should be fighting for a place in your band?

But I guess being number 20 on Radio Zimbabwe, number 34 on Power FM, number 24 on National FM and number 15 on Star FM must have confused you even more, shaken you to the core considering that you are the “man-of-the-moment”.

Only a few years ago you dominated these radio stations. You even brought back to life some artistes that had long been condemned to the graveyard of music. Through collaborations you breathed life into their careers and even saw them walk away with accolades.

You must be wondering what is happening to you. Even as you try to find comfort, telling yourself that your videos did well, you of all people know that urban groovers might have made very nice videos but they never really won over crowds the way you did with your previous albums. You of all people know that your PR machine and goodwill for your previous work saw you fill up venues in 2016, not particularly anything new.

You may not admit it but you know that your most popular songs at live shows are still those from Jerusarema and Tsviriyo, not the bubble gum that you are trying to feed the people. Anyway, this was supposed to be a very short letter, so let me cut to the chase.

How do you explain what is happening to you? First, the voting fans across all radio stations abandon you, then you almost lose four band members.

Issues of failure to pay salaries or disagreements over allowances are not peculiar to you; large corporates, listed companies and many bands in this country go through this every day. But what I and many others do not understand is how you are having these problems, considering that you have been filling up venues?

You are the last person we expect to be having such problems. Are your band members refusing to take bond notes? Alick Macheso and Zakari Zakaria left Madzibaba Zakaria to start their own thing because Madzibaba was in the habit of locking up instruments and go for his other job, thus leaving them exposed, unable to work and therefore incapable of providing for their families.

Macheso was deserted by many of his band members, excluding those that vanished in the UK, when his chips were down, when Tafadzwa, his ex-wife, was rocking the boat. That has been the trend.

Splits also happen when partners, equal partners, disagree over money or ego issues.

What is shocking about your case is that band members are leaving you at the peak of your career. Gonyeti left on the eve of your massive album launch and now Baba Harare leaves after playing in front of a full house at the HICC.

What are they seeing that the rest of us are not seeing? What is the real story here? In this economy, why would someone leave a company that looks as financially stable as yours? A band that plays up to four shows a day — not for charity.

Why are the people who are supposed to be closest to you so disillusioned? Or is this a case of band members thinking that the band leader’s fame is theirs as well, only to discover that life is not that simple? Could we soon be seeing Gonyeti and Baba Harare retracing their steps back to you with their tails neatly tucked in-between their legs?

You are a pioneer of a path, your own path. The guy with a unique growth line, which you created and sustained. Your humble beginnings are well documented, from selling beer (ma six pack) at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic troubles to releasing songs that were forgotten before they were even released during your dancehall days.

Your troubles establishing yourself, especially the inner city of the capital where people would offer to pay a certain bar owner so that you would leave the stage is well known. Even that incident where you were playing at a live show then boarded a kombi with one of the guys you had been playing for on your way home to Chitungwiza, is still a good motivational story for many.

Perhaps nobody except yourself saw what you would become one day. You have defied the odds in becoming what you have become. Maybe we will soon find out what you are really made of, perhaps what is happening is indeed beyond our comprehension.

Whatever the case, in light of recent developments, I urge you to step back and re-examine the situation before you move on.

Yours Sincerely

Mtandazo Dube

Leisure Editor

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  • Ras Makate (Mutunhu une Mago)

    Mr Dube, why do you want JP to be what you personally want him to be rather than being himself? He is an artist and a businessman who has to respond to the changing dynamics of market trends, in short he has to please his market and supply them with what they want, he is not telling them what they should want but its actually the other way round. Administrative problems are a norm in any business entity,and I notice that you are not talking about drugs or alcohol abuse here either. The boy is still filling venues and even pre-school toddlers are singing along to his music. Whats your gripe really, do you have some outstanding personal issue with him then (apart from wanting to re-model him as per your specifications)?

    • Chibaba Chacho

      It seems JP is haunted by his rural background in this judgemental letter. The fact that he was number 20 on Radio Zimbabwe is not adequate to evaluate the journey he as travelled thus far in his career. I think the departure of the two band members you mentioned is misplaced because, like any workers at any company or media house, have their own personal ambitions. Its natural and accepted that over time some members will leave. Its not something which is new. Both secular and gospel musicians in Zimbabwe saw some of their members leave for their own reasons but they still command huge crowds. Its normal. JP is someone who is a role model to many because he rose from a modest background and now board aeroplanes as if he is boarding combis. Big Up JP.