The Sunday Mail
Jonah MOYO — the legendary sungura musician who rose to stardom in the early 1980s with chart toppers such as “Solo naMutsai” and “Barbra” — believes he made the most of his long and rewarding music career.
“I can confidently say I made hay whilst the sun was still shining,” he said.
“Two of my biggest achievements were sending my children to good schools and buying a modest house.”
The father of four, who comes from a poor background, is now employed by Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) as an instrument instructor in the Department of Performing and Visual Arts.
He joined the institution in 2020.
“I managed to send my children to good schools and they are all degreed. One is an actuarial scientist based in South Africa; the other one is a computer engineer and is based in Japan.
“My daughter is an accountant whilst my other son studied music at university and is now into music full-time,” said the 66-year-old musician.
He also spoke about his house in one of the leafy suburbs in Masvingo.
“When I bought this house for $25 000 — which was a lot of money then — I was one of the few black people who had houses in Rhodene. Very few musicians managed to buy houses,” he added.
“Life can be very beautiful. At one time, we embarked on a six-month tour of Europe. We performed before appreciative crowds in countries such as Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Belgium, to mention but a few. What more would a musician want?”
Moyo has a soft spot for South Africa, whose citizens he believes better understand and appreciate his music.
“Very few people know that we performed before an estimated crowd of more than 25 000 people in Thohoyandou. South Africans appreciate my music and they regard me highly.”
In Thohoyandou, Moyo was at one point the main act during a musical concert in which South African songstress Makhadzi and Ringo Madlingozi were supporting acts.
Apart from performing live, the revered singer was often hired to teach individuals to play the guitar and help South African musicians record their music.
On the local scene, his group, Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, was always fully booked and would sometimes perform at different venues for more than 20 straight days.
“We were all over the place. We performed from Zambezi to Limpopo and at times we had national tours that lasted a month.”
During the early 1980s, the group was so popular that the late national hero, Dr Oliver Mtukudzi, and the late Leonard Dembo would perform as supporting acts.
At his peak, Moyo won 44 gold discs, which were based on actual music sales, as opposed to voting.
He insists he is the first Zimbabwean musician to sell over 100 000 records.
“People have often been misled. I was the first Zimbabwean to sell 100 000 records. I did it with the song ‘Ruva Remoyo Wangu’ in 1981,” he said.
His track “Solo naMutsai” sold over 100 000 copies and was adjudged the 1982 Song of the Year.
His other songs — “Barbra”, “Wangu P”, “Anoshaina neMabhebhi” and “Too Cheap” — all sold over 75 000 copies.
At GZU, the musician runs several musical shows for the institution and also does voice coaching, audio recording and mastering.
As part of his work, he has also helped inmates at the Mutimurefu Prison record a six-track album.
“GZU students always keep me on my toes. I teach them but I also learn a lot from them.
Their eagerness and enthusiasm prompts me to do thorough research. I am learning a lot from them,” he added.
Moyo composed and produced the song “Masvingo Yotinhira”, which is the GZU graduation theme song.
Meanwhile, Devera Ngwena is presently working on a new album, “Masvingo Nemutserendende”.
The singer might not have reached the same levels as revered musicians Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo but he is a happy man.
“Some of the artistes progressed simply because they have good managers.
“I am, however, satisfied with the little that I have so far achieved.”