The Sunday Mail
DÉJÀ VU! The axiom best describes legendary Chimurenga music icon Dr Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo’s current state of affairs.
Since the beginning of the year, Mukanya has been holding what can now be termed “infinite farewell gigs” around the country. Apart from Harare, the singer has held gigs in areas like Murombedzi, Chitungwiza (where he has performed twice at the same joint within a month) and Guruve.
Mukanya justifies the move saying it is a way to raise funds to pay outstanding dues to band members who were part of his “Peace Tour”. The predicament, he says, was created after promoter of the December tour, Max Mugaba of Entertainment Republic, swindled him.
But this is not the first time the “Ndogura Masango” singer has had difficulties in packing and zipping up the bags. Whatever home is, true it remains that the land which holds one’s umbilical cord remains best.
When Mukanya returned home 14 years ago, after a brief sojourn in self-imposed exile in the United States, the firebrand singer’s farewell gigs that year, 2004, became one long record which ended up having neutrals and fans alike asking if the musician was ever going to leave the country for his new adopted home.
Back then, Dr Mapfumo gave his fans what ended up being an overdose of “cheerio gigs”, naturally the theme of the show ceased to make sense. Not that we want to see the Chimurenga guru gone, far from it, he just has to make concrete decisions and stick with them.
There are many people, this writer included, who would not mind partying with the music guru week-in-week-out. But Mukanya initially gave the impression that he was pressed for time and had more important issues awaiting him in the United States.
However, the decorated singer can be pardoned.
Mukanya last week exclusively revealed to this publication that he is in the process of finalising his permanent stay in Zimbabwe. The confirmation gave substance to information privy to The Sunday Mail Society that the man who penned the highly emotional song “Ndangariro”, off the album “Exile”, in which he poured his heart out describing how he missed home, is planning to return to homeland for good.
“I have a couple of people that I’m currently in talks with. Tine hurongwa hwekuti ndiuye kuzogara kuno (we have plans for me to come and permanently stay in the country) in a not so distant future. I will only be visiting America and other places for gigs,” revealed Dr Mapfumo.
“There are reports that have been made suggesting that I’m leaving the country on such and such a date including this coming Monday (tomorrow), but I’m going to be around a bit long as I have issues that I need to finalise before leaving.”
And the numerous gigs, it is being said, are a way of ascertaining if the move, to stay home permanently, is sustainable considering his livelihood depends mostly on music, live gigs to be precise. Pundits argue a permanent return for Mukanya could open a fresh wave for the crooner.
Some feel the demise of music superstar Dr Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi has left a gap that Dr Mapfumo can easily fill.
After all, Tuku himself capitalised on Mukanya’s absence at the turn of the millennium to become a force to reckon with in and outside borders.
The “Bhutsu Mutandarika” singer has shown clear intentions of permanently moving to Zimbabwe even before coming for the initial homecoming gig dubbed “Welcome Back-Big Bira” last year in April. He appears to have had enough of the diaspora.
“Staying in a foreign country for more than 14 years is not a joke. I have created links and projects that are currently running in the United States. I cannot just wake up one day and say I’m no longer going back to the States, it has to be a gradual process,” said Dr Mapfumo.
“I had functional businesses and a private life before I left Zimbabwe. I also managed to create the same in America but my fans should not despair though for I never planned to stay forever in the US. Ndinotoda kugarawo muno (I also want to stay in my country)”
Mukanya was last month honoured by the Harare City Council (HCC) for his immense contribution to music.
Under the deal, the singer was given freedom of the city, meaning that he will be exempt from paying rates among other things defined in the city’s policy. An additional package of the deal will also see HCC give the singer a residential stand in the capital. This in addition to a new house that the singer is said to have received from a relative seem to be buttressing the “permanent return” narrative.
Talk of soft landing. The veteran singer was for long struggling to concede that he now wants to return home for good. Probably it is because he is suspected to have long disposed his only house in the capital.
This explains why Dr Mapfumo was booked at a local hotel for the duration (about 10 days) of his stay during the initial visit in April. This time around he first got an apartment to lodge before moving in with a long-time friend.
Mukanya relocated to the United States of America at the turn of the millennium. He came back some three or so years later and held sold-out shows at Boka Tobacco Auction floors.
But after 2004, he never wanted to set foot in the country to the extent that he did not pitch up for his mother’s funeral, burial or memorial service.
The general sentiment had been that Mapfumo would not come back into the country as he feared for his life because of the politically charged messages in his music. However, politicians and the police pointed out that the revered singer faced arrest for allegedly buying stolen luxury vehicles.
The Chimurenga music icon has twice landed in Zimbabwe since the coming in of the Second Republic in 2017 — with no harm befalling him, an arrest or threat on his life. Below are excerpts suggesting the singer’s eagerness to permanently return home. The interactions with this writer include conversations from the time Dr Mapfumo was still in America and after returning to Zimbabwe.
First hint on returning home after 14 years
“Vanhu veZimbabwe ngavasaita doubt yekuuya kwangu (the people of Zimbabwe should not doubt that I’m coming). I can assure you that in April (2018) I’m coming there.
“I’m looking forward to be back in Zimbabwe to reconnect with my roots. America is not my home, home is where the heart is and my heart will forever be in Zimbabwe.”
Why he went into exile
“The reason why I left the country was based on my security that time. I got a tip-off from my friends who were within the establishment that my life was in danger. They (President Mugabe-led Government) were not happy with my music and I was declared an enemy of the State. My stay in America had nothing to do with cars, I gathered it was a political ploy by the previous regime to muzzle my voice.”
Speaking after landing home
“It is not going to be the same again. I now wish to spend more time with my relatives, friends and fellow countrymen. Hapana anoda kugara kana kufira kunyika kusiri kwake (No one wants to stay or die in a foreign land).”
“This is home and I have a strong desire to be in my country, visiting any other nation. There is no other place that I can call home other than Zimbabwe, kunze uko tiri vashanyi (we are just visitors abroad).
“It was never my wish to stay that long abroad but circumstances then (political) forced me.
“It is my wish that the political and economic environment in our country improves so that we don’t continue losing talent to other nations.”