The Sunday Mail
Dembo/Dhewa square off
THERE is an ongoing exciting battle for the “sungura prince” title.
Peter “Dhewa” Moyo and Tendai Dembo, sons to fallen music greats Tongai Moyo and Leonard Dembo respectively, both released albums during the first half of the year. Peter’s “Mwana weMurozvi” and Tendai’s “Dzinde” have stimulated debate within music circles, particularly in sungura.
Titles of the albums suggest that the two artistes have a strong desire to continue sipping from fountains created by their departed paters.
Consequently, their projects are hard to distinguish with regards to instrument arrangement.
Yes, we have the likes of Mark Ngwazi, Romeo Gasa, Simon Mutambi, Obvious Mutani, Tatenda and Howard Pinjisi, etcetera, who are also in the equation — but Peter and Tendai’s case is unique.
Apart from direct competition created by the fact that their albums were released a month or so apart, there is also more to their music background. A brief history lesson could help here. Tongai or simply “Igwe”, carved his name in the cut-throat music industry through modifying (or copying if you like) Dembo’s music.
Igwe perfected the sound with time, especially after Dembo aka Musorowenyoka’s demise in the late 90s. Tongai blended sungura and rhumba but still heavily borrowed the enchanting Dembo lead and rhythm guitar strums.
However, he, just like Dembo, was an equally gifted composer, vocalist and guitar player who managed to prove his self-worth with time. Fast forward to present day — Peter and Tendai find themselves going head-to-head, even though their fathers never faced that predicament. The younglings are currently battling for the same market.
Interestingly, they use an almost similar template with regards to beat, vocal flow and stage work.
At face value, Peter seems to have an upper hand.
The Young Igwe, as Peter is affectionately known as by his fans, inherited a well-oiled Utakataka Express in 2011 when Tongai passed on. The band include veterans, among them Spencer Khumulani (bass guitar), Evidence “Baba Gari” Tarabuka (rhythm guitar), Saviours Karikodzi (bass guitar), Matthew Perego (lead and rhythm guitar), Gift “Shiga” Katulika (chanter) and Tendai “Yamathele” Chapatarongo (vocals).
Unfortunately, Peter is failing to capitalise on the head start.
He could have done better on his latest offering “Mwana weMurozvi”.
The six-track album, just like his previous efforts “Mushonga Mukuru”, “Mabasa aMwari” and “Mopao Mokonzi”, is near-flawless, instrumentally. However, that is as far as it goes!
Peter’s uncultured vocals compromise the overall product. He is found wanting when it comes to vocals.
Unlike Tendai, the Young Igwe seems to be failing to identify his deficiencies or to at least take heed of advice from critics.
His voice is simply not good on slow tempos, yet these constitute three quarters of “Mwana weMurozvi”.
“Shuviro”, “Munamato”, “Mutadzi” and VaMoyo” expose the singer’s vocal defects.
Peter’s voice is best suited for fast-paced beats like the one on “Domestic Violence” (remix), and “Murozvi” – which happens to be the only track that has vocals and beat in sync.
If a music tribunal is to sit, I am convinced Tendai’s “Dzinde” would overpower “Mwana weMurozvi” hands down.
Tendai is exuding maturity and a proper understating of music. He has managed to create a balance between his style and that of his late father after taking note of his limitations following the release of his first two albums “Kupakwashe” and “Mushando”.
It is difficult to imagine that Barura Express is an ensemble that Tendai and his brother Morgan rebuilt from scratch 15 years after the group disbanded in 1996. lnnocent Mjintu is the only remaining person with Barura Express links.
The harmony in Tendai’s band is commendable.
The singers’ intonation is now on point. Tendai no longer strains his voice in an effort to sound like his late father although his father’s touch remains visible in his work, especially on tracks like “Chemedzai”, “Rufu” and “Mupi Wemazano”.
Other tracks that complete Tendai’s “Dzinde” are “Sori Dhiya Wangu”, “Changu” and “Mupi Wemazano”.
Mathias Mhere soldiers on
Consistency has become Mathias Mhere’s middle name. The energetic singer has timeously released new albums during the past seven years. His latest offering, “Greater than Solomon”, comes hot on the heels of “Panogara Nyasha” (2018). What is fascinating about Mhere’s music is its ability to satisfy diverse music palates.
In previous productions, he struggled to diversify his beat and compositions, something he started rectifying in 2017 on “Old Testament”.
Last year’s production came laced with beats ranging from Afro-jazz, jit and sungura.
This time around, Mhere broke monotony by enlisting the services of different skilled producers on the album. There is the touch of Lyton Ngolomi, Oskid, Tamuka, Macdee, Maselo and Nigel Chingombe.
The singer tries his hand, or is it voice, on West African sounds and the experiment seems to work well on “Tiri kufamba”, featuring Jah Prayzah.
Furthermore, the singer continues with his narrations of day-to-day issues using parables and powerful vernacular idioms.
Other tracks on the album include “Ndizarurire”, “Mai John”, “Munhu Haasekwe”, “Tsika Dzechipostora”, “Hembe Yemubhero”, “Waikunda Nyika”, “Jakuchichi”, “Chipangamazano”, “Jericho”, “Mafuta” and “Nyika Dzibatane”.
Diana Samkange rebrands
Diana Samkange has transformed. She is no longer that urban grooves “girl”.
Her latest offering “Kumandinde” sums it all up. The songbird now has a strong bias towards traditional music, which not only appeals to the inner soul but exudes Diana’s flexibility on composing and her easiness on the microphone.
Going through the eight-track album, one is left awestruck. It has a hard-hitting compact traditional sound that is gentle to the ear. The timbre of the mbira, hosho, congas and percussion is well-defined and supported by the songstress’ euphonious vocals. A few greats like the late Chiwoniso Maraire used to produce such soothing music. The music is also coming out well on live shows. The singer and mbira player dazzled the audience when she performed at Selmor Mtukudzi’s farewell gig at Foodnest in Harare last weekend.
Dendera crooner Suluman Chimbetu adds flair on the project when he features on track two which is titled “Tovera, Mudzimu Dzoka”.
On “Mudiwa John”, the musician takes a bias towards jit while “Chandinoda” and “Ndine Rudo” attempt to revisit the singers’ vintage touch.
“Kumandinde”, “Tsitsi”, “Rudo Nerunyararo”, “Hondo” and “Gara Pedyo” complete the project.
This Spinalong marketed and distributed album is a must have for those that are yet to witness Diana’s other side.
Baba Harare maintains jit
If it is not broken, don’t fix it! The aforesaid idiom best describes Baba Harare’s approach on his latest offering “Ramba Wakadzvanya”, which is now six months old on the market.
The singer maintains his comic approach on songs, supported by the jit flavoured beat. The album is not very different from his last production “Chikwama Changu”, which carries runaway hit song “The Reason Why”, better known as “Hat Dzemurara”.
However, in preserving his signature touch, the singer applies effort to break monotony. He goes on to try apostolic choral singing and nyawo styles.
The 10-track album has pacifying compositions that tickle the mind and ear.
It is not easy to identify a single track that carries the album. The temptation for many is to single out the opening song “Ramba Wakadzvanya”, but there are equally competing tracks like “Sadza ne Bhinzi” and “Yakasviba”.
“Mafuta”, “Gure”, “Nhonga Nyama”, “Gamha Ukande”, “Zvakanaka Mambo”, “Hymn 12” and Bhinya iBhinya” are the other tracks on the album.
Kumene strikes right chords
Sungura musician, Lucky Kumene, has struck the right chords following the release of his 2019 production titled “Ngoda yaMwari”.
The recent release, which is his third studio album, is doing wonders on the market and carries six tracks namely “Kariba”, “Nyarie”, “maBoss”, “Zvipo”, “Ndouya Ishe” and the much loved title track “Ngoda yaMwari”.
Kumene has been on a steady rise since the release of his first album “Poronki” in 2015. The album was followed by another encouraging effort titled “Vape Moyo” in 2016. The title track, which rides on a love theme, is a fusion of the rich sungura sound that many Zimbabweans and music lovers across the globe have grown to love.
The artistry demonstrated in the guitar work and nicely laid vocals speaks of a musician who is here to stay.
“Ngoda yaMwari” is a masterpiece that has topped radio charts countless times.
Kumene has also launched a website to allow music lovers from across the globe to access his music. A darling of many at the various road shows held by leading radio stations across Zimbabwe, Kumene believes he is introducing a fresh sungura.
The sungura crooner has much respect for sungura pacesetters like Leonard Dembo, Alick Macheso and the late Tongai Moyo.
Chagumuka breaks barriers
Italian-based Zimbabwean musician, Hendrix Chagumuka, has one of the finest, most soulful voices in Zimbabwe, if not in Africa. His music, especially the latest album “Gorekore”, is exhilarating.
Produced by Spencer Masango at Track Records in Harare, the magnificent effort consists of “Huya, “Gorekore”, “Ndinotenda”, “Hura”, “Wangu”, “I Wanna Know”, “Tiringei” featuring mbira queen Diana “Mangwenya” Samkange and “My Story”.
Hendrix’s first album titled “Hupenyu”, released in 2016, showcased his mastery of multiple styles and languages and on the new album “Gorekore”, Hendrix is celebrating his own. Last year, he released his second album titled “Makorokoto” with songs such “Bhiza raMambo” and “Tateguru” featuring TiGonzi.
He has recast some old favourites — old members from his late father Robbie Chagumuka’s band, The Black Heroes, on his latest album. These artistes have made the new album richer in terms of quality.
“Tiringei”, which features “Mangwenya”, opens another chapter in Hendrix’s music career. He sings with accustomed majesty throughout the album – sometimes commanding, sometimes anguished, but always in a forceful way.
“Gorekore” also pays tribute to his late father Chagumuka Snr and many of his fans. It reflects on the past, present and looks to the future through eight lush tracks. There is a natural sweetness to Hendrix’s vocal delivery. He sings with as much supple grace today as he has been doing for the last 10 years before he decided to record some of his stuff. The instrumental softness that accompanies his voice, largely in the form of drums, guitars, trombone and cornet, complements his dulcet tones well, giving the whole album an effortless feel.
The emotion in his lyrical themes and vocal execution proves his hard work.