Here is introducing 10YearsOfHope DVD to you.
I was in my very first year of music school, having a tea break when I received a phone call from Penny Yon of the then Book Cafe. She was asking me if I’d be willing and able to take on Tuesday Night slots at their venue.
I was surprised and very exited at the same time. You need to understand this about these Tuesday Nights; Tuesday Nights at the Book Cafe by Fife Avenue Shopping complex had been Chiwoniso Maraire’s nights. Also understand that I had never quite managed to go watch Chiwoniso or, say, Jazz Invitation in the next door venue , The Mannenberg because I wasn’t as yet quite allowed out that late. Also understand that Penny and the Book Cafe had known about me and my music from a recent Bocapa Exposure competition ‘we’ had entered then decided against way before the the first round ended (I do not quite remember why we had stopped so suddenly).
In any case, I had a band, yes, but it was a band of amateurs (I could have very appropriately named us ‘The Amateurs) who knew very little about what they were diving into. This probably feeds into why/how my music then was very minimalistic and …. for lack of a more befitting term, pure.
Chiwoniso’s departure to the States was what opened this door for me. However, much as I was totally excited about this, I had no idea what then to do except to go on stage and perform (which I was still learning too). There was no management then, so all I know now had to be leant very fast and on the job. At some point in the beginning I hadn’t even realised that was my fate- dive, swim or drown! Yes, there was a time I sat and waited to be discovered.
After The Book cafe’s call, I started performing at there on Tuesday Nights. Harare was not as hard as it is now. Bands were much fewer and playing more varied music also. In fact, I might have been the only commercial mbira-playing youth after Chiwoniso. The others were distinctly Jazz, or Sungura etc etc. People also still had a bit of disposable income, so as soon as word got round, I started getting a bigger audience with every Tuesday I performed. Online platforms were not as alive and hot as they are now. The WatsApps, Instagrams and Snapchats certainly weren’t there yet. So life was not as hurried as it is now. and I managed to slowly learn about the music business.
But still it was hard. We used to walk back to Chinhoyi Street where I took my ‘kombi’ transport back home to Highfield. Cherry on top of the cream; we’d walk with our instruments (those who had them), ‘bagless’ in our hands. I would carry the soprano marimba with my marimba musician then, the virtuoso Songwe Limbikani (whom I had met not too long ago in UMOJA). Later on we started affording cab money to the ranks, then much later cab money home, and now, some of us have cars …. Thank God.
…, and believe it or not, even though I wasn’t even ‘bathing as well as I do now’ or sounding half as I do now, my first experience with a sugar-daddy (the female musician hunting type) was in those very early days. Guess what his point of entry was? … offering us a ride home! Girls, get a driver’s licence at 16 during your O-level holidays and empower yourselves against this type of vulture. I am not sure how I escaped this one, Gods grace I imagine but I still see him every now and then, half fan half whatever. I even remember his name. There is a lot of them in the industry, infesting just about every corner of space. Married, with a bit of money or a lot, addicted to tender, fresh meat every now and then. The DVD covers my take on that a bit.
My band back then had Elisha Herema on bass, Blessed ‘Mahobho’ Rukweza on percussion, Owen Phiri on drums, and the ever-smiling Theresa Muteta on recorder. You don’t want to hear how we sounded then …. (I am smiling right now). No, in fact, you want to hear how I sounded back then. I remember expressly playing a mbira that was certainly out of tune, and not hearing it. I have this footage and it shall be featured on 10YearsOfHope DVD. The good thing was that I was still in music school, and we later did a great deal of ear training and such. I improved, so don’t panic! I still train myself, vocal and more. I guess this answers many people who ask why creatives ‘waste’ their time going to school. A good voice does not equals good voice control, good pitch, a good ear for keys etc etc. GOD gives the gift, you nature it!
Anyway, long story short, before I left for Norway in 2011, years after stepping on stage at the Book Cafe, I was filling up that venue on a Tuesday night! I repeate – Tuesday Night! Perhaps it sounds trivial to some but believe you me, it was a thrill to me. I did not achieve that (early) achievement on my own.
Witness Matema, started coming for my Tuesday Night gigs almost from day one. I did not even know who he was then, and of course, back then I also didn’t even know about talking to your audience on and off stage. On his Radio shows (bless his soul) he started talking about this little girl playing on Tuesdays at the Book Cafe. He started coming with friends for drinks and my music. He only told me this much later.
Also my family, oh, my family! I know I often joke that chairs (the most loyal of audiences) were my very first audience, but in fact, that’s a lie. My family was my very first public audience. I was blessed enough to have plenty siblings. They always came for my Tuesday Night gigs. One was still a student nurse then. She and two of her very loud friends always came for the shows. My other sister was and still is at HIT (Harare Institute of Technology) she too brought friends. She was also the first among us to buy a car. So you can imagine how much me, the band and our instruments abused that car!
The other very supportive (perhaps most importantly so) arm in my first years was my band. Band members are almost aways in transit, I say this to many young bands who ask me how one keeps a band together. These days the exodus of bad members is worse than before. Rest assured, band members are there for a season, especially when the general economy is sickly and the specific band economy is equally unwell.
So if you trace the history of my band you will notice that I have gone through several drummers, for instance. One left for greener pastures in South Africa; one started his own band; one did not agree with my band money sharing ways; one just never quite got into the correct groove of my sound etecetera. Band members leaving you is no train smash, it could even be termed natural. It affects the growth and consistency of ones sound, that’s for sure. It also leads to leaks of your sound into other bands’. Several measures can be put into place to reduce this or even completely avoid it. That’s a whole other story! The DVD gets into that detail.
Anyway, be that as it may, I must say GOD blessed me with neat musicians. I have never worked with a nuthead whom I’d end up fighting with, or who’d badmouth me or vice versa …. The last bit of that statement is not entirely true. More of that is on the DVD. But my point (which is entirely true) is that I have been blessed with great band members. Of utter special mention is Elisha Herema whom I started with from 2007 during those early Book Cafe days up to now. Over all those years, Elisha missed only one gig, because his girlfriend (now wife) had been attacked by thieves. Another special band member is ‘Mahobho’ Blessed Rukweza. He has been there from those same days too, and is ever jovial, and loves looking good which is always a good thing for the band image.
This is how I stepped onto stage professionally for the first time.
10YearsOfHope is a celebration of these ten years since my stepping onto a professional stage. Lots has happened in those years, the good, the bad and the ugly!
Brace yourselves for this DVD as a very special gift from me to you. We release and launch it on Friday September 8th 2017, at Alliance Francaise de Harare.
Do join me.