The icon that was Marshall Munhumumwe

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The first thought that pops in my mind when I hear the name Marshall Munhumumwe is Christmas celebrations with the family, aunties, uncles and cousins the scent of barbequed meat and the sound of laughter in the air. The amount of delight clearly visible on our faces. Munhumumwe was a harbor of many talents, having been a drummist, lead singer and the song writer all at once. His biggest talent though, was evoking feelings of happiness and joy in his listeners. He contributed greatly to the Zimbabwe post-colonial era social life. Born in 1952 in a polygamous family, the most prominent detail about his background is that he was an uncle to the legendary Thomas Mapfumo. Even though he was a prodigy on his own, he acquired most of his skills from watching his nephew in action since he was part of Mapfumo’s band.

His talent became more visible after 1977 when he formed his own band. “The Four Brothers was formed with Never Mutare, Aleck Chipaika and Edward Matigasi. Traditional music was forbidden during the colonial period so the band played covers of western rock songs in bars. Their first break came in 1980 when they sang their first hit song ‘Makorokoto’. It was a congratulatory message to Zimbabwean for attaining its independence. At this time, traditional music was no longer forbidden they made a “guitar based pop” type of music which was influenced by both western rock and the Zimbabwean Mbira instrument. Since there wasn’t much Exposure to Shona music, their music grew popular instantly and they gained national popularity.

In 1984, they made a record with one Patrick Mkwamba under Grammy records. It was titled “Patrick Mkwamba and the Four Brothers”. The Record was controversial with claims from Mkwamba that Munhumumwe stole his spotlight and would not let his talent be seen. Till his death this argument was never settled. In 1886 they released their LP/ record titled Rugare with Munhumumwe as the drummist, lead vocalist and composer. It had hits like “Uchandifunga”. The groovy tune that still evokes festivity moods when heard on the radio regardless of the listener’s age.

They were to grace the world with more smashes in 1988 when they made their LP “Rudo Chete” which had a hit song named after it .In the same year ,they signed a recording with British record label Cooking Vinyl and toured in the United Kingdom and Canada and gained exposure for their band .They made a compilation CD of a few of their singles with the record label .The guardian’s Jon Dennis in his analysis of John Peel BBC Radio DJ ‘s top 20 album list noted that Peel was one of the biggest fans of the band and was often recorded saying that they were “the best live band in the world”. The band recorded four radio sessions with the DJ between 1988 and 2000.They also performed at Peel’s surprise birthday party when he turned 50.

The band made several compilations of their hits around 1996-2000 with Gramma records. In 1997, Munhumumwe was involved in a car accident and suffered a stroke and was rendered unable to perform. He died in 2001.Marshall Munhumumwe ‘s music was entertaining, yes, but it was more than just showbiz, it was educational in a post-colonial era where modernization was starting to take over and it reminded people of our Zimbabwean culture. His songs gave advice to men and women alike.

He sang about love in “Rudo imoto”, against stereotypes in “Mbereko yaramba”, advised people to live together in unity and harmony in “Usagare nechigumbu” and “Guhwa uri mwana waani”. I can’t help but notice how the Zimbabwean music industry took too long to develop in terms of awarding great artistes like Munhumumwe.He surely deserved many awards.

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