One of the Bhundu Boys now homeless in the UK


From playing with Madonna to an Edinburgh homeless shelter.. the rise and fall of The Bhundu Boys. 

THEY played to 240,000 fans over three nights at Wembley. The Bhundu Boys were already one of the most famous African bands of all time but, supporting Madonna in 1987, their career was set for take-off around the globe.

RISE KAGONA went from the heady heights of playing Wembley to not having a roof over his head.
RISE KAGONA went from the heady heights of playing Wembley to not having a roof over his head.

Guitarist and founder member Rise Kagona, 49, remembers that the band had never played in front of so many people before. He said: “The atmosphere was electric. “We supported Madonna along with Hue and Cry. She was really friendly and would come to our dressing room to speak to us after we played.

“We were told she specifically asked for the Bhundu Boys to support her on the tour.”

But nearly 25 years on from those heady days, life has changed dramatically for Kagona. The band, once tipped to conquer the world, fell apart in a blizzard of bad luck, worse management and tragedy as bandmates succumbed to Aids, mental illness and suicide.

Kagona spoke to the UK Sunday Mail at the homeless hostel where he now lives in Leith, Edinburgh. Kagona said: “I was born in Malawi but moved with my family to Zimbabwe when I was a baby.

“Zimbabwe was Rhodesia then and, growing up in the townships, we would listen to traditional jit and lots of British music. I liked Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I would try to replicate their sounds on the home-made banjo I had but it only had three strings so it didn‘t work out too well.”

The Bhundu Boys recorded their first single in 1983 in Harare and, as their reputation grew, they came to the attention of Elias and Veitch, who were trying to promote African music in Britain. They’d had little success so asked the Bhundu Boys to come to Britain and tour in an attempt to promote the sound to a wider audience.

Kagona and his bandmates jumped at what they saw as a chance of a lifetime. He said: “It was weird arriving in Britain because we’d never been around white people. We were segregated in Rhodesia. “I remember wondering whether anyone in Britain would dance to our music.”

The Bhundu Boys’ first gig was in Glasgow and, although their jit style of music was unheard of in Britain, within a year they were snapped up by Warner and asked to support Madonna. Kagona said: “We were even invited to meet Robert Mugabe at the Zimbabwean Embassy in London for tea.”

In 1990, lead singer Biggie Tembo (right) was asked to leave the band and, five years later, he hanged himself in a psychiatric hospital.
In 1990, lead singer Biggie Tembo (right) was asked to leave the band and, five years later, he hanged himself in a psychiatric hospital.

The star later fell foul of the dictator after criticising him publicly. His comments lead to Kagona gaining refugee status in Britain because it was deemed too dangerous for him to return to Zimbabwe. The rise of the Bhundu Boys had been meteoric but the band’s fall would be equally dramatic.

Despite receiving critical acclaim for albums Shabini and Tsvimbodzemoto, their first recording for Warner, called True Jit, was not well received commercially. The band continued to make albums and tour but, during the following years, they began to argue and the group eventually fell apart.

His life is a far cry from sharing a stage with one of the greatest pop stars of all time. But, 10 years on from his beloved Bhundu Boys splitting up, Kagona is enjoying life in Scotland and wants to resurrect his musical career. The Bhundu Boys burst on to the pop scene in 1986 after being brought to the UK from Zimbabwe by Owen Elias and Scot Doug Veitch, who ran the record label Discafrique.

The Bhundu Boys had grown up together in a township in Harare and, within a year of relocating to Britain, they were being hailed as one of the most unique and exciting bands ever to come out of Africa. Their pioneering music was a style called jit, which is a fusion of Zimbabwean chimurenga, rock and roll, disco, country and pop.

One of the most contentious issues was the purchase of a house in London which used up most of the Bhundus’ £80,000 advance from Warner. Kagona wanted to keep the money and put down roots back in Zimbabwe but he was outvoted. He said: “Over a period of time, we were ripped off by people.”

Aside from money problems, there were several tragedies. In 1990, lead singer Biggie Tembo was asked to leave the band and, five years later, he hanged himself in a psychiatric hospital. The Bhundu Boys continued but there was more grief when bandmates David Mankaba, Shepherd Munyama and Shakespeare Kangwena all died of Aids-related diseases.

Deeply religious, Kagona has never drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes or taken drugs and he looks at least a decade younger than his 49 years. He has been living in Edinburgh since 2001 and, although officially homeless, he is happy and looking for gigs for his latest venture, The Jit Jive Band.

Kagona said: “The days of playing on the same stage as Madonna are long gone but, as long as I can play my guitar, then I’m happy.” Daily Record & UK Sunday Mail

You might also like More from author

  • John Ngoni Motsi Kasinahama

    Ngaadzoke kumusha

  • Pardon Midzi

    Ngavadzoke kumba avo

  • Brother rise get in touch and lets see if there are ways we can work together . All is not lost and I know so many Zim brothers and sisters who value your work in profiling our beloved motherland Zimbabwe.

  • haana kumusha here?

    • hovio(vigorony)makanya

      anako but kuna mugabe…..saka ndimwe nhamo..no mvura no magetsi..no chikafu..plus kurohwa …nenyaya ye musangano…its better kugara mu uk

  • a tale of titanic sinking …….

  • Wilbert N’andu

    Its a sad story bt I think these guys lost their track when they reocrded a song labelling our Lord God to be ‘drunk’.Varume Mwari havatukwe chero ukafarisa zvakadii.Tarisai firo yavakatanga kuita after releasing that song.Zvinotoshamisa kunzwa kuti iyeyu asara wacho ari kutamba nhamo nembiri yose yavakaita mhiri kwemakungwa.Chikonzero ndichocho;vakatuka Mwari

    • True Kepekepe

      Exactly what I wanted to say….. wakatuka mwari so what you are getting should not be a surprise. Wakati iwe Mwari tinokushora nekusika Satan, uye wakasika Wine saka unodhakwa! Munokuvara vanaRise… Even the biblical Job refused to insult God when faced with hardships but iwe Rise hako you were bold to do so. Unless you record a song uchiita undo that you will always be stalked nenhamo ine mazino!

      • RM

        That song caused all this. Look at he facts below

        It is written in the Bible (Galatians 6:7):

        “Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
        for whatsoever a man soweth,
        that shall he also reap.

        Here are some men and women
        who mocked God :

        John Lennon (Singer):

        Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said:

        “Christianity will end, it will disappear.
        I do not have to argue about
        that. I am certain.

        Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple, Today we are more famous than Him” (1966).

        Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.

        Tancredo Neves (President of Brazil ):
        During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency.

        Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died ..

        Cazuza (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet):

        During A show in Canecio ( Rio de Janeiro ),

        while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: “God, that’s for you.”

        He died at the age of 32 of AIDS in a horrible manner.

        The man who built the Titanic

        After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be.

        With an ironic tone he said:
        “Not even God can sink it”

        The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic .

        Marilyn Monroe (Actress)

        She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show.
        He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her.
        After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said:
        “I don’t need your Jesus”.

        A week later, she was found dead in her apartment .

        Bon Scott (Singer)
        The ex-vocalist of the AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he sang:
        “Don’t stop me, I’m going down all the way, down the highway to hell”.

        On the 19th of February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, he had been choked by his own vomit .

        Campinas (IN 2005)
        In Campinas, Brazil a group of friends, drunk,went to pick up a friend…..
        The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter holding her hand, who was already seated in the car:

        “My Daughter, Go With God And May He Protect You..”
        She responded: “Only If He (God) Travels In The Trunk, Cause Inside Here…..It’s Already Full ”

        Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died,
        the car could not be recognized what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact.

        The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken .

        Christine Hewitt (Jamaican Journalist and entertainer) said the Bible (Word of God) was the worst book ever written.

        In June 2006 she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle .

        Many more important people have forgotten that there is no other name that was given so much authority as the name of Jesus.

        Many have died, but only Jesus died and rose again, and he is still alive ..

  • Victor Vicman Karonga

    Vakatuka Mwari now they r paying for it

    • kudzotsa evidence

      what a nice comment victor, God is God who are they to question him hetoricaly asking him such insultive questions

    • kudzotsa evidence

      what a nice comment victor, God is God who are they to insult him?

  • Israel Chipere

    Huya uridze naKireni Zulu mkoma Rise.YOU just need one guitar..

  • Dambudzo

    Please ndapota, ipai mukoma ava nhamba yaMakandiwa, hapana anoziva zvingangorongwa naTenzi. Mukoma Rise, we want to see you rise again. Mwari achavhura nzira. Ndatenda hangu.

  • Dzoka uyamwe.

  • Chakutemurazve

  • ENDTYM MESSAGE

    mak hay while e sun shines

  • Godyjones Khuddu

    Varikulyka hamunakudzidza….wuts there 2 lyk?

  • @ willbert i was just thinking about that song yesterday, and just look how biggie died

  • Wilbert N’andu

    @Sonny taura hako shaa.Vanhu vose vakaimba vachituka Mwari the world over vakafa rufu rwunorwadza,vachitambura.

  • Anonymous

    Mwari haatonge achidaro,anoregerera vanomutadzira

    • I. Mhandu

      “Though your sins are like scarlet,
      they shall be as white as snow;
      though they are red as crimson,
      they shall be like wool.””
      Isaiah 1:18 New International Version

  • Nnox

    “…now homeless in the UK”, so how many Zimbos have homes in the UK?

  • Ngaadzoke ombonamata mbichana achikumbira mwari wake anotoita mariyakawanda+expirence iripo.history repeat itslf osiyana nekutuka mwari bt imboko vakafunga kuti zvavaitamari vakaenda mhiri kwemwakungwa vavahombe kunemunhu akasika. pengaudzoke!

  • cde chinoz

    it was rise kagona who did the vocals on that particular song varume musiki haatukwe nyangwe wofarisa sei.

  • arthur

    kutuka mwari wowanzira Mugabe futi – regai atambe nhowa

  • arthur

    i think itsotsi ajaira kudya mari dzemahara now apamabenefits. he should change his way of thinking pachiine nguwa akaenda kwaMakandiwa as someone suggested abva aparara zvachose

  • rise kagona z the one who did the vocals on that particular song varume Musiki haatukwe nyangwe wofarisa sei

  • i m suprised he must come back home, he has a son a a big house and 2 wonderful grandchildren.in DZ

  • Anonymous

    it will teach him to watch his mouth in the future its better off here in Zimbabwe at least we are not beggers home sweet home .

  • Vamurozvi

    Hahahahaha zvinoshamisa kuti vose vakatiza vakashora Zimbabwe vachifunga kuti vari kugona hezvo nhasi vonzi homeless yet vakatsungirira sesu tave ne hobho dzimba dzacho.Takatsungirira uye tichiziva kuti zvichadarika nhasi tigere.Vangani vari homeless ikoko UK shame kutivadzoke kumwe kwava kunyara kuti kungouya pasina chakabatwa after all vakaita mari ikapera mhiriyo nana marwei.Mai nhiya vakasiiwa vakatengesa madomasi vakavaka musha wavo saka unougara sei usina rine buri.Mwari havatukwe wena

    • supporter

      You don’t know what you are talking about.Gara mudzimba dzako idzodzo dzisina magetsi nemvura unyarare. Good luck.People make choices about kwavanoda kugara.
      You have never been out of Zimbabwe saka uchidaro.The meaning of homelessin the UK is different from your understanding yako ipapo.Uchafa ukadzisiya dzimba dzacho and zvozodii.
      Leave the man alone.Ndozvaakada its his choice.

  • Anonymous

    koroja chete Cde rise, simuka tione

  • AUTHER

    brother , rise dont worry pple they say whatever they want but God will always be on your side jehovha vane nyasha vachakuitira nyasha

  • Raymond

    People, what is wrong with you people???? Look, this brother took great care of himself and now he is the only one standing from the whole group. Instead of saying ugly things, we should all learn from him. Money and fame comes and go but life is more important than all that.

  • AUTHER

    Raymond , ndiwe wazotaura Rise looked after himself now pple they start to say nonsense things how many guys here local are are dying poor. Rise ndiye abvaanyanyo shamisa lets be true zimbos please.

  • Wilfred Moyo

    Its unfortunate to see people who once rose to great heights becoming charity cases. This is a lesson to everyone of us to prepare for the future. I hope all Zim artists could hear about this and start investing wisely.

  • Gandanga rekwaDanga

    They should have learned from John Lenon of the Beatles, he said beetles were popular than Jesus, he died in a hail of bullets. TAMABAI NEZVIMWE.
    REPENT, HE FORGIVES

  • come back home my frnd yu got talent yu will make the sky is the limit

  • come back home my frnd yu got talent yu will make the sky is the limit

  • Shindimumba

    Macheso akanga ari ikoko makatamba nenguva dai makatsvaga basa rekutamba chibhasikoro muka replacer Franco

  • Garnett Silk

    Bad Newz

    Rise wafasa..maiti hazvipere handiti makati isu taita mari takutuka mwari …heyaaaa,kutaura kuno kunonga afasa..inonzi FASANOVICH lol

    Good Newz
    Ukapfugama ukati mwari ndiri mutadzi ndine hurombo ndisunungureiwo parushambwa urwu rwadai kundiputira.ndakakanga nisa ndiregerereiwo samasimba..unopona…

  • netsaii

    kana ari kurara musango zvomene ini ndinogona kumuchengeta apa ndiri kurevesa saka ngaandibate ipopano ati ahazvadzi ndiri pachokwadi then we take it from there kwete dzoka kumusha kumusha kupi zvekare tikayamurana mwari anotipa makomborero wee

    • mashindi@gmail.com

      Check
      Wilbert N’andu

      thats where they get it all wrong they curse God if this guy fails to repent he is going tobe drama again infact it has started

  • Crespo

    You problem starts when you were starting some arguements and you decided to excommunicated the legend Biggie Tembo and thereafter you start falling slowly , slowly from the hilltop , sorry ! Its too late and taste your own medicine . Your name as a band member was never known like that of Biggie . You detonated the bond face the hail storm alone, shame!!

  • Errol

    If the god you believe in is so mean to take those kind of revenges is not a god worth our love. He is an arrogant and insecure being if he exists which is by no means obvious.

error: Content is protected !!