Untold story behind Mukanya’s homecoming

By Godwin Muzari

For 14 years, promoters and business people tried to bring self-exiled musician Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo back home for a show without success.

Thomas Mapfumo on stage at Glamis Arena recently
Thomas Mapfumo on stage at Glamis Arena recently

He had performed in South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana, but refused to return to his motherland. Even pressing family issues could not bring him back home.

But history was made when he finally stepped on his ground of birth on April 18. It was 10 days before his homecoming bira that took place 12 days ago at Glamis Arena.

It was an exceptional show that brought back memories for his fans who used to follow him and it also introduced him to a younger generation of music followers that appreciate his music.

Many factors contributed to his failure to come home on previous occasions.

Many factors also contributed to his eventual trip back home. Many people have been asking how he was finally convinced to come for that historic performance.

It is never easy to deal with him.

Mukanya has always been like that. He is arrogant and unpredictable.

Indeed bringing him back home was not an easy task as this publication’s interview with a member of promotions company that facilitated his trip, Entertainment Republic, proved yesterday.

Max Mugaba of Entertainment Republic revealed the process of bringing Mukanya home as well as the challenges and resistance that they faced until the musician was finally on stage in the early hours of April 29.

The process began last year. They initially agreed that he would perform in the country on December 31.

“We agreed on December 1 that he would make it for New Year’s Eve concert. It seemed perfect because it would have been a good date considering that many people want to celebrate the New Year in style,” Mugaba recalled.

“After some days, he told us that he would not be able to come because he had to sort everything out for his family. He wanted to travel with his whole family because they had not been home for a long time.”

Mukanya finally travelled with his family for personal assignments that he attended to when he was in the country. But it seemed the family was not prepared to travel in December and the promoters had to postpone the show.

“We agreed on the April 28 date and we thought everything would be smooth until challenges came towards the days of show. Other promoters wanted to counter our arrangement and they began marketing his homecoming show. They wanted to grab a deal behind our back and they caused a lot of confusion that led to many complications ahead of the deal. There is one popular musician who was also involved in the deal to take over the show and his company was seriously involved in negotiations.

“We asked Mukanya and his management about the purported show and they said they had only been approached, but had not finalised any other deal besides ours. But we were worried, because we were hearing stories of the offers that they were making to Mukanya in order to take over the show.”

Mugaba said the most trying time came in the last days towards the show and Mukanya almost aborted his trip. It took a respected man in the local tourism industry to intervene and convince Mukanya to come home.

“We had bought tickets for him and his band members in UK and US and we thought it would be smooth. We had agreed on a certain figure that we were supposed to pay, but things changed on the last minute when Mukanya said he wanted to get all his money before travelling.

“It seemed he did not trust us and we suspected he was getting false information from our rivals. We ran around to raise more money, but we could not convince him until the very last hours before his departure.

“We had to rush to South Africa on the eleventh hour to get our business partners to guarantee that we were going to pay when he gets home.

“On the last day we had to talk to him until a few minutes before his check-in for the flight to convince him to come. He had threatened to abort the trip. It was after intervention from a senior member in the tourism industry that he agreed to travel”

Mugaba said after Mukanya’s arrival they had a meeting and were given 24 hours to raise the remainder of the performance fee.

They failed to raise it and two days before the show there was a plan to cancel his performance. The musician’s team called for a press conference two days before the show and Mugaba says it was aimed at announcing the cancellation of the show.

They made another payment and the press conference was called off when journalists had already gathered for the event.

“We paid the last instalment on Friday, a day before the show and that is how the dust settled. It was not an easy road to the show. We had to endure challenges and hardships as we dealt with Mukanya.

“We are happy that the show has been done and we are grappling with post-event modalities.

“We are happy that people enjoyed the show and we will keep engaging Mukanya on more assignments because he was finally thankful for the show. He was a happy man when he left.” The Herald