By Jonathan Mbiriyamveka and Sydney Kawadza
Popular musician Andy Brown has died. He was 50. The prolific lead guitarist succumbed to severe pneumonia at Parirenyatwa Hospital yesterday, a day after his birthday. His widow Nadine Brown said Andy died hours after he was admitted at the hospital.
“Since he came back from Switzerland some three weeks ago, he had been unwell. And he was admitted this morning only to die at 5:45pm,” she said in tears. Last night, mourners were trickling to his house at Number 8 Gibings Road, Cranborne, Harare.
Burial arrangements are yet to be finalised, though Andy had indicated his wish to be buried at his rural home in Mberengwa. Condolences started pouring in last night with many describing “Muzukuru” as Andy Brown was affectionately known as a hero in his own right.
Social websites were awash with messages of condolence with Zimbabweans at home and abroad expressing shock at Brown’s sudden death. Brown was born on March 15, 1962 in Mberengwa. He did his secondary education at Founders High School in Bulawayo. Andy first made his banjo at the age of six and would dodge school to play it in the bush.
Later, he began teaching himself how to play the guitar. Brown grew up herding cattle and goats in Mberengwa, his mother’s rural home. Having grown up herding cattle and goats, Brown behaved exactly like any other boy whose feet were cut and clothes torn as they scrambled downhill running after errant cows or calves.
True to himself, Brown revealed in an interview some years back that he would never sever his ties with his home area and would never throw away Karanga values.
“I have already completed building a house in Mudavanhu Village, Mberengwa, and I usually take my family there for weekends. That is where I was born and it remains my roots,” he told The Sunday Mail then.
And when he left the rural setup for the bright lights of Bulawayo, Brown found himself befriending other coloureds and assuming a totally new life and culture. As a result, Brown’s life was half this and half that. But whatever he did then, music was still the centre of his life.
Once Brown donned a mop of long curly dreadlocks which he treasured very much. When he left Bulwayo in 1983 and landed in Harare he aligned himself to the rave queen Rozalla Miller who had just come into Zimbabwe from Zambia where she was born.
Together with another guy known as Boyke Moore, the three formed the group Grabb. They parted ways in 1984 when Brown joined the Rusike Brothers, another group whose members were all born in Zambia.
From Rusike Brothers, Brown became one of the founder members of Ilanga, the group that had talented musicians like the late Don Gumbo, Busi Dube, the late Adam Chisvo, and Chinx Chingaira.
Still Brown did not stay long with this group. When he left, he went to South Africa where he was a session musician. He appeared on one of Jambo’s music videos. On his return to Zimbabwe, he formed his own group, The Storm and launched his career.
With this group, he rleased albums such as “Feed Me”, “Gondwanaland”, “Tigere”, “Hondo Yesadza,” “Retrospective” and “Passage of Time”. It was at this time that he met Chiwoniso Mararire who was a backing vocalist in his band.
His peak was around 1997 when he toured Nambia, Mozambique and many other countries where he shared the stage with the likes of the late Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango, Ismael Lo, Yondo Sister, Koffie Olomide, Boom Shaka, Baba Maal, Kanda Bongoman and others.
Original members of his group included drummer Sam Mataure, Keith Farquaharson, Chiwoniso, Ian Hillman, Thando McLaren and the late Adam Chisvo. After this popularity waned, Chiwoniso opted out of the group in 2001 to pursue a solo career. Another backing vocalist, the late Mwendy Chibindi, later joined Oliver Mtukudzi.
And as if these two had the welfare of the group in their palms, Brown’s career seemed to take a dip and there was talk about his end. But as a herder, Brown seized the opportunity that came with land reform and became instrumental in the campaigns that followed.
This time, fronting for the More Fire Crew, Brown raised the ire of opponents of land reform who quickly sentenced him to death, musically. He is survived by his wife Nadine and 10 children. Burial arrangements will be announced in due course.