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Mutodi’s empire running out of energy

By Prince Mushawevato

Did Energy Mutodi bite more than he could chew? This is increasingly becoming apparent in the wake of revelations that the music empire he built in the past year or so could be heading for a monumental collapse.

Energy Mutodi
Energy Mutodi

Having managed to lure the hugely talented bass guitarist Spencer Khumulani from Peter Moyo’s Utakataka Express, as well as energetic chanter Gift Katulika, who trades as Shiga Shiga, unassuming drummer Guyson Sixpence (in a move that was largely seen as trying to destroy the emerging Utakataka), plus Innocent Mjintu (who had found the tide rather too steep with his ZARE outfit), developments on the ground are suggesting that Mutodi might not be having the energy (if the pun can be excused) to keep the ship afloat.

Speaking last Sunday at the Simon Chimbetu commemorative bash in the Harare Gardens, most of the band members of Mutodi Express cited the absence of live shows, which in turn has a direct effect on their net earnings, as the main reason why they are seeking pastures greener than Mutodi’s.

Added to the lack of shows has been the continued incarceration of the band leader in remand prison on allegations of defrauding desperate home-seekers of their hard-earned cash.

Mutodi’s waning fan base, that is assuming he had any in the first place, has not helped matters, this in spite of the musician having recorded four albums in little less than three years, which should be a record in itself.

First to fire straight from the hip was Guyson Sixpence, who said the year that he spent with Mutodi ranks as one of the least active for him since he became a professional musician.

“I have approached Peter (Moyo) and his manager with intentions to re-join them. They are family and will always be. I think my time at Mutodi Express is up and I’m going back to my roots,” he said.

“I’m just waiting to get clearance from Mutodi after his release from remand prison, and then leave. I’m not pleased with my present life both career and financial-wise,” added Sixpence.

Singing the same tune was Shiga Shiga: “Like I have said before, it’s not about me. I work for my family and if I don’t get money, they will starve. At any given time I have to make sure that my family is well looked after and that I can also afford to live a decent life,” he said.

“When I feel my livelihood is under threat, I always look for other available options. I cannot afford to stick to someone just for the sake of it,” he added.

However, Shiga remained tight-lipped with regards to the groups that he has been in talks with together with his other band members that plan to dump Mutodi.

But sources privy to developments said that the Mutodi Express band members have targeted the high-flying Orchestra Dendera Kings and the rejuvenated Utakataka Express.

Orchestra Dendera Kings, through their publicist Joe Nyangoma, confirmed that Shiga Shiga and some other Mutodi Express band members had approached them.

“We had a chat with Shiga and some of his colleagues. They came to us seeking employment. However, we could not go deep with their case because as far as we are concerned they are still employed by Tatu Muluba (Energy Mutodi). We only discuss business with unattached people,” said Nyangoma.

Peter Moyo’s manager, Suko Dube, also confirmed having had conversations with the Mutodi Express band members.

“There are guys from Mutodi’s camp that have shown interest in joining us, some of whom we have worked with before,” he said.

The decision by his band members to seek a fresh start will come as a dent on Mutodi’s fledgling music career. Some of his critics will easily point to a portfolio, not only full of activities, but diverse activities, as to the reason why his downfall has been this rapid.

A geographer, educationist, politician, real estate agent and businessman, Mutodi might have stretched his energies a bit when he tried to run for political office, as Member of Parliament for Goromonzi South, energies which were further sapped when he was taken in, first in Harare, on allegations of defrauding hundreds of home-seekers of money in a building stands scam.

Before the dust had settled on the Harare allegations, he was taken in by Mutare police to answer similar allegations, with the Mutare residents claiming to have been duped to the tune of US$6 million, charges which are yet to be brought before the courts.

Those woes aside, despite Mutodi’s work (in terms of album quality) improving since he embarked on his sungura journey, support for the band has remained rather lukewarm. And attendance for his shows has not grown either but remained way below average. It is a common joke that at any of the few live shows he has staged, the band members of Mutodi Express would outnumber the crowd and waiters combined.

This has resulted in the band members’ salaries either being cut or not being delivered, which is forcing senior band members to seek other opportunities. The Chigorodanda singer in March this year confirmed that his music business was costing him.

“I don’t get anything from music. It (music) is actually an expense to me since the band members consume all the proceeds. It was an experimental venture that is yet to generate income,” he said.

Also, when he joined the political bandwagon, Mutodi hinted that he would quit music if he were to be elected Member of Parliament. He indicated that he would be replaced by his brother Elasto as the leader of Mutodi Express.

But the announcement, coupled with other challenges that had steadily been brewing within the band, sparked a rebellious attitude within the group members. It confirmed to them that the businessman-cum-musician was not in the game to stay but was just using it as a springboard.

Another band member who spoke on condition of anonymity said:

“I intended to help make big the brand that was created by Mutodi, but I feel that is not going to be possible, not in the near future. He has a number of commitments and that is not proving good for our careers. To him, music is just a pas- time.”

He added: “We have had to endure hardships in the past year or so. We do not hold shows as much as we would want because we are not being booked or due to the fact that our leader will be attending to some of his other commitments.”

Though Sixpence has made his intentions clear, with Shiga Shiga approaching the Orchestra Dendera Kings, it is the future of Spencer and Mjintu that remains largely uncertain.

Whilst Mjintu has been linked with a possible move to his former and embattled group Orchestra Mberikwazvo, however, music lovers feel his services might be appreciated more if he were to join the rejuvenated Barura Express fronted by the duo of Morgan and Tendai Dembo.

The veteran Mjintu has proved that he can add panache to the youngsters’ band that has somewhat found its footing. He mesmerised fans on the group’s set with his guitar wizardry at the launch ceremony for Extra Kwazvose held in Chitungwiza recently, proving why he had the opportunity to play alongside one of the country’s finest musicians, the late Leonard “Musorowenyoka” Dembo.

This leaves only bass guitarist Khumbulani currently stranded. His possible shift to Utakataka is not possible. The Kwekwe-based outfit currently has two aptly talented guitarists in the form of Savious Karikodzi and Emmanuel “Manu” Sajeni, while the Orchestra Dendera Kings has the unrivalled Moffat “Mofela” Nyamupandu.

Orchestra Mberikwazvo has, well, Alick Macheso.

To date, the flamboyant musician has released a total of four albums, the first being a rhumba offering titled Kumasese in 2010, then with his first experimental the Real Sounds of Africa and before discarding them to try his luck in the sungura genre with a star-studded sungura outfit, the Mutodi Express. He has since recorded three albums, namely Sekawo Mbichana, Magetsi Ngaabake and the latest Kuita Kuri Kwenyu. The Sunday Mail

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