Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Could this be the death of sungura?

By Garikai Mazara

It is quite sad, and ironic, too, that when the genre that most Zimbabweans have come to identify as their own, sungura, is facing challenging times, the king of that genre is facing personal problems.

Alick Macheso
Alick Macheso

That Alick Macheso is the king of sungura is non-debatable and the sooner he recovers from the personal problems that have entered his bedroom, assuming that the problems have had a material effect on his performances and musical career, the better it is for local music, sungura in particular.

On face value, there seems to be no correlation between Macheso’s marital problems and his career. His last attempt, Kwatabva Mitunhu, did not impact heavily on the market, and that was well before his domestic woes came into the public domain. So one might conclude that there is no relation between his problems with Tafadzwa and the manner with which his album has been poorly received.

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There is hope, though, amongst his fans that the recent developments in Macheso’s personal life will likely spur the cougar in him and that the next album is likely to be a hit, typical of his Zvakanaka Zvakadaro days, an album with six hits.

There is also another school of thought that still mourns Tongai Moyo’s death endlessly. If Tongai was alive and kicking, our sungura scene would be a lot better, a lot hotter, the chorus goes. Rivalry, this school of thought further argues, is the key to any genre and the moment that Dhewa breathed his last, that is the moment that sungura also breathed its last. At least for the time being.

This explains why dancehall has risen to take that gap which has been left yawning by sungura.

Or could it be that dancehall filled the gap that was left open by urban grooves? Urban grooves, the genre that made artists like Ngoni Kambarami, Diana Samkange, Nox, Roy and Royce, Roki, Plaxedes Wenyika, and a host of many other artistes popular. Remember how urban grooves nights were popular, first at the now closed Sports Diner (where horse-race betting is now taking place) and later on at the equally closed KFC?

Though various theories and explanations have been thrown around regarding the emergence of dancehall, and the seemingly poor patch that sungura is going through, what is not arguable is that music is dynamic, very dynamic.

Whereas the Sex Pistols drove thousands crazy during the 70s, the same cannot be said about that kind of appeal today. For we have Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Pharrell, among other names, running the show today.

Whilst it might have been very optimistic to hope that sungura, because it is a home-grown genre, would run the show until eternity, a simple look at the ever-changing music landscape will show that no genre, nor artiste, can hold forte for eternity.

For instance, rhumba music used to be the music at almost every party, forcing upon us artistes like Papa Joze (Ndochi) along the way. When rhumba was the craze, almost every now and then Harare and Bulawayo would play host to Congolese artistes and Kanda Bongoman would perform in the said towns as regularly as Macheso does today. Then just like that, rhumba went out of fashion.

In some quarters it might seen as mischievous when an allusion is made to rivalries but truth is that such relationships have existed, locally or internationally, with an ease reference being the composition of such songs as Leonard Dembo’s Madhiri, which many assume was a tribute to Simon Chimbetu’s incarceration. Chimbetu, for his part, hit back when Dembo had gone six feet under, composing Haina Window.

Though Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo have for long denied the existence of any rivalry between them, it is a public secret that the two would not drink from the same cup.

So it is in that context, that rivalry is good for any genre, that is why many are arguing that the absence of a fierce rival to Macheso might be the reason why sungura is now on a low. Well, the music scene might be having Suluman Chimbetu and Jah Prayzah, but it would be a misnomer to call their co-existence with Macheso anything near a rivalry.

When part of Macheso’s band left Orchestra Mberikwazvo for Sulu’s Orchestra Dendera, there seemed, at least for a while, to emerge a pattern of rivalry but that their genres are as different as day and night, the rivalry did not live for long. Besides, Sulu, given his age, appears more of a son to Macheso than a rival.

But with Tongai Moyo and Macheso, it was neck and neck. An urban legend goes on to allege that they even competed when it came to the fairer sex, at times clashing at the same woman. That is the kind of rivalry that is missing today, and you can feel it in Macheso’s compositions, that they tend to be rather laid back. His latest album lacks that punch, the hitting lyrics, which were commonplace at the height of his feud with Dhewa.

Extra Kwazvose, fine they might be an off-shoot of Orchestra Mberikwazvo, but we are yet to find out how good they are. Their first offering did not convince many, if any, of the sungura followers, that they can be a threat to Macheso. Which leaves their second release, made available to the market on Wednesday, an album to listen to attentively.

Nicholas Zacharia, fine he has been there for decades now and his Khiama Boys is where Macheso was born and bred but that Macheso went on to steal the limelight from him, the so-called Senior Lecturer, can only be testimony of the kind of competition he can be expected to give to Macheso.

Pengaudzoke, if they had been as united as they were from the beginning, should have been the band to give Macheso some form of competition but the Somanje brothers are like oil and water, yet they were born of the same mother and father.

So for the local sungura genre to keep vibrant, it rests with the likes of Suluman Chimbetu and Jah Prayzah to keep the fire burning so as to replicate what prevailed in the 80s. In spite of different genres, John Chibadura, James Chimombe, Marshall Munhumumwe, Leonard Dembo, Mukoma Ketai, Solomon Skuza, among a host of other names, kept the local music on the charts. The Sunday Mail