By Dakarai Mashava
Veteran drummer Silas Makumbe says Mutare-based Assegai Crew is a beautiful dream that won’t die as long as he lives.
The unassuming Makumbe was among a group of Mutare youngsters who teamed up in the Eastern border city in 1991 to form Assegai Crew.
Other founding members of the band that became famous for creating a distinct sound called Ragga Manyika were Stobert Chidikano, Hebert Keyara, Mike Moyo, Brian Nhanhanga, Brian Chiriga, Robert Kagora and Totichii Makureya.
Sadly, with the exception of Nhanhanga who left to form his own group called Too Open, Makumbe is only surviving Assegai crew founder member.
The other original members of the group, including band leader Chidikano on whose vocal and song writing prowess Assegai Crew flourished, are now late.
“It feels terribly lonely sometimes. All those wonderful musicians that I joined hands with to form Assegai are now gone,” said Makumbe after the recent launch of the group’s fourth album Tauyahe (The Comeback) at the Book Café.
“But for the sake of the Assegai Crew brand and all the members of the band who passed away I have to soldier on and I will.
“I have sadly witnessed critical members of the group pass on and I have continually been involved in the band’s rebuilding efforts but thanks to God I am still alive to tell the beautiful Assegai story.”
Though Assegai Crew has lost a number of lead vocalists, Makumbe singled out the death of Chidikano as the biggest blow that the Mutare band has had to contend with in its 23-year history.
“Chidikano was an unbelievable song writer and vocalist. He wrote the songs on the albums Zvese Mari (1997) which included arguably our biggest hit to date Mai Bhoyi (Kanyama Karipi) and Nyarara (1999).
“These two albums, courtesy of Chidikano’s brilliant song writing and vocals made us a force to reckon with and our shows at the defunct George Hotel in Avondale where we were the resident band attracted full houses. But sadly he died in 2001 leaving former backing vocalist Hebert Keyara to take over the lead vocals.”
With Keyara as the lead vocalist, Assegai Crew released Mabororo Disaster in 2001 but the album somewhat failed to measure up to the lofty standards reached by Zvese Mari and Nyarara.
“Death continued to wreak havoc in Assegai Crew. In 2002 Tendai Muparutsa who had joined us a year earlier from Runn Family died. Two years later Keyara who was now our lead vocalist passed on as well,” said Makumbe.
“We roped in Thomas Marimbika as the new lead vocalist in 2004 but we were not happy with the with the band’s fortunes. At that point, Oblong Mariseni, who was the bassist and I, decided to leave Harare and return to Mutare so that we could form a new Assegai Crew.”
The veteran Assegai Crew drummer is confident that the new-look Assegai Crew has what it takes to return the Ragga Manyika singers back to the top.
“The new Assegai Crew has both sober habits and youth as well as a burning desire to surpass the high standards set by the talented founding fathers of the group,” added Makumbe.
“The belief we have in our future was the main reason why we named our just released album Tauyahe.
“The new album has generated a lot of support and we will soon be based in Harare. The response we got at the just ended Chimanimani Arts Festival makes us very optimistic about the future.
“Our management team involving Khumbulani Dube and Tapiwa Mbutsa is putting things into place so that we can return to our Harare base once again.”
The new version of Assegai Crew includes Makumbe (drums),
Oblong Mariseni (bass and vocals), John Chimbodza (keyboards), Massey Mbutsa (lead vocals and keyboards), Petros Ushe (lead guitar and vocals), Derick Sithole and 18-year old ex-Mutare Boys High student Terrence Makoni (keyboards). Daily News