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I helped shape gospel music: Mukundu

By Lovemore Chikova

He likes to call himself a national guitarist and no one can begrudge veteran gospel music guitarist Clive “Mono” Mukundu. This week, Lovemore Chikova (LC) visited Mukundu (CM) at his Monolio Studios in Hatfield, Harare which he prefers to call “The Groove Garage”.

Mono Mukundu at his Monolio Studios
Mono Mukundu at his Monolio Studios

Read on his story.

LC: How did it all start?

CM: I was nine years old when I started playing makeshift guitars. But it got serious when I was 17. It was in Mufakose in 1988 when I formed my first band, Sarungano Chanters, with my two friends. Our level failed to match the standards. There was only one recording studio, Gramma. They would first hold auditions where you play live. We failed the auditions.

LC: Was that system fair?

CM: Yes, it was. That is why those days the quality of music was very high. If you fail, they advised you on your weaknesses and you could go back and address the grey areas. From Sarungano Chanters, I joined Chax Brothers based in Norton in 1989 where there was Admire Kasenga. There was no leader at the group and I was elected the leader in the same year. We were playing sungura, chimurenga and reggae. We tried to record, but it was not successful.

I left and joined Chikokoko. But Chikokoko was like a default name. The actual name of the group was Crocodile Rockers Gang. It was in 1992 when we recorded an album called “Ruvengo” and before it came out, the leader of the band went to the studios and changed the name to “Chikokoko”. He then changed a number of things we had agreed on how the band was to be run. This contributed to the demise of the band as everyone left in protest.

After that I joined small bands as a session musician and I tried to form a reggae band twice without success.

LC: Were you already a Christian by this time?

CM: No. My defining moment came in 1994. Evangelist Admire Kasi from Zaoga was looking for a lead guitarist for EGEA Gospel Train. Zaoga Church had some evangelists who would move around preaching while accompanied by a band. Evangelist Kasi heard about me and came to my home where he preached to me. He invited me to his home and preached to me again and that is when I accepted Jesus and this was my entry into gospel music.

LC: Was this transition easy?

CM: Some people had preached to me before Evangelist Kasi and I was already considering coming to church. It did not take me time to decide. When he came it was the final push and it was sort of automatic. In Evangelist Kasi’s band there was Ivy Kombo, Caroline Chiwenga (now Mujokoro) and Ivy’s twin sister Annie. They were really good singers.

Their first album was “Be Thou My Vision” but I was not part of the group when they recorded it. I joined them when they recorded their second album, “Ndinokudai Jesu”. They did other projects, but these I only came back to record with them because I had already left the band.

LC: This was so short. Why did you leave?

CM: The problem was on money. Churches usually do not want to pay. When you claim your dues they start giving you verses.

I moved on and joined a church called Faith in God, now known as Christian Life Centre. I formed the church band which we named Clicet. I had to teach band members to play the instruments, but by that time I had already started being hired by other gospel bands.

LC: So, you were already on demand?

CM: There there were few church lead guitarists. Gospel music was still evolving and there was a mentality that if you play prominently you were not Christian. I left FIG after four years and started playing with almost everyone in gospel music — Celebration Choir, Mahendere Brothers, Ivy Kombo, Elias Musakwa, Fungisai Zvakavapano, Pastor Haisa, you name them. I was like a national guitarist and that was the time gospel music was at its peak.

Before that, gospel music was not being taken seriously and many artists were not recoding. There was this colonial mentality to think anything African is demonic. But we changed that and people started appreciating gospel music. Recording artists were now using the local genre and people started realising that they can enjoy the gospel through local music. It was professional and there was originality. There were no copy cats.

I briefly joined Revival Ministries in 1999 before I went to the Zimbabwe College of Music in 2001.

LC: You were already an established guitarist, why go to college?

CM: For the formal side of things. To prepare myself so that if I go out of the country there will be no difficulties in playing with any band. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of music because I had learnt to play the guitar from the streets. I graduated in 2002 and apart from the certificate, I won the Best Guitar Student award. I was in the same class with singer Dudu Manhenga and guitarist Norman Tapambwa.

LC: What happened after college?

CM: I went to teach at the college in 2003, but in February of the same year I was called by Oliver Mtukudzi. It was sort of playing for a national team. He is very well travelled and we did that a lot, learning from musicians in other countries.

LC: From your Facebook posts I can see that you still have some relations with Tuku.

CM: Every time I leave a band I try to maintain my relations. Among those I worked with, Tuku is the closest. We are actually closer now than when I was in the band. I often go to Pakare Paye and we can spend the whole day charting.

LC: What happened after you left Tuku?

CM: I spent two years touring Europe with the late Chiwoniso Maraire after which I concentrated on my studio work.

LC: How did the idea of a studio come up?

CM: It started when I was with Musakwa and he made me a producer while he became the executive producer at Ngaavongwe Records. I had not thought about it, but I started realising that I had the gift. I started buying studio equipment while I was working for Tuku and I would call some of the best producers to come and teach me to operate the equipment. By the time I left Tuku in 2007, I could operate studio equipment and my studio was already known that I could survive. So, I was not stranded when I came out of Tuku’s band.

LC: How many projects have you recorded?

CM: They are many, including Jah Prayzah, Alexio Kawara, Cynthia Mare, Hope Masike and Transit Crew. I have recorded four artists from Zambia so far in this studio.

LC: Lets go back to gospel music. What is its future?

CM: Gospel music is on a slide. There is too much copying and lack of professionalism. It is stagnant and in terms of live shows there is nothing. There was a time when I could survive on shows because there was a gospel music show every weekend. With things like piracy, interest has gone down. The economy has also worsened the situation. Sometimes you cannot recover your costs after organising a show.

LC: Finally, your family?

CM: I am married with two children. The first born Takakunda is a guitarist while the girl is doing art and design. I am the second born in a family of six. The Herald