By Problem Masau
While it has been common for couples to be musicians in gospel circles, it was unheard of for secular musicians to perform with their wives in the 80s and 90s. When Nicholas Zakaria decided to settle with Margaret Gweshe who was a dancer at Khiama Boys back in the 80s, he quickly instructed the newly married wife to stay at home.
“Musicians were frowned upon by society. I could not let my wife be a laughing stock. I instructed her to stop dancing and concentrate on raising the family,” said Zakaria.
Freddy Manjalima popularly known as Kapfupi unleashed his wife Precious Kabrito to the world under the stage name “Mai Nga”, the comedian-cum-singer divided opinions with a certain section of the society questioning the “wisdom” of letting the wife gyrate in front view of the public.
“Back then people knew me as a comedian. However, my relatives questioned if I was insane to let my wife perform. I told them that she loves what she was doing, added value to the band and people loved her. It was a business decision,” said Kapfupi.
The song was a smash hit and saw Kapfupi’s fortunes skyrocketing and at some point, he even performed overseas.
Meanwhile, the late Dickson Chingaira known in music circles Cde Chingx was also receiving some brickbats after singing with his wife Ntombizodwa. Society was not ready to accept wives to partner their secular musician husbands on stage.
Musicians would not let their wives touch their music instruments let alone come anywhere near them when they were performing.
“It was taboo for women to touch our music instruments, we believed it brought bad omen,” said Josphat Somanje. Shows were regarded as the musicians’ workplace and wives were usually holed up in the kitchen.
The scene that played early this year at Harare International Festival of the Arts, when Daisy Mtukudzi shared stage with her husband Oliver, was unfathomable back in the day.
“Music was a workplace for our husbands. We were not allowed to even attend the shows sometimes. It was just the same as other forms of employment; one could not be seen frequenting his husband’s workplace all the time,” said Barbara, the widow of the late System Tazvida.
For most musicians, they would rather groom a son to keep on the legacy when they died than a wife.
In the case of System Tazvida who had no apparent heir, he groomed his brothers Peter and Isaac. However, the brothers met their demise leaving the legacy in the hands of an “alien” Leeroy Kamusena who finds the going tough and sank into oblivion in the process sealing the fate of Tazvida’s legacy.
“I wish System had taught me to sing and compose, I think I would be keeping on his legacy,” said the tearful Barbara.
When the finest generation of Zimbabwe’s music history started to perish, the sons and daughters stepped in.
Suluman Chimbetu stepped in for his father Simon, Tryson Chimbetu for Naison, Peter Moyo for Tongai, Ammara Brown for Andy and the list goes on.
However, on the gospel scene, musicians have long performed as couples or families. Jordan Chataika who is regarded as the pioneer of gospel music in Zimbabwe used to perform with his sisters.
Gospel singers such as Blessing Shumba, Lyton Ngolomi and Sabastian Magacha have carried on with the tradition.
Charles Charamba who for years has performed with his wife Olivia said they remove the ‘husband and wife’ tag when they are in studio or rehearsing. “When in studio, I don’t expect respect from my wife.
I expect her to look me in the eye and tell me where I am supposed to improve. Likewise I do the same. I have produced most of her videos,” he said.
However, it is on the secular music scene where couples are starting to see the wisdom of performing together. Children of music legends Tendai Manatsa and Selmor Mtukudzi have established a good work rapport as a couple.
Not only do dancehall singer Soul Jah Love perform with his wife Bounty Lisa, he also writes songs for her. Music couple Charles and Namatayi Chipanga popularly known as CharleNam said working together has strengthened their bond.
“I regard my wife as a friend, a co-worker and an inspiration. Working together has brought joy and deep understanding for each other,” said Charles.
The couple has been on a steady rise since they left Oliver Mtukudzi’s Black Spirits a few years ago. Their music carries a jazzy feel while their experience as percussionists enhances the depth of their sound. The Herald