By Bongani Ndlovu
In a tiny changing room at the back of the Large City Hall stage in Bulawayo, timeless Chimurenga music icon, Thomas Mapfumo, was a calm and collected fellow before stunning all and sundry with a non-stop four-hour show last Saturday.
He was in a jovial mood as he was happy to be back in Bulawayo after nearly two decades.
Perhaps at the back of Mukanya’s head, he was nervous to be met by a paltry crowd as was the case at one of his last shows at the Large City Hall in 1999, but he covered that with a wry smile.
In the packed changing room, Mukanya was surrounded by male members of his Blacks Unlimited group and the setting was like a traditional idale/dare where male elders would converge to deliberate on serious issues. The three female singers had left the room to prepare to take to the stage.
The changing room was hot, stuffy and it was engulfed in a cloud of smoke that came from a “special cigarette” that was lodged nearly at the tip between Mukanya’s index and middle finger of his left hand.
Slumped on a chair wearing his trademark straw hat, his thumb, small and index fingers were holding the rest of the bunch of his “special cigarettes” in a small rectangular transparent plastic sealed bag.
The mood backstage in the dressing room was jovial and Mukanya was prepping his band, cracking one or two jokes and giving a word of advice here and there.
This was Mapfumo, not Mukanya that people know on stage, the human character to the Lion of Zimbabwe.
Like a grandfather heading a dare/idale, he spoke about the youth mostly and declared that he would not retire soon.
“The country is for the youth. The young people should be in the forefront of trying to develop this country. They shouldn’t sit back. They’re the future leaders and they should be vigilant for the betterment of the country,” said Mukanya.
He urged youths to shun violence saying without them in the forefront, the nation will not move forward.
“I urge the young to build each other so that this nation is not taken for a ride by people who want to use them (youths) to destroy this nation,” said Mukanya.
“You should shun any form of violence where when you don’t have money for a scud (opaque beer), someone says here’s money, go beat up someone. That’s not right thinking.”
When his age mate Oliver Mtukudzi suffered a stroke two weeks ago, there was a call that people like them in their advanced age should consider retiring. Mukanya would have none of it, describing such calls laughable as many international greats such as him are still performing.
“That’s a joke. There’s nothing like retiring in music. I’m not working for a pay check to be told that I should retire. As a footballer, you can retire because one would’ve grown old, but I still can use my vocals.
“It’s different from footballers who use their feet and legs to play. People like Winston Rodney, Jimmy Cliff and Ija Man are all old and they have grey and white hair, but you won’t hear their people saying they should retire. Why should I?” quizzed Mukanya.
He said he would retire when he breathes his last as he has many things to do like helping young musicians grow.
“You retire when you die. Even if you don’t perform as often on stage, you can help the young artistes with their music. I’m still a musician and I won’t change that,” he said.
And Mukanya seems to know that he’s in the twilight of his life because when asked what his plans were, he said it was all up to the Almighty.
“I can wake up and say that tomorrow I want to do such and such, but I wake up dead. There’s nothing you plan that’s definite, it’s only the Creator who knows.
“You can be planning for tomorrow and he’s laughing at you knowing that the next day you’ll die,” chuckled Mukanya. The Chronicle