By Bruce Ndlovu
It is the album that was almost never made…Isono Sami, released at the turn of the century by Lovemore Majaivana, was Majaivana’s farewell, released when the artiste was about to turn his back on his country and profession, retreating into a self-imposed exile that now looks, two decades later, permanent.
“That album was a sort of farewell because he had not been interested in making it,” said long-time friend Albert Nyathi, the only artiste that was featured on what looks like Majaivana’s last effort.
“He was convinced to do it by Tymon Mabaleka. Tymon told him that he was a man of the people and he needed to do something for them one last time,” he said. Nyathi, who was featured on the imbongi version of the title track, does not remember the details of those recording sessions that brought about one of Magee’s most well received albums.
In fact that recording process was a bit of a mystery, with Nyathi saying he, like a few others, were brought in when producer Mabaleka had already done the bulk of the work with session musicians. Keyboardist, Paddy Ndlovu, refuses to speak about the process of making that album.
“My journey with Majaivana was a long one and I can’t tell you about the making of that album on its own. I would have to sit down with you to tell everything that led to it,” the Harare-based veteran musician told Sunday Life.
For almost two decades, Majaivana has retreated almost completely from public life. Rarely has a figure who flirted so publicly with fame rejected it so completely later on when he felt that he did not fancy it anymore. If fame is a drug, Majaivana is the addict that kicked the habit and after spending 19 years “sober”, he has not bothered to tell the world why he decided to get clean.
Like many great men before and after him, Majaivana has perhaps been loved more in his absence than when he used to walk the streets and dance on stages in Zimbabwe. Absence, they say, breeds fondness and this has been certainly true in Majaivana’s case. Where is he now? Does he think about music? Is it true that he is now a pastor? Is he going to come back?
Many questions are asked, few answers are forthcoming. This is mainly because the one person that is supposed to give the answers, Majaivana, has maintained a stubborn silence since the turn of the century. As the years drag on, faithful fans await the second coming of Magee, hoping and praying that he comes and give them a proper farewell. The people want to say goodbye to their hero.
But they can’t do so until Majaivana himself comes and gives them the go ahead. This is something that he is apparently unwilling to do, like a stubborn corpse that rejects its own burial. But perhaps those that have been trying for a definitive goodbye may be ignoring one thing: Magee may feel like he already said his farewell with 2000’s Isono Sami.
When one listens to that album they realise that perhaps, in retrospect, the departure of Majaivana into exile is something that could have been foreseen. While Majaivana had cried about his desire for a better life in most of his career, those cries had grown into a scream by the time he recorded Isono Sami.
“Majaivana uyakufa lonyaka, thabani majaha,” he sang on Yingwe Bani.
When the song came out, some might have wondered whether Magee was prophesying his own death. To prophesy one’s death is one thing and to encourage people to be happy at the prospect of one’s demise is quite another. Why would people be happy at the death of one of Zimbabwe’s greatest musicians?
Majaivana did not die physically in the year 2000 as he predicted on the song. Instead he has gone into a coma of sorts, a state in which fans are aware that he is alive but they have no way of interacting with him. The music icon now exists is a different world, one his fans can’t access.
In Isono Sami, Magee’s lyrics were as bewildering as ever. On the album’s opener Xolani, he asks for forgiveness from the masses, but he does not make it clear what he is apologising for. The listener was asked to forgive a crime or transgression that he had no knowledge of. On Angila Mali Magee talked about how he was done on his luck, unable to afford the finer things in life like refined beer.
“Sengvel’ emazweni mina, laph’ okulesinkwa seTiki lomosobho wamahara.” These sounded like the words of a long suffering musician who sang like he was in studio with his suitcase packed, ready for departure.
Magee had always spoken about how the music industry was not rewarding him and other talents. His frustrations were heard but rarely were they taken seriously.
“I spent 15 years of my life lining other people’s pockets. Sure, they didn’t force me to, and now I wanted to get out,” he told the late academic Themba Nkabinde in an interview.
That sense of frustration was even more evident on Bakhathaz’ Moya Wami where Magee seems to be competing with the song’s wailing saxophone to see who can express sorrow the best. “Abanye bathi ngyagula mina, bayakhathaza umoya wami,” Majaivana said.
That song perhaps best illustrated Majaivana’s mind state before he left the borders of the country of his birth for good. He felt like a man unappreciated and persecuted, dogged by the rumours that plague celebrities.
The life that Magee has chosen after his departure suggests that perhaps this is in fact true. Perhaps he was indeed tired of all aspects of a life lived in public and decided to retreat completely from the glare of the spotlight.
As people continue to clamour for his return, it might turn out that the farewell that they have been crying for came 19 years ago. Sunday News.