By Godwin Muzari Memory Lane
He was born John Chimukokoko, but many know him as John Chibadura — a stage name he earned because of his guitar prowess. Still a great among sungura musicians, the legend passed away in 1999 at the age of 42.Many remember him for songs like “Zuva Rekufa Kwangu”, “Rairai Vana”, “Rudo Runokosha” and “Pfuma Yenhaka” among many other hits.
He was known for his trademark “perm” hairstyle with dancer Bata “Manyowa” Sinoio as his sidekick who made shows hilarious. Manyowa remains one of the best comic dancers of his time. His outfits and dance styles excited fans.
And his antics seemed to stimulate Chibadura who would strum his lead guitar like a possessed man. The rest of the Tembo Brothers would get energised to put up scintillating acts. They rarely had disappointing shows, especially in their base in Chitungwiza where Chibadura was later named Mr Chitungwiza.
Many names made Tembo Brothers when they were a hit.
These included Douglas “Tsavayo” Chibadura (backing vocalist), Roderick Chemudhara (bass guitarist), Ishmael Chibamu (rythm guitarist) and Innocent Makoni (backing vocalist)
Others were Sam Mkanga (drummer), Elius Chikwira (drummer), Richard Matimba (Keyboardist), Kingstone Chiridzi (backing vocalist), Thomas Dasinto (drummer) and Philip Dimingo (keyboardist).
Interchangeably, the team was a strong force. They knew how to swallow nights with powerful acts every weekend.
Sadly, after Chibadura’s death, all efforts to keep Tembo Brothers going have been fruitless. Even his sons Simba, Richard and John (Jr) failed to make a mark.
This week Memory Lane spoke to Chemudhara, who is now based in the United Kingdom, for a brief tale about his time with Chibadura.
“I joined Tembo Brothers in 1995. I used to have a band contracted at a certain night club in Domboshawa where I grew up, that’s where Mr Chitungwiza came and asked if I could join him and I agreed. My band was so small to be able to hold shows in many places of the country and I also saw an opportunity to develop my career,” said Chemudhara.
“John was, to me, the best lead guitarist and one of Zimbabwe’s top musicians who used to play the lead guitar in his own way that no one will ever match.”
He recalled how Tembo Brothers toured many parts of the country playing for full-houses and causing stirs where they went.
“We were one of the best bands. Chibadura was a big name. We made hits. We toured and we entertained people. That is the Chibadura legacy.”
Chemudhara recalled Chibadura’s last shows. “The last shows where in Mozambique when we had just come from the UK. I assumed something was going to happen in Beira when he played really amazing new lead guitar notes to the old songs, which touched everyone on the stage.
“We all know he was really a great star in playing the lead guitar but in the last moments he was playing some unbelievable touching notes. He used to exchange guitars with me especially when he was too excited in creating new sounds.”
The guitarist also has sad memories of Chibadura’s last days when he failed to play the guitar in the studio.
“We were in the studio recording his last album ‘Nguva Yakaoma’. Mdhara was very ill that he couldn’t play the lead guitar the way he used to and we could stop recording in the middle of a song to give him time to rest. It was so painful.
“When his condition got worse, we approached the record company seeking financial assistance and one of the officials told us they were not a bank. I was with Mudhara and zvakandibata.”
Besides the sad moments, Chemudhara recalled some hilarious occurrences.
“Mdhara John was always funny but the funniest I’ll never forget was when a band member got a girlfriend. After the show Mdhara akati ahhh ahhh ko mu kombi mangu mune muriwo ndewaani? (meaning the lady). I did not understand what he meant so I went to check, only to find a woman sitting in there waiting for a band member. We laughed with other band members. It was a great team of fun.”
Chemudhara is doing music in the UK with his wife Ruth Tiriboyi and his upcoming album is titled “Famba Nebhora”. It is his 10th album following others that include “Makomborero”, “Chengeto”, “Rudo Kunyanya” and “Focus”
Focus was after his relocation to the UK.
“We did a couple of shows in UK, some of them in London, Coventry, Southend, Liverpool and some surrounding places. My movement to UK did not change much about my perception in music. I can only do better because of better equipment.
“The only thing I’m missing are the guys I used to play with and the good crowds that we used to play for.”
Chemudhara is currently in the country with his wife Ruth who is also a musician and known as “Jiti Queen”.
They are planning to hold some shows before they go back to their base.