By Trust Khosa
Itai, son to departed music legend Ketai Muchawaya, is no doubt one talented young artiste steadily building his career with each passing day.
The 35-year-old who took over the reins at Simba Brothers after his father’s death is determined to keep the fire burning.
The media-shy Itai says he is driven by passion and currently he has been working with Alick Macheso as an opening act.
He silenced the doubting Thomases at Macheso’s 51st birthday celebrations held at Jongwe Corner last Sunday.
However, Itai’s career would mean nothing without mentioning his late father Mukoma Ketai who touched hearts of many with his all-time classics.
H-Metro Assistant News Editor (Entertainment) TRUST KHOSA (TK) had a chat with the Simba Brothers heir (IM) who shared with us some of his late father’s wishes, trials and vision.
Besides unpacking the late Kasongo Band founder’s legacy, he also opened up about his own career, family legacy and love life. Read On…
TK: Tell us your brief profile?
IM: I was born on the 29th of June 1984 in a family of 10.
On my mother’s side, we are four and my mother Jane Dinhira (late) being the first wife.
Many father had four wives but he preached unity and up to now I get well along with my siblings.
I attend Tamuka Primary School in Unit C, Chitungwiza.
For my secondary education, I enrolled at Howard High School (Mission) where I wrote my Ordinary Levels and passed with flying colours.
Afterwards, I enrolled at Beverly High College where I did my “A” Level.
I could not proceed to tertiary education due to lack of fans after my father’s death in 1999.
After my father’s death, a close relative managed to send me to “A” Level but she could not afford to pay for my tertiary education since my mother also died in the year 2000.
TK: How was the experience being raised by a polygamous father?
IM: Basically my father loved all his children and he provided for all of us. He also sent us to better schools through the money he realised from music.
There was no single day that I recall or saw him fighting with his wives. Maybe, they had a way of solving their issues behind closed doors.
TK: What exactly did your father tell you prior to his death?
IM: It’s unfortunate that I did not have enough time with him when he died in 1999 since I was in boarding school.
He used to visit me when I was in primary school.
He only visited me once when I was in boarding in Form One due to illness and work commitments.
Sadly, he died on the 30th of July and his wish was for us (children) to be united and stick together.
As the eldest son, he wanted me to be a unifier who would not forsake his siblings.
My father wished me to be the leader of the family after his death and I am trying my best to fulfill his wishes.
TK: How did you receive the news of your father’s death?
IM: I got the news of my father’s death through my cousin and a son-in-law who drove to Howard Mission.
They did not inform me of his death when they came to pick me at school but I only sensed that something was wrong when we reached home as people had gathered.
I could not stomach it since I was very close to him and my world had almost collapsed?
TK: How did you manage to overcome the pain of losing your father?
IM: It took me so long to heal. At school, my father’s music was not played during variety shows which helped me to heal.
My friends gave me strength as they comforted me but it was not easy to forge the pain.
TK: How best can you describe your late father’s personality?
IM: He was a jovial character when all was in place.
My father was a person who wanted things done the correct way and he would open up on what he wanted.
In short, he was a straight forward man who wanted the truth to be said as it is.
TK: As a young artiste, what influence does your late father have in your career?
IM: My father used to write songs which are lyrically rich. I was inspired by the message he wrote in most of his songs which drove me to follow in his footsteps.
Of course I have two albums to my credit namely Ngoma Ndiyo ndiyo released in 2014 and Ngei Muchidero (2017) but I try by all means to write songs which are lyrically rich as he did.
TK: Why was your father given the moniker Mukoma Ketai?
IM: He got the name Mukoma Ketai from the days when he was in the liberation struggle.
He continue using the name when they assembled Kasongo Band which other ex-combatants like Rex Moto Moto, Marko Sibanda, Chenjerai Musere among others.
My father was trained in Tanzania and that’s most of his songs were done Swahili.
In fact, my father was the one who popularised Kanindo after being exposed to the genre when he was in the East African country training as a soldier.
TK: Tell us about your calling for music?
IM: I can safely say music ran in my blood.
I realised that I was born an artiste when I was in grade one and two when I joined he percussion band.
In grade five, six and seven, I became a marimba player.
When I was in form one at Howard Mission I joined an acapella group.
Later on I joined the school choir until I was in form four.
In between, I used to attend my father’s local shows where I would join him on stage when he played some of his chart-toppers like Zuva neZuva.
When he died, I was got a surprise from my cousin who gave me a guitar that was left by my father.
He told me that it was left by my father and it’s there since it has a sentimental value.
I learnt to play the guitars using but at the moment, I have kept in a safe place as a souvenir.
It reminds me of the love and faith my father showed me then.
TK: How did you inherit your father’s band and what strides have you made so far at the helm of the group?
IM: It was not an easy road inheriting my father’s band since there were numerous challenges.
When I inherited the father’s band, some had already died while others had joined other groups.
I had to start afresh with new people who were inexperience or not much familiar with my father’s music.
Former Orchestra Mberikwazvo guitarst Donald Godo was the only experience member that I had but the rest were inexperienced.
Donald was groomed by my late father before he had some stints with the likes of Thomas Makion (late), Somandla Ndebele and Macheso.
In 2007 when I recorded my first album, I almost gave up when the songs where recorded went missed.
We had finished recording the album but the engineers at Gramma Records told us that hard drive had crashed.
I incurred a lot of costs and Donald who was more senior in the band rejoined Macheso.
I almost quit because I thought I would launch my career in 2007.
After the heartbreak, I took close to seven years when I returned in the studio in 2014 to re-record the songs which disappeared.
This time around I joined Diamond Studios who helped me to realise my potential.
In 2017, I recorded my second album – Ngei Muchidero – with the help of Jabulani Ndlovu of Trutone Studios.
Prior to that, Jabu had recorded my debut album in 2014 at Diamond Studios where he worked before he set up his own stable.
TK: What can you say about the appeal and reception of your music?
IM: So far so good. I can’t complain at all. However, I took long to revive it and some people had already forgotten about him and his music.
Therefore, there is need for aggressive marketing on my side to be at the level where my father reached.
TK: Have you filled your father’s big shoes?
IM: To be frank, it’s not easy for us to fill our father’s shoes.
As a son of a legend, I’m trying my best to fill the gap.
In my case, I am driven by passion and I wouldn’t want to see the legacy he left behind fading.
Of course I will never be at par with him but I can only do my best to be recognised.
TK: As the heir to the Simba Brothers, what do you miss most about your father artistically?
IM: I wish my father was alive watching me performing on stage.
I vividly recall the days that he used to invite us on stage as he played the song Zuva Nezuva but the Lord ruled otherwise.
TK: How did your father instil discipline among his children?
IM: Like I said earlier, my father was a disciplinarian who used to whip us in line.
He once gave me a thrashing after I broke the curfew. He wanted all his children to be indoors at 6pm and once you fail to do so without a valid explanation he would not tolerate nonsense.
TK: Did your father live unrecorded songs prior to his death?
IM: There is a song book that he left behind but I haven’t started taking some of the songs.
At the moment, I am only recording my own compositions and his remix.
I will only start taking some of the songs in the new album which I am recording this year.
My third will be out sometime in September or October.
TK: Beside music, what’s your fallback?
IM: I run three grocery shops in Chitungwiza since music alone cannot sustain me and the family.
I opened my first show 10 years ago and right now I have three shops in Chitungwiza.
TK: Tell us about your love life?
IM: I am now a family man blessed with two daughters – Praise, four, and Munopaishe, two.
I’m married to Nyasha Chitou.
TK: Would you want to be a polygamist in future?
IM: To be honest, I wouldn’t want to be a polygamist.
I pray that I stay with my wife for life and I will be glad if God blesses me with two more children.
TK: How do you handle women who throw themselves at you?
IM: I take all the ladies as my sisters. I also liken all the old ladies for my mothers’ and this is how I have managed to conquer.
TK: What piece of advice do you have to sons and daughters of departed and living legends?
IM: Firstly, I urge all the sons and daughters of living and departed legends to be focused when venturing into music.
It must be a calling and not by default.
When it is by calling, it’s easy for one to achieve their goals but if it’s by default then it’s hard to achieve our goals.
Tinofanira kuzviva chinangwa chacho chatiri kupindir mumagitare.
In my case, I was driven by passion and I enjoy my work as an artistes whether there are returns or not.
I wouldn’t let my father’s music die when I am still available able to sing as well.
TK: Your memorable show at the helm of Simba Brothers?
IM: I thrilled fans in Warren Park D Primary School during a National FM programme Gamba Remumanzi.
I was shocked by the attention I got from fans who splashed money of stage when I performed.
I last encountered this at my late father’s show where fans would do the same.
I was really humbled that fans still appreciate my father’s music almost 20 years after his death.
TK: Your worst show at the helm of Simba Brothers?
IM: I don’t recall any to be honest. We always give our best whether it’s well attended or not?
TK: On a parting shot, who do you credit for your success?
IM: Firstly, I would like to thank the Lord for the talent he gave me.
I also want to thank my family, fans the media – both print and electronic.
I would also want to thank Alick Macheso and Nicholas Zakaria for the love they are showing me in my career.
Lastly, I will always cherish my father for that faith he had in me as well as the talent that he imparted to me before his death.
TK: Thank You for your time.
IM: You are welcome. H-Metro