Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Ben Mauchaza: DJ who popularised Rock n Roll in Zimbabwe

By Terrence Mapurisana

Ben Mauchaza, the disc jockey who died on November 14, 2019 in Harare after a short illness and was buried on November 17 at Glen Forest Memorial Park, promoted the more esoteric and extreme fringes of rock and roll music on the then ZBC Radio 3 Station (now Power FM).

The late Ben Mauchaza
The late Ben Mauchaza

He was 65.

Mauchaza became a very popular figure with the type of his hard metal rock music every Tuesday night.

He belonged to an era of rock and roll, when disc jockeys — not marketing, video, or movie tie-ins — made hits, and when an exotic moniker and a gravel-voice gimmick could make a radio DJ “almost” as big a star as those whose records he played.

Mauchaza did not conform to the clichés of the rock n’ roll fast life: being paunchy and badly dressed, he just loved the music.

That was his attraction for generations of listeners, for by eschewing the foibles of rock, and by resolutely championing music that few DJs on Radio 3 would touch, he engendered trust among teenage listeners, retaining their loyalty as they grew up.

According to John Masuku, former ZBC Controller: Radio Services, “Enterprising Ben, always maintained, on a part time basis, his highly popular Rock on 3”, where he featured hard rock, underground music of his era by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rare Earth, The Who, Bad Company, among many others.

Relentlessly professional, Mauchaza’s trademark was amusing, with a style of presentation that was his own, different from any other DJs. He had a dry, self-effacing wit and the ability to broadcast entertaining the whole country.

Time and again, music that seemed marginal on some radio stations when Mauchaza first enthused about it, came to be accepted as being at the heart of the history of rock music in Zimbabwe.

The appeal of his late-night show on Radio 3 lay partly in his ability to surprise the listener, and in the fact that he clearly cared genuinely about rock music.

“It’s painful to imagine that the powerful piercing unique voice on Rock 85 has gone silent, glaring silence that signals the departed of (the) ZIMCO (Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communication) class of 1982. Speak of one born a broadcaster you speak of Ben . . . Ben prepare space for ZIMCO class of ‘82 for we shall follow hopefully be allowed to enjoy your rock vibes ikoko . . . ,” said veteran journalist Tapfuma Machakaire.

He played music by Led Zeppelin, Lynard Skinnard, BTO, ZZ Top, Judas Priest, Jethro Tull, Santana, Styc, ACDC, Kansas, Bad Company, Peter Frampton, Bon Jovi and Meatloaf. He was an advocate for noise, thrash, and hardcore rock.

He always admired innovation during his broadcasting.

Said former music critic Ray Mawerera: “Ben was the DJ. Even outside radio, he was good. At my wedding party, he insisted on playing on long after the agreed contract time had expired. I am reminded of one of his signature tune ‘Go For Soda’ by Kim Mitchel. He had varied sig tunes.”

Ninety percent of the records he played had never been played on radio before.

Disc jockey Ben Mauchaza is widely credited with coining the term “rock 85”.

“His programme was called Rock 85. I think he once said it was called so because it was 85 minutes long. That was around 1985 and we thought it had to do with the year as well,” said another veteran journalist and music fan, Tichaona Chifamba.

Benjamin Mauchaza, according to Masuku was born on January 15, 1955 in Harare. He attended Rusvingo Primary School in Highfield, Mufakose Secondary School for his O’ Level and Ranche House College for his A’ Level.

He joined ZBC in 1982 after completing a Pioneers Journalism course at the then newly-established and late Ezekiel Makunike-led Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communication before it was incorporated into the Harare Polytechnic as the Division of Mass Communication.

Mauchaza had a brief stint as a teacher at St Peter’s Kubatana in Glen Norah, not very far from his growing up family residence in Lusaka Lines, Highfield.

“Straight from journalism school, Ben started off as a radio producer/announcer and reporter. Not content with remaining at one place for too long, rocking Ben joined Zimbabwe Inter Africa News Agency (ZIANA) between 1988-1990 as a news agency reporter.”

Mauchaza’s rock shows had more than a whiff of joss-sticks about them.

They also showed the influence of those rock artists that made it in the 60s and 70s, before a good number of them enjoyed mainstream success.

After paying tribute to Mauchaza on my Classic263 radio show on Saturday, I got this message: “Just as well you played Jethro Tull. The last time I saw Ben, he took my cassette ya Jethro Tull achiti he will return it. Sad he is gone and all I am left with is an empty pack,” said former The Sunday Mail Editor Funny Mushava.

A tireless and enthusiastic advocate of the music he played, the show became extremely popular, and given its success, and the ever-increasing sales of Rock and Roll records in the country.

Mauchaza, found unexpected success at the then Radio 3 with Rock 85, a musically contemporary-oriented show based around hard metal music.

Even some of us who could not understand this head banging music then, I can admit that the show was popular; as it drew more listeners than any other evening radio shows.

Ben and his wife Livia (nee Saruchera) were blessed with two daughters Nunurai and Mazvita and son Tangaitizwe.

The Mauchazas, said Masuku, are members of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Mabelreign where Livia is more visible than the late usually busy, but affable rocker known for his gentleman’s step and very brief conversation style, who spent his last years as an event organiser, director of ceremonies and public relations and marketing consultant.

As for this writer, I last met Mauchaza at the burial of the late veteran musician, radio personality and presenter Hilton “Dr Bobo” Mambo in 2011 at Glen Forest Memorial Park in the capital.

At the end of his evening radio rock sessions, Mauchaza would always say “Ciao Ciao” in a very contagious style before fading into news drums and bulletin. The Herald