The Bhundu Boys were arguably one of the best music groups in Zimbabwe having made history by becoming the first musicians to play in Europe.
The group hogged the media limelight in the 1980s with their hit songs ‘Chekudya chose’ and ‘Hupenyu wangu’ which made waves on local stations. The band is recognised as one of Africa’s best bands of all time.
The group was formed in April 1980, at Zimbabwe’s independence. The name “Bhundu which means jungle came from the dedication the young men and women gave during the liberation struggle.
The group went on to record their first single in 1983 and from there their reputation grew. The group became popular in the 1980s with their first two albums ‘Shabhini’ and ‘Tsvimbodzemoto’ . They started off playing in township beerhalls until they were spotted by one Steve Roskilly, a former property developer, who began recording them at his studio in Harare.
Under his guidance, the group went on to have four number one singles in three years on local radio stations. At the height of their career, American star Madonna personally requested that the band support her for the three nights she played, to a total of 240,000 people, at Wembley in 1987.
Whilst in London a packaged special edition of the Bhundu Boys’ first two albums was released in July 2001, under the title The Shed Sessions. According to reports, the double CD, priced at £12.95, remained in its Top 25 for 13 months. At one stage the CD reached Number Two. The group went on to be signed by one of the world’s record labels Warners (WEA).
Under the label, the group toured North America, Australia and Hong Kong where each band member received around £120,000, according to reports. The group was so famed that at one point made a string of number one hits, even outselling Michael Jackson with the song ‘Hatisitose’, which stayed at the top for 12 weeks.
The end of the group is a sad story to many music fans up to now. Problems started when the lead vocalist Biggie Tembo decided to quit. Some of the reports say that the Boys argued over money and whether they should buy a house in London for their base. Tembo left the group in 1991 after what he termed ‘irreconcilable differences’. With Tembo out of the band, the Bhundu Boys’ fortunes plummeted rapidly.
When he later asked to rejoin the group again, he was denied by the group’s founding member Rise Kagona, according to reports. In July 1995 he was found dead, suspected of having committed suicide. The other group members Shakie Kangwena, David Mankaba and Shepherd Munyama have also passed on.
Biggie Tembo’s son Biggie Marshall Tembo Jr, in 2013 announced the revival of his father’s legacy by saying he was going to launch his album under the Bhundu boys title in that year. However, the album is yet to be launched until now.
Chekudya Chose (Rugare, 1983), Hupenyu Hwangu (Rugare 1984), Discafrique release in UK under licence from Shed Studios, Shabini (DiscAfrique, Afrilp02, 1986), Tsvimbodzemoto (DiscAfrique, Afrilp03, 1987), Warner Brothers release in UK, True Jit (WEA 242203-2, 1987), Pamberi (WEA, 1989), Independent releases in UK, Live at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (DiscAfrique, Afrilp007, 1990), Friends on the Road (Cooking Vinyl, 1993), Muchiyedza (Cooking Vinyl 1997), The Shed Sessions (Sadza, 2001). The Sunday News