Macheso dumps Gramma

The musician could not immediately disclose the name of the SA company but sources close to the development said Macheso was negotiating with that country’s largest independent record label Gallo Music International.

“It is true that we are looking for a recording company that has international focus and operates in a more transparent way. South African record companies are topping our selection list but we cannot give any further details now because negotiations are still in progress. We will let you know as soon as we finalise the deal,” Macheso told this paper.

The musician last week made a stunning revelation that he was no longer interested in recording with Gramma Records whom he accused of practices that could not be immediately verified.

His contract with Gramma Records expired sometime last year and the artist has been dragging his feet on the issue of a new contract.

Macheso is currently Gramma Records’ best selling artists as his five albums are selling like hot cakes. Many critics have indicated that the company will never be the same without him as it is likely to take them sometime to have a cash cow of Macheso’s stature.

The only other constant and better selling artist at the company is gospel musician Pastor Charles Charamba. Tongai Moyo is currently doing considerably well but he lacks consistency and his music fades with time.

Other notable artists at the stable include Somandla Ndebele, Nicholas Zacharia, Njerama Boys and Cephas Mashakada but none of them comes an inch in filling the yawning gap that Macheso left.

The finalisation of the SA deal will see Macheso joining a host of other Zimbabwean musician that have recorded across the Limpopo River. They include Oliver Mtukudzi, Andy Brown, Elias Musakwa and Mercy Mutsvene.

If the popularity and fame that the sungura master enjoys at home is anything to go by, then the deal is likely to strike gold when his music is extensively marketed internationally.

He already commands a huge following in Mozambique and has been on a campaign to conquer the region of late. He toured SA, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique between April and June this year.

The musician has many awards under his belt and besides being a hot-seller, he is also one of the country’s best live show performers and it is no surprise that he has been nominated for the Zimbabwe Music Awards’ Best Live Show Performer accolade along with Mtukudzi and Iyasa.

His music prowess has seen him riding on the crest of the wave of success for six consecutive years since releasing his third album, Simbaradzo, in 2000.

The album had timeless tracks like Mundikumbuke and Mai Rubhi, which made him a household name overnight.

Macheso is also one of the few artists to be able to taste success at the primary stages of their solo careers.

Maybe it is because of the vast experience that he amassed over the years he worked in the industry before going solo.

From a distance, it would seem like Macheso, the king of sungura music, fast-tracked his way to stardom.

His official website notes that to many people, Macheso came onto the scene in 1998, with his debut album Magariro, which carried Pakutema Munda, probably the most noticeable track from that album.

But as is almost fashionable in showbiz, the first cut never received any recognition and the following year he was to release Vakiridzo.

Similarly, the response was lukewarm and in the coming 12 months, he went back into the studio and came out with Simbaradzo that turned his career.

He was the phenomenon that the music industry had been waiting for. He followed up the success of Simbaradzo with Zvakanaka Zvakadaro, the album which confirmed that, indeed, Zimbabwe, had given birth to a new sensation.

Those who chose to ignore him, did so at their own peril. And most did – but they were not to for long.

Though there have been many schools of thought on the strength of Macheso – with some arguing about his skill with the bass guitar, some contending that it is his vocals and others proffering his dancing skills, it is generally agreed that the musician is of immense talent. He can dance, sing and play the guitar – a rare combination of skills among musicians.

He is an entertainer par-excellence. Besides such a pile of talent, Macheso does his own song-writing.

Zvakanaka Zvakadaro was followed, in 2003, by Zvido Zvenyu Kunyanya, yet another confirmation that Macheso had not only arrived on the Zimbabwean music scene, but that he was determined to stay there for as long as possible.

But that is not to say that the road has been without any torture and pain for the sungura giant. Macheso was born in 1968 in Shamva, 90 kilometres to the north of Harare, to parents of Malawian origin – a fact that was to inspire him to be able to speak and sing in five languages – Shona, Chichewa, Sena, Venda and Lingala. He is working on perfecting his Ndebele. Growing on a farm, especially before Zimbabwe’s Independence from Britain in 1980, the environment did not offer him many opportunities. In 1983, at the youthful age of 15, he left the farm compounds of Shamva to head for the dizzy lights of Harare.

Arriving in the capital at the invitation of a relative, who had been inspired by Macheso guitar-playing prowess at the farm compound, things did not go according to plan and soon Macheso was to switch camps. He moved in with Nicholas Zacharia: “He really acted like an uncle to me and took me into his home. They provided me with everything up to the time I married my wife,” recalls Macheso. The two went on a music-inspired journey, joining several bands, mostly sungura-playing outfits.

In 1997, he broke ranks with Zacharia, to form his own Orchestra Mberikwazvo, the outfit that backs him to date.

“I remember we used to be regulars at Murambinda in Buhera and there was this braai-man who used to do it differently from others. And I would comment ‘mberi kwazvo zvaunoita’ and the saying stuck. When the managers at Gramma (his recording studio) asked me what the name of my band was, I simply said Orchestra Mberikwazvo.” Macheso always recalls.

From that day, the rise and rise of the band had been a gradual phenomenal experience and at the rate he is going, it would be no wonder, if, in five year’s time, he would a force to reckon with on the African scene especially with the coming in of Gallo Music.

November 2006
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