Home » Arts & Culture » Separating Men From Boys [opinion]

Talented lead guitarist and producer Mono Mukundu posted a touching account about the early challenges of his music career on his Facebook page this week. It was a sad tale of how they were chased out of the studio by an overzealous producer who told them they were playing junk. The members of the new band, Sarungano Chanters, had all walked to the studio in Msasa from Mufakose, Dzivaresekwa and Kuwadzana. That was in 1988.

After two futile attempts to record their music at the studio, the band decided to resort to live shows to gain more experience. They had been told they did not know how to play electric guitars and they had to look for shows to get used to the electric guitars.

At one of their first jam shows where they had pleaded with the venue owner to perform for free, Sarungano Chanters, were told by a seasoned bass guitarist called Clayton that their music was like ‘human waste’.

Another touching tale is from 1991 when Mono joined Chikoko Band. After a show in Dzivaresekwa, they went to Kuwadzana on foot around midnight and it rained heavily as they were on their way. They wanted to sleep at one of the band members’ house in Kuwadzana but they were unfortunate. There were visitors at the house and Mono and his friend could only get seats for the night and they had to wait for daylight in their wet clothes.

Mono’s story continues and he narrates how they were beaten after a misunderstanding on how to share performance fee with a popular band. The band had ‘gate-crashed’ at Chikoko Band’s show and performed without prior arrangement.

He also remembers how they had to survive on ‘mhandire’ in Norton because their shows had flopped.

Mono also retells how they were dumped by a promoter at Alaska mine after a series of flops and had to scavenge for food and beg for accommodation and transport back to Harare. A football team that offered them transport made fun of the musicians all the way and they had to ‘smile’ in return to avoid being dropped along the way.

That is Mono’s story.

Although Mono cannot be classified among the top musicians in the country despite having recorded a couple of his own albums recently, he is a revered instrumentalist and producer. After his tribulations, he went on to work with the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi, Shingisai Siluma, Carol Chivengwa, Ivy Kombo, Fungisai Zvakavapano, Elias Musakwa and the late Brian Sibalo in big projects.

He extensively toured with Mtukudzi and stood high as one of the best lead guitarists in the country. He established his studio Monolio Studios and is still very active in the industry. He has produced music for many artistes because of his experience.

Mono saw it all in the music industry. His story is similar to many established musicians’ accounts about how they started and fought their way in the industry. They will tell you music is not a bed of roses. Mtukudzi will tell you about his early days with Wagon Wheels and how he toiled for his own Black Spirits to get local recognition. His story to international acclaim is not rosy.

Even Thomas Mapfumo has many stories about his rise to fame. From humble beginnings in Mbare to the days of Hallelujah Chicken Run Band and the formation of Blacks Unlimited, the career rose against odds.

Alick Macheso will tell you about his long journey from Shamva to Dzivaresekwa where he cut his teeth in music. He will narrate how he suffered and walked on foot from Chitungwiza to Msasa to record his first album after parting ways with Nicholas Zakaria.

Mechanic Manyeruke will tell you how he sold vegetables to raise studio money when he was working as a ‘teaboy’ in the manufacturing industries.

Ambuya Stella Chiweshe will narrate how she fought resistance as an emerging female mbira player in a male-dominated industry until she caught attention of international music followers.

Like Mono’s account, the tales are always sad but they portray hard work and perseverance. Most popular bands were built amid rejection, poverty and exploitation.

These are the bands that have stood the test of time. Although a few fell due to splits and deaths, these bands produced the g men and women of the music industry.

They have seen it all and they will continue fighting. That is why the likes of Tedious Matsito, Daiton Somanje and Somandla Ndebele still have hope. They have been tried and tested.

Now, we are in an era of overnight fame. Can we compare this hard-working generation to the current crop of musicians? Just a look at the characters of our young musicians like our new dancehall stars tells you there is a huge gap.

Riddims are being created everyday and youngsters without any music background just get into the studio and release hits. We can call it a new era of technological aancement but the truth is that they will not last the distance. When the real demands of the music industry beckon, they are likely to surrender.

It explains why these young overnight stars are reckless about their careers. Most of them are always in controversy. They either turn up for shows drunk, might not turn up at all or are known for double-bookings.

Talk of Soul Jah Love, Seh Calaz or Lady Squanda. Honestly we cannot bank the future of our music industry in these characters. For them, music is just a fun game that brings fame overnight. They need serious grooming, but as they say ‘experience is the best teacher’ and these youngsters still have a lot to learn. But most of them are arrogant. They believe their fame will last forever, yet the music industry is very unpredictable.

It happened to most urban grooves musicians that got carried away by fame but could not face reality when their music lost popularity. Most of them changed trade as soon as the going got tough. They cannot stand against the tried and tested cadres of the industry. With talented musicians like Roki that rose during the urban grooves era, we thought the future of the industry was bright. But lack of experience saw the young man tearing his career recklessly. He still has the talent but he is still the same old ‘direction-less’ young man. Maskiri has confessed that he was misguided in the prime days of his career and now seeks sympathy by declaring he has shaken the ‘bad boy’ tag off his career.

Even Masvingo-based Uncle Jaunda has admitted that he lacked experience and professionalism that could have pushed his career further.

We need determined artistes like Jah Prayzah who has been eager to learn and rose through the ranks with assistance from fellow musicians and promoters.

His new documentary “Soja Rinosvika Kure” says it all. He has been patient and fame has not swallowed him yet.

Serious guidance is needed.

The young musicians have not gone through the long march to popularity and they really need assistance.

Otherwise our music industry is doomed.

Source : The Herald