Engineman turned jazzman

HARARE - Having worked for the National Railways of Zimbabwe as a locomotive driver for 23 years, Dande-born engineman Hudson Simbarashe has always harboured an unbridled passion for the music.

While he always wished to have his vocal prowess heard on the local radio stations, the tight schedule that came along with being an employee could not permit as he never got enough time to compose and record his own songs.

So long as it took, that did little in killing his enthusiasm as he remained patient and unfaltering and waited for the right time where he would have all the uninterrupted time behind him.

Today, Simbarashe has imprinted his forte in the showbiz industry and pride himself in two albums, the third of which is already out.

But the story of Simbarashe is that of a man whose inspiration was drawn from the beat of jazz that he grew up listening to while staying at Sizinda working class suburbs in Bulawayo.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday the 51 year-old musician said his music is inspired by many music gurus whom he says he grew up listening to.

“I grew up listening to the music of Thomas Mapfumo, Lovemore Majaivana, the Cool Crooners and Lou Mhlanga hence my music is modelled around their influence. But generally I am a jazz person,” said Simbarashe.

“I have labelled my music Kamtengende which literally means a furious rhythm. It is basically a fusion of jazz, jit and Chimurenga rhythms through I address many issues mainly to do with our social lives,” he said.

“My music career dates back to the early seventies. I remember during my days with Leonard Dembo when we used stay in the same area of Sizinda here in Bulawayo. We used to have a small band between 1978 and 1979 before he moved to Harare,” he said.

While Simbarashe is known as a distinguished solo jazz artiste, in some areas he is known as a guitar player for Bulawayo bred but now Harare based female jazz sensation Edith WeUtonga.

He explains: “We used to perform together with Edith when she was still here in Bulawayo; actually we came a long way so besides being together in the music she is more of a sister to me.”

“In fact I am a regular guitar player for Edith. In September we toured Kenya together where we performed at the Blankets and Wine Festival in Nairobi and from there we travelled to Uganda where we also put up a spirited performance,” Simbarashe added.

In August this year, the Bulawayo-based artiste performed in Ghana where he said he managed to share his skills with local jazz musicians adding that all his performances outside the country have convinced him that his music has an African identity.

“My trips outside the country have actually broadened my scope. Now I know that my music appeals to the African populace. It is a reflection to African continent and its people therefore I dedicate all my music to Africa,” said the musician.

He however expressed his displeasure at the manner in which local supporters have deliberately ignored their own, like the Biblical prophets who are not recognised in their localities.

“It’s quite surprising how we receive overwhelming support out there but unfortunately when we come back home we long for a similar support but our people just ignore us.

“People here should somehow learn to appreciate home-baked products and it can only be through the support that we can rise and rise to become the Oliver Mtukudzis, the Salif Keitas, Ishmael Los of this world,” he said.

Simbarashe had his first album released in 2004 called Now or Never, followed by Forgotten Tears in 2008.
The latest album titled Chenga Ose which was bankrolled by Culture Fund will be launched at Rainbow Hotel on November 3.

Alliance Francaisae de Bulawayo has offered to assist financially in support of the event that is expected to be a colourful one.

The scintillating 9-track piece which was compiled in diverse languages was recorded at Ingwe Studios in Bulawayo.

It carries such tracks as Pabva Gondo, Mapfunde, Mngane wami, Zim Blues; It’s Not a Game Anymore, Fallen Trees, Muzambiringa and Tenzi which is an appeal to the Almighty on challenges bedeviling the country.

In a professional career spanning a decade, Simbarashe draws his pride from having performed alongside the likes of Chiwoniso Maraire, Thomas Mapfumo, and the late Andy Brown among others.

He has also taken part in some local arts festivals including Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa), Intwasa Arts Festival, Inxusa Festival and the Mthwakazi Cultural Festival.

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