Selector goes down memory lane

HARARE - Stereo One sound system founder member Farai ‘Selector’ Shambare’s close relationship with Jamaican reggae superstar Buju Banton bears testimony to the Zimbabwean disc jockey-cum-businessman’s lofty standing in international reggae circles.

Shambare has been to reggae-mad Jamaica several times and whenever he visits the West Indies nation he has a special room reserved for him at the Destiny hit-maker’s residence.

The Mbare-born selector says he was inspired to appreciate reggae music in 1980 when as a teenager he got a rare one-on-one talk with the late reggae legend Bob Marley a day after the reggae icon staged a celebrated live show at Rufaro Stadium on the eve of Zimbabwe’s Independence.

Two years after Zimbabwe’s independence, Shambare joined Africa A1 Sound, said to be the first dancehall sound system in Zimbabwe. His partners at that legendary sound system were Pawa Chitemere and England-raised William ‘Jah B’ Sinclair, a man revered as the ‘godfather’ of Zimbabwean dancehall.

At Africa A1 Sound rub-a-dub, roots and culture reggae music were the order of the day.

After a few years, together with Jah B and Mike ‘Mikey Dread’ Dhliwayo, the trio formed their “own sound” which they called Level Vibes that showcased digital music.

They were based in Mbare at the YWCA centre later rechristened by ghetto youths as the “Y Dub Centre”.

“The sound became an instant hit in the ghettoes of Harare before spreading its wings nationwide,” Shambare told the Daily News on Sunday.

“By then the Level Vibes crew had found a new base at Zimbabwe Hall in one of Harare’s oldest townships Highfield.”

Sadly, after a long period of sustained success, the original Level Vibes crew held their last show in 1986 when conflicts arose within the members.

“Things went sour around 1985 when the now late Jah B wanted to visit England and said we could not continue with the sound system during his absence. He said should we decide to defy his orders then we would have to find another name and never use Level Vibes,” narrated the Selector who runs a flourishing and diversified business entity in Mbare.

“That’s when we formed ‘Small Axe’ which is my sound system to this very day,” he said.

“After the split, Jah B was also forced to form his own sound system which he named Stereograph.”

Shambare was, by then making frequent visits to London and he would bring back latest reggae music to Zimbabwe.

The bad blood between Shambare’s Small Axe and Jah B’s Stereograph temporarily ended in 1987 when the latter called for a truce.

“He (Jah B) said we should unite and become one since we were going nowhere,” remembered the Mbare-born selector.

“We then formed a company called ‘Stepping Stone Foundation’ with brothers from England and Jamaica with people like Eddie Muffin and JJ Antony Mutambira joining the sound. During that time Mad Minnox and Silverstone came on board after I had left for the UK, but I was still part of the sound,” said Shambare.

But after Shambare returned home from England, animosity reared its ugly head again.

“Coming back home, differences resurfaced and I resuscitated my ‘Small Axe’ project. I was still based in the United Kingdom but we still managed to build our own massive brand.”

Shambare began to develop many contacts on the international reggae circuit.

“It was in 1995 that I started dealing with international dancehall artistes like Jamaica’s Baby Wayne, and started producing some of his material from Jamaica and it was during the same time that I began to co-write songs with Tendai ‘Culture T’ Gamure.”

Gamure later made his name with local reggae outfit Transit Crew as lead vocalist before relocating to the United Kingdom were he passed on in 2006.

In 1999 Shambare was part of a big clash involving one of Jamaica’s biggest sounds Kilimanjaro, Black Cat, Qualitex Sound and Sovereign Syndicate in Bristol England.

However, he had to come back home at the end of that year after a shooting incident at Rasta Temple in Kennington Park in England.

Back home, he continued playing for ‘Small Axe’ sound system alongside Jah B, who headed his Stereo One until his death.

Shambare’s dalliance with current popular local artistes should in 2004 when he was introduced to Mike ‘MicInity’ Madamombe. The duo tried dancehall music without much success.

“We later reunited after he (MicInity) had left Transit Crew. We had our struggles but after six months we were the talk of the town and we held shows at every top joint in Harare at that time.

“It came as no surprise when we clinched a regular spot at Mannenberg.”

Shambare was to leave for England in 2010 and ceased to be McInity’s manager.

“At the moment I am helping with producing and mixing his album set for release soon,” said the celebrated selector.

Shambare has not discontinued his role of nurturing upcoming reggae talent. He claims he was the first person to afford Mbare-born Seh Calaz and Killah T a real platform to showcase their talent when he gave them the opportunity to play passa passa outside his business premises and night club.

“Now I am proud of them as things are now happening for them,” said the man they call the Small Axe.

Shambare wants local youths to dwell on more positive music because “reggae is all about consciousness.”

Comments (1)

yes rasta small axe alongside selector Ceaser muna 8th pa mbare.

massive b - 15 January 2014

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