Masekela hails Kunonga

HARARE - African jazz legend Hugh Masekela says Victor Kunonga’s just-released 12-track album Kwedu is a breath of fresh air on an African continent that has been duped into despising its cultural heritage.

The 75-year-old South African music icon made the remarks on Tuesday night at the Alliance Fraincaise Old Mutual Theatre where he was the guest of honour during the launch of Kunonga’s fourth album.

“Victor has shown us tonight that it is still possible to showcase the beauty of our cultural heritage even though most of our people have unfortunately been made to believe that our heritage is heathen, pagan and barbaric,” said Masekela.

“Victor has shown us tonight that it is still possible to be proud of our heritage on a continent that spends over a billion dollars a year on other people’s hair; at a time when we are still fighting over artificial borders created by the whites in Africa.”

The African music star, who again claimed on the night that his grandparents hailed from the Great Zimbabwe area, underscored the need for Africa to protect its heritage.

“Let us bring visibility to our heritage. Let the visitors come to Africa not just to see animals and the Victoria Falls but also our beautiful cultural heritage. It is incumbent upon us to protect our cultural heritage. Remember, we brought civilisation to the world,” he said.

The Melody Maker singer and the rest of the audience were clearly impressed by the Wedza-born Kunonga’s mastery of his Uhera origins and his pride in his Mhofu totem that illuminated the two-hour album launch.

The 40-year-old Kunonga told the audience that included Zimbabwe’s foremost eye surgeon Solomon Guramatunhu that he used the album Kwedu to express the musical influences that shaped his childhood.

“I grew up in a rural settlement called Wedza. On this album I wanted to express musical influences of where I grew up,” said Kunonga.

On Tuesday night,  Kunonga showcased refreshing originality and experimentation with diverse African rhythms that shine through his latest offering.

Award-winning singer Jah Prayzah, who is currently in trouble for allegedly copying beats on his hit song Mwanasikana from Ghanaian musician Emmanuel Samini, can clearly learn about originality from Kunonga.

During the launch night, the rising star of Zimbabwean music could only play a few songs from the bumper 12-track album. He kicked off his performance with Kushanda, a track with sparse lyrics that is underpinned by a scintillating lead guitar by the talented Norman Masamba. Kunonga, backed by the exceptionally talented Peace Band, then unleashed Tinotenda which, according to the singer, is a special dedication to the media.

“Talk about bribing the media. The media has written about us and given us publicity,” Kunonga quipped before playing the track.

The rest of the playlist on the night included the title track Kwedu, Mhofu and my favourite Kubuda Ura whose beautiful rhythms blew away the specially invited audience which included several Zimbabwean musicians.

Other songs on Kunonga’s latest album are Cheuka, Kure Kwatakabva, Wagadzirira, Ruvengo, Kumagobo, Ruzevha, Ikhotha eyikhotayo and Ndoenda. Kwedu is a follow-up album to Handinete (2011), Uyo (2006) and Such Is Life-Ndanyengetedzwa (2003).

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