Artists gone too soon

There are some artists you wish would have lived a little bit longer so as to share their wisdom with us but it is only God, the Almighty who decides when to call his sons and daughters.

And these artists die at a very young age when their careers are starting to blossom.

While most who used to watch ZBCTV dramas in the late 1999s might know Lazarus Boora aka Giringo as a naughty character who through his humorous antics kept audiences captivated, it was his side-kick, Sibangani Collen Dube popularly known as John Banda who was the icing on the cake.

Banda was such a marvel to watch and his character fitted so well in the Giringo drama series written and produced by Enock Chihombori.

But fate had it, as most Zimbabweans warmed up to his acting skills; he reportedly drowned and died in a swimming pool at Selborne Hotel, Bulawayo in 1999 aged 21.

A manager at the hotel said John Banda had checked into the hotel together with other members of his drama group as they were scheduled to perform in the city. The show was cancelled. 

Yes, John Banda had just died like that!

It was so painful to lose the young actor because he had just started his acting career which had so much promise and for the few episodes he had featured, everyone had noticed that there was abundant talent. 

The young man was oozing with talent but God could only give us snippets of his exploits.

Another flower God unpluck so fast was popular gospel songstress Jackie Madondo who died along with her one-month-old daughter, Chantelle in a head-on collision with a truck along Enterprise Road, Harare.

On the fateful day she was on her way to the Harare International Confrence Centre for a performance at the Nguva Yakwana Gospel Show.

She was aged 24.

Born Jacqueline Orleen Vivian Madondo on 10 May 1980 she started singing in church together with her sister Mabel and with others formed the group Vessels of Honour.

In 1997 Madondo was part of Egea Choir under Pastor Admire Kasi and fronted by Ivy Kombo and Carol Mujokoro.

Jackie left two albums, a rendition of Ivy Kombo’s Mufudzi Wangu and her own project, AchadzokaShe was also a member of the Ruvhuvhute sisters which comprised Plaxedes Wenyika, Kombo and Fortunate Matenga, releasing the song Come to Victoria Falls.

Talented guitarist and vocalist Sam Mtukudzi was another artist gone too soon as he also died in a car crash at the age of 22.

The son of the late music legend Oliver Mtukudzi, he was born in 1988 and died in 2010 as his artistic career was just picking up.

Samand his sound engineer Owen Chimhare were traveling back to Norton from Harare when their pickup truck, driven by Chimhare, struck a bridge just before the Kuwadzana Extension off-ramp along the Harare-Norton road. The vehicle veered off the road, rammed into the right side of the bridge's guard rails, and ploughed into the river bank below.

Two days before the horrific crash the two had returned from sound mixing Cheziya in South Africa.

A Prince Edward school band player, after graduating high school, Sam joined his father on tours playing saxophone and guitar until he formed his own band, Ay Band, releasing his debut album Rume Rimwe in 2008.  Sam’s album Cheziya was released posthumously by Tuku Music. Before his death Oliver had said  the album was Sam’s ‘gift’ to “his parents and a celebration of the young artist’s tragically shortened life. Cheziya is a gift that I will treasure for life because the album has extraordinary meaning that my son was conveying to me. The album reflects Sam saying goodbye and I say so because of his profound lyrics. Sam was consoling me and his mother over his passing which he prophesised in his music. That is what I see about the album when I look at events in retrospect now.”
Cheziya has a lot to do with us as the Mtukudzi family. It talks about the power of God - that God is there for us always.”

One of Zimbabwe’s talented mbira player and teacher Takunda Mafika died just at the age of 28. Born in 1983 he passed on in 2011 after suffering from a stroke.

He taught the mbira to individuals, local schools and colleges and held numerous workshops and performances in Zimbabwe, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland and Namibia.

Mafika was also a UNESCO Schools coordinator within the framework of education for sustainable development. In 2010 he was invited to join an international music tour organized by the Jesuit Mission Nuremberg, Germany, along with musicians from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. 

A co-founder and manager of the Mbira Society Zimbabwe, he released the mbira album Dzimwe Nguva.

A former Junior Governor in the year 2000's Children's Parliament, he had a degree in Music and Musicology earned from the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. 

There were several other artists who died in their early 30s and these include System Tazvida, Thomas Makion and Chiwoniso Mararaire.

Born in Zaka in 1968 Tazvida’s music which was regarded by some as backward, captivated audiences and was so popular in rural areas as communities there identified with it.

A brilliant composer who loved wearing various big hats that hid his dreadlocks, Tazvida died at the peak of his music career in 1999 at the age of 31.

He formed his group, Chazezesa Challengers in 1993 together with young brother Peter after playing with great music acts like Spiders, Muza Combination, Khiama Boys and Mabhawuwa Express that moulded his guitar-playing prowess.

At 19 years Tazvida and Cephas Karushanga co-penned the all-time hit single Mabhawuwa which sold 60 000 copies at its peak. 

Tazvida’s singing style was full of humour and ridicule. In his songs, the impression is literally stunning, both for how contemporary the records still sound, and for how emotionally and artistically acute they remain. Tazvida’s speech and music were all of a piece – direct, strong and emotionally complex.

His style has not been matched to today.

Born in 1969 in Makoni District of Rusape, Makion began singing in 1982 when he was still at Epworth High School. After completing secondary education he teamed up with his cousin, Leonard Zhakata to form Maungwe Brothers recording their early albums Moyo Muti and Yarira Mhere

He went solo and released albums MakorokotoKuparara Kwenyika and Gungwa Renhamo.

Makioni died in 2001 at the age of 32.

Queen of mbira, Mararire died at the age of 37 at a time the whole world was singing her songs.

A talented composer, she was born in 1976 and passed on in 2013 leaving a big gap in the local music industry.

The daughter of the late mbira great and teacher Dumisani Maraire, she had transformed into an international showbiz performer at times partnering the late Adam Chisvo and her band, Vibe Culture.

Humble, robust, talented were all attributes associated with Maraire. As she grew older, so was her musical act which became tighter – her stage performance had evolved and you could feel her presence once she took over the microphone while playing the sweet mbira.

Her duets and collaborations with several other singers provided an exhilarating synergy of interlocking melodies, electrifying energy and shared chemistry.

Chiwoniso’s album catalogue catapulted her mbira performance status, entwining it with entrancing and uplifting songs buoyant with ancient soul and modern spirits.

Known and loved by Zimbabweans and music lovers around the world, the late Chiwoniso indeed proved to be an icon in African music but only for a short time!

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