Jazzing it up with Philip Svosve

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Jabavu Drive front man and saxophonist Philip Svosve is one of Zimbabwe’s finest and most accomplished jazz musicians.

Svosve is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who is comfortable playing the tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, bass and lead guitar as well as the piano.

At age 62, this veteran of Zimbabwean township music has had a long and illustrious music career.

He has recorded two afro-jazz albums with Jabavu Drive; the first being Jabavu Drive and the second one is due to be released sometime this year.

Svosve has provided quality entertainment, class and charm at many a corporate function, hotels, clubs and private family events. He has also played and recorded with some of Zimbabwe’s top musicians including Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, James Chimombe, Checks Tavengwa, Elishs Josamu, Safirio Madzikatire and Sam Banana.

Philip Svosve grew up in Epworth, one of the musical hot spots of the 1960s. He was inspired by the Epworth Musical Strutters, a very popular township music group of the time.

As a youngster, Svosve first learned the guitar and piano when he got access to Epworth Musical Strutters’ instruments. He later joined the Epworth Boys’ Club where members taught themselves music using crude home-made instruments.

In 1967 Svosve got together with Moses Kabubi, Shoki and Edson Mbaisa to form the All Saints Band.

This band focused on playing cover versions of international hits of the time and they performed at council bars all over Harare.

The following year he joined Harare Mambos B group and the band set up base in Rusape.

The jazz master then moved back to Harare in 1972 to form Delight Band with some ex-Harare Mambos band members.

The great Safirio Madzikatire joined the band in 1974 and its name was then changed to Ocean City Band. Svosve stayed with the band until 1977 when he moved to form Co-Axis Band.

With Co-Axis he recorded his first single, Shava Yawomesa, a traditional chart topping hit that made the top five on Radio 2’s Hit Parade.

The large part of Philip Svosve’s professional career was with the Ocean City Band; he rejoined the band in 1978 and at this time he had fallen in love with his trademark instrument, the saxophone.

He started learning the instrument after being inspired by fellow township musician Enock Manda. Svosve became the frontman of the Ocean City Band in 1981 after Safirio Madzikatire left the band.

In 1983, the band released its first album, Mukomana Wekuseri, which featured hits like Africa Hamuna Rugare, Zuva, Mukoma and Pfumojena.

The versatile Ocean City band backed Oliver Mtukudzi for seven months in 1983 and they recorded Tuku’s album, Please Ndapota.