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Marabini the afro-jazz maestro

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Renowned afro-jazz musician, Jeys Marabini, has seen it all in the music industry.

Marabini — real name, Majahawodwa Ndlovu — leads a nine-member group, Kozekulunge.
The group is well-known for its fancy guitar play, energetic dancers and the ability to excite crowds. This expertise does not come as much of a surprise since Marabini has five albums under his belt to date.

He has performed extensively in the country and on the international scene with some of music’s popular stars. In a wide-ranging interview with NewsDay recently, Marabini bared his soul and chronicled the many years that he has spent trying to find his footing in the challenging entertainment industry.

The name “Marabini” was derived from his first successful album Emarabini. But the musician only started to learn how to play the guitar nine years ago. Prior to that he was specialising in a cappella music, having founded his first group in that genre when he was still in high school.

The group, Imbizo, which was based in Filabusi, Matabeleland South, where Marabini hails from, later relocated to Bulawayo in search of greener pastures.

It proved to be a worthwhile move because the group managed to open links with award-winning Black Mambazo.

Marabini got his first opportunity to tour outside the country with another Bulawayo-based group, Sunduza. They toured India, Canada and the United Kingdom in what Marabini described as a very successful tour since they performed at sold-out shows.

“A cappella music is very popular outside our borders. They appreciate our culture a lot. They like to hear those sounds from deep in our villages,” he said.

In 1999, Marabini moved to the UK where he made inroads into music promotion working together with Louise Harding — promoting African and European artists under an agency called Equita Company.

“I was the first person to organise a show for dub-poet Albert Nyathi to perform in the United Kingdom. It was also a way of thanking him for the assistance he had rendered to us as Imbizo in Harare (Highfield high-density suburb) when sometimes he would buy us food because we were not staging shows to sustain ourselves.”

In 2001, Imbizo shared the stage with Senegalese international star Youssou N’ Dour as well as the rock legend, Peter Gabriel.

“I discovered that Gabriel is modest. He has respect for other musicians.”

Upon his return home in 2002, he set up Kozekulunge and recorded his debut album, Emarabini which won the Best Video of the Year Award in 2003 at the National Arts Merit Awards.
Follow-up albums include Sound of Today and Tomorrow, One Time and Izenzo.

“I believe that you have to work hard in order to be successful in life,” he said.

He however strongly feels that musicians from Matabeleland are being given a raw deal by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

“They hardly play music from Matabeleland on radio. Lack of airplay means that our music will not be known by people who would otherwise appreciate it. ZBC must do something about all this.”

Marabini will perform at the Winter Jazz Festival in Harare next month where he will be part of a long line-up of performers.
“When I’m not performing, I like to spend time with my wife Fatima and our two children,” said Marabini who rehearses in his home studio with his band.

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