In the early ’90s a rhumba craze swept through the country attracting numerous Congolese musicians to stage shows here.
Musicians like Kanda Bongo Man, Aurlus Mabele, Alain Kounkou, Pepe Kale and Yondo Sister took turns visiting the country and were attracting enormous crowds to their shows.
Some of the Congolese musicians could not resist the lure of a rhumba-hungry market and they came to settle in Zimbabwe. Among them were Lubumbashi Stars New Stars Musica, Diamond Musica and Real Sounds.
Even local musicians like the late Papa Jose of Ndochi fame, Peter Tangwena and the late Franco Hodobo, capitalised on this craze and won their fair share of fame in rhumba circles.
However, over the years fortunes turned and rhumba began to lose popularity to local genres like mbira, gospel and sungura.
Rhumba groups that had settled here faced serious challenges and some of them disbanded. Diamond Musica split into two and a disgruntled group called Diamond Madowadowa was born.
Some of these Congolese nationals were incorporated into local groups. Chief among them are Jonasi Kasamba who quit Lubumbashi stars to join Alick Macheso while Shiga Shiga left New Stars Musica to back Tongai Moyo.
Although some of the rhumba groups stayed put, trying to revive the genre with the assistance of some local bands that play it, results have been minimal.
But this could be a year of rhumba revival following the arrival of new kid on the block — Energy Mutodi.
The musician has taken aboard Real Sounds and his album Simbi YaMudhara is making waves on the local music scene.
He has teamed up with musicians like Sulumani Chimbetu, Oliver Mtukudzi and Alexio Kawara at live shows and his strategy has worked out because his solo shows have been attracting huge crowds.
Could he be the magical saviour who will take rhumba back to its ’90s level?
If the growing crowds at his solo shows and the popularity of his album are anything to go by, then Mutodi has potential. Recently he shot a video for Simbi YaMudhara and the product is just immaculate.
The DVD will be launched on August 1.
Beautiful local natural scenes and fantastic costumes make the video spectacular. The musician believes in quality and says he is raring to see rhumba get back to a sound footing.
“I know it is not easy to convince people to turn to rhumba because there are numerous other genres that are popular. It is a process, but I think we can get the genre back on track if we work together and strategise as rhumba groups,” said Mutodi.
“I think it is all about the way we approach music. We should be prepared to invest in our groups financially so that we produce quality products. Things like choreography and costumes define rhumba shows. Rhumba groups are traditionally bigger than in most genres and that means it goes with a lot of financial input.”
Mutodi got hooked up with Real Sounds after they approached him for financial assistance. As a man who had a great passion for music that had been suppressed by a busy professional schedule, he saw an opportunity to also record his music while making sure that Real Sounds got the required assistance.
Mutodi only stages one show per month while he assists Real Sounds with equipment, transport and other necessities during their weekly shows.
Professionally, he is the chief executive officer of National Housing Development Trust of Zimbabwe (NHDTZ) and Litmus Capital which is based in South Africa.
Born in Masvingo in 1978, the musician first came to Harare in 1998 to study for BA General degree before he went into teaching. He taught in Harare schools for a number of years before founding NHDTZ.
He is also a published writer who co-authored an academic book titled “A” Level Physical Geography with Chrispen Zarima. Mutodi is currently studying for a Master’s in Business Administration.