His voice could not be mistaken. At the age of 10, he released the album Mwari Anoona that contained the hit song Shandisa Chipo Chako.
By JAIROS SAUNYAMA
He became a role model to those of his age while inspiring many others. His keyboard playing skills were so perfect such that he earned the tag “keyboard wizard”.
Despite being born with eyesight challenges, the disability would not deter him from exhibiting his talent. He became famous and has performed at high profile functions.
Today, with more than two decades in the music industry, Munyaradzi Munodawafa is a dejected man.
He feels his contribution to the music industry at least deserved some kind of recognition from government — especially after having performed at several government functions during his prime — and other stakeholders.
“I feel I was let down by my own government, not only me, but others living with disability,” he said.
Munodawafa, who appeared in the African Book of Records as one of the few musicians to record an album at a very tender age, said he was not a beggar but deserved some recognition for his contribution in the arts sector as well as being a record breaker.
The partially blind artiste said he performed at state functions since 1997 for free and no one has moved in to honour him.
“Look at it. I did the nation proud and recorded an album as a young boy. I am even in the African Book of Records. I worked hard and performed at state functions in 1997 for free. I did not get anything. They forgot me, maybe it is because of my disability,” he recalled.
Some years ago, popular drummer Douglas Vambe was given a farm by former President Robert Mugabe as an expression of gratitude. Vambe is the man behind the popular Jerusarema/Mbende drumbeat that accompanies the new bulletin at most ZBC radio and television stations. He got the farm after a struggle.
Another musician, the late Chinx Chingaira, was honoured with a house by presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo. Former First Lady Grace Mugabe officially handed over the building to the late singer.
Munodawafa, who refuted suggestions that he might have fallen on hard times, hit out at the government for what he described as its failure to appreciate its own musicians.
“Why can’t they appreciate all that I did? If they cannot give me a house, farm or vehicle why don’t they empower me with something tangible? I am a hard worker, I am not begging, I have a band but I feel I am neglected. If possible I would love an opportunity to meet President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa so that I talk to him,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe needed to take a leaf from other countries that respect and honour artistes for their contributions.
“In other countries, artists are remembered. Even sportsmen are recognised. At one point in 1999 I was given $300 by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa appreciating my performance and contribution. But none in my own country has done that. Only former Health minister Timothy Stamps parted with $50 at a certain function in 1997,” recalled Munodawafa.
The 30-year old Zodzo hitmaker recalled some of the State and high profile events where he performed while still a young boy.
“I am not a failure in music. I am surviving because of it. From 1997 to 2000, I performed at state functions like Independence and Heroes celebrations. I performed at the late Vice President Simon Muzenda’s graduation party both in Harare and Gutu. I was there when heads of states from the SADC region came to Harare around 1998,” he said.
During these functions, Munodawafa was accompanied by his father and would perform without event signing a contract.
Today, Munodawafa might be an example to many artistes out there who feel neglected despite their contribution into the industry. Talk of Ilanga, Noel Zembe, Leornard Dembo, Nicholas Zakaria and Transit Crew among many others that contributed a lot to the music sector.
Munodawafa’s concerns might be genuine and with the coming in of a new dispensation who knows, one day he might wake up a happy man. But for now, he is a man in tears.