Soundtrack: Tapiwa Zivira
HIGH school days remain the best, a time when we fall in and out of love and are conflicted about our identity; a time when we try to understand relationships and experience our first kisses.
For me, as a person groomed in the low-class suburb of Highfield in Harare, this was a time when I was so conflicted about many things, that at one time when I was nursing one of my many high school heartbreaks, I discovered how powerful music could be when one is in or out of love.
I listened to the “coolest” heartbreak song of the time, Audius Mtawarira’s If Only You Knew and immediately felt like I was speaking to the girl who had just “dumped” me, and my conflict came when I also listened to the classic song that anyone would have thought was too old for me — Leonard Dembo’s Chitekete.
To me, both songs complemented each other in that Audius was singing about how I wished my girl would know how much I loved her while Dembo, in Chitekete, was telling my girl that my parents believed she was going to be a great muroora (daughter-in-law).
Perhaps as an escape route from reality that my girl was now probably happily and kissing another lad, I found a new hobby — finding the greatest Zimbabwean love songs of all time.
This is because, in the old days, nothing was as powerful as receiving a letter with a list of “dedicated love songs” at the bottom, in good or bad relationship situations.
In the absence of digital technology, before people could send songs to each other via WhatsApp or other share links, lovers had to look for physical copies of the dedicated songs.
It went beyond letters. Careful selection of music was of paramount importance at occasions like weddings, engagement parties, or places where love birds met.
So, music always drove relationships, with the words carefully crafted by talented artistes used to convey messages between the two love birds.
Zimbabwe has never been short of such talented artistes, and for the older generation, playing the following songs — which I believe are among the greatest love gems from the 1980s to the mid-1990s – can get some to dance and reminisce. These include Furuwa by Rising Power, Ruva Rangu by The Pied Pipers, KwaHunyani by the late Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire, Solo naMutsai by Jonah Moyo, Ilanga’s True Love, Thomas Mapfumo’s Madhebura, Chitekete, Character by the late Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa and Tombofara by Calvin and Muzi.
Then there was Isaac Chirwa’s Uthando Kuwe, Leornard Zhakata’s Yeukai and Maruva Enyika as well as Sharai, again by Dembo. Oliver Mtukudzi came into the picture with Svovi Yangu and there was also Rudo Chete by Marshall Munhumumwe, Mudiwa Janet by John Chibadura and Mabhauwa by the Khiama Boys.
In fact, these songs are so great that they still circulate on WhatsApp, have great views and rave reviews on YouTube and other online platforms. They still feature on the club DJ’s playlists and compete for airtime on local radio stations.
That is how powerful they are, because one can imagine how, in 1995, Zhakata was so creative that he crafted a folktale kind of love story about a man who dreamt about a girl called Yeukai and went on to describe her beauty in words so deep that today’s 18-year-old can use those as pick-up lines.
Think of how today’s couples still use Solo naMutsai, Chitekete, Character or True Love for their wedding choreography.
The late 1990s into the 2000s brought some new names in the music industry, when urban grooves became a hit and fresh musicians were emerging to compete with the older ones.
For their part, the emerging artistes managed to create some timeless songs that one can still listen to today. One can still remember that Innocent Utsiwegota’s In My Dreams was a national anthem at one moment.
This is a period when some of the songs like these were made and still remain great pieces of art today. These include Tongai Moyo’s Chubvu, Alexio Kawara’s Shaina, Kurwizi by Jamal featuring Betty and Dino Mudondo’s Chirangano. Alick Macheso’s Monalisa, off his chart-topping album Zvakanaka Zvakadaro and, indeed, the title track because the song is so mellow that Macheso’s present-day songs sound like child’s play.
Other tracks include Decibel’s Chido, and Dzandipedza Mafuta, the 1998 hit by the master of song Simon Chimbetu. In present day, I would say Winky D’s Chi-Extraterrestial, in which the musician uses astronomy to communicate to a loved one, is one piece that is a sure contender for the greatest song of the generation. It is a classic that demonstrates the Gafa’s high levels of intellectual creativity.
Let love songs play on!