In the groove: Our artistes who art in heaven

That aside, Zimbabwe has lost many artistes in the last twenty years. If I was to make a list of the thousands who have left this earth to go to heaven, I would write a whole book.

“Dead he is not, but departed — for the artist never dies.” 

These are some of the comforting words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow an American poet who died in 1882.

I say ‘comforting’ because I don’t want to think of anyone as dead. I see them as transitioning from the troubles of this earth to a better life. And it is comforting to think of life this way.

 I first came across this type of philosophy and thinking when I met the legendary Peter Tosh (of the Bob Marley and the Wailers fame) when he came to Harare in 1985 on his way to Jamaica after completing his concerts in Swaziland.

I said to him: “Mr. Tosh, I am sorry to hear about the death of Bob Marley.” His response was: “I know dat him no dead. So never let Babylon fool you. Him no dead. The man 'dep on earth still. Him a just pass through. The man a trod earth still. The man 'dep on earth still. It’s only the wicked them a dead and gwan.”

I was confused because the whole world at the time knew that Bob Marley was dead and Peter Tosh was telling me that he was still alive. Within the Rastafari movement, there is no death. That's one of the key things. They are spiritual beings having a physical experience, so within that there is no death. Heaven is right here on Earth where true Rastas live eternally as bodily and spiritual immortals, negating the need for an after-life. It probably also explains why Peter Tosh did not even attend Bob Marley’s funeral.

Marley himself had earlier on said that the preacher was wrong in his interpretation of the Bible when he says: “One has to die to go to heaven.” He argued that the Bible tells you that you have to live and go to heaven””. That confused me. 

In my Bible research, I discovered that Heaven is where God and the angels live.

John 14:1-3 even says that Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for us to live. In heaven, those saved by God will have new bodies without the curse of sin! There will be no one who is blind, deaf or lame in heaven (Isaiah 35:5, 6 and Philippians 3:21). Although Jesus builds houses in heaven, the Bible also says that those saved will also build their own houses and inhabit them as well as plant and eat from vineyards (Isaiah 65:21). Most importantly, God will be in heaven and He wants to be your friend. He wants to dwell with you and wipe away all your tears (Revelation 21:1-4). Isn’t that wonderful? We all go to heaven. So why should those musicians who have passed on, since they do not die, be left behind?

Peter Tosh and I did a bit of reasoning and he finally convinced me like Wadsworth, that artistes never die as their music lives on forever.

This is why to this day we still sing their tunes such as Öne Love, Redemption Song, Anodyiwa Haataure Manyepo and Samatenga.  Don’t be confused like me. Artistes live forever.

That aside, Zimbabwe has lost many artistes in the last twenty years. If I was to make a list of the thousands who have left this earth to go to heaven, I would write a whole book.

Just to mention only a few, starting with the most prominent ones, Oliver Mtukudzi, Sam Mtukudzi, Zexie Manatsa, John Chibadura, Kelly Rusike, Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa, Andy Brown, Cde Chinx, James Chimombe, System Tazvida, Simon Chimbetu, Tendai “Culture T” Gamure, Biggie Tembo,  Brian Rusike, Jethro Shasha, Friday Mbirimi, John Chibadura, Tongai Moyo, Leonard Dembo, Soul Jah Love, Chiwoniso Maraire, Dorothy Masuka, Susan Mapfumo, Doreen Ncube, and Stella Chiweshe are the names almost everyone is familiar with.

However, the list  of fallen music heroes is endless. It ranges from Flavian Nyathi, Moses Zhakata, Manu Kambani, Tinei Chikupo, Simangaliso Thuthani, Safirio Madzikatire, Ernest Kachingwe, William Mhlanga, Brian Sibalo,  Lancelot Mapfumo, Jonah Sithole, David Mankaba, Sebastian Mbata, Johnny Papas,  Ashton “Sugar” Chiweshe, Peter Tembo, Bob Manwere,  Chrispen Matema Leonard “Picket” Chiyangwa, Jordan Chataika, Ndux Malax, Martin Ndlovu, Titus Zihute, George Pada,  Clever Kazera, George Lunga, Cephas Karushanga, Lucas Sibanda, Simeon Moyo, Ephraim Karimura, Joshua Hlomayi Dube to Gideon Neganje, Norman Neganje, Choas Mudoka,  Paul Matavire, Fortune Mparutsa, Marshall Munhumumwe, Paul Silla, Green Jangano, Keith Goddard, Robson Banda, Simangaliso Thutani, Solomon Skuza, Susan Chenjerai, Susan Mapfumo, Don Gumbo, Thomas Makion, Munya Nyemba, Samaita Zindi, Tendai Gamure, Virginia Jangano, Shephered Munyama, Shakie Kangwena, Oliver Hawadi, Chris Chabuka, Jonah Sithole, David Marumahoko, Beaulah Dyoko, Brian Sibalo, Cookie Tutani, Beater Mangetha, Joyce Simeti, Wellington Masvosva, Ephat Mujuru, Robson Banda, Jonah Sithole, Brian Sibalo,  and Pio Farai Macheka.

There are hundreds others who were regarded as backstage artistes who are not mentioned above. The list is endless. But as mentioned before, taking the Rasta philosophy, they are not dead. Their music lives on and they are looking at us from heaven. They see us enjoying the music treasure they left us.

If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to Heaven and bring these musicians back home again.

There is currently a big jam session in heaven where old artistes welcome new entrants. The latest entrant is Dr. Gibson Mandishona. While on earth, he was a leading mathematician, research scientist and a pronounced jazz guitarist.

He went to heaven just last month, on September 9, 2023. We remember him for his contribution to the tune titled Zimbabwe which was recorded on Bob Marley’s 1979 Survival album. The two artistes met in Ethiopia where Dr Mandishona had been posted to work for United Nations and Marley had gone there in search of his African roots.

There must be a big party in heaven right now. One big jam session. Bob Marley is probably saying to Dr Mandishona; ”So we meet again, Rasta!  So is why you here? I told you long ago Babylon is not a nice place but you nah believe I and I. It doesn’t matter what dem people say. Here in heaven is a brighter day.  No power cuts. Everything nuff bliss. This is why I chose to come to heaven long before you. Now dat you is here, do som’n nuh fi mek you enjoy life inna heaven.  Anyway, you is welcome still.”

The beat goes on as we continue to listen to their music. We are left to wonder what will happen to us people left behind by those artistes in heaven.

When the music you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.  When artistes leave this earth, their voices never die as we continue to hear them on the radio, on CD on record players, on smartphones and several other media sources such as You Tube, Facebook and Instagram.  This is why we proclaim that artistes never die, they simply go to heaven.

 Some of you may ask:  Is heaven real? Is there a heaven?

There are many popular myths about heaven and where it is that create misunderstanding. According to the Bible, the universe is not only infinite, but also filled with intelligent, friendly, benevolent beings. The most amazing and almost unbelievable fact is that the way to heaven is not complicated. Our title to heaven is given freely to those who accept that God bore our wrongs against Himself when Jesus died on the cross. When we ask Him for forgiveness and a new heart to keep His commandments, He will freely give us both. If any of the abov mentioned musicians did any wrongs or sinful things before going to heaven, they were freely given forgiveness. They are now enjoying the fruits of their musical labours in heaven.

I know it sounds funny, but I had a dream the other day.  In the dream I was interviewing all the artistes currently in heaven. I asked them a simple question. Would you like to come back to earth? They all replied in chorus: “No way! It’s too boring out there! Who are you disturbing us from our singing and dancing?”

One particular artiste confided in me: “ Thank you for asking. I know that the earth is a paradise for fools. They fight each other for simple things like gold, diamonds and other trinkets.  Look at Russia in Ukraine! Look at Sudan! Look at Lybia! Look at Afghanistan! Let me not even mention Zimbabwe! No! I am not going back to earth! He emphasised.


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