Most of the time I met him, he was running — just running. He would always say, “Rega timborova faifi maera” (let me just run for five miles), regardless of the distance he would cover.
From the same area comes Zimbabwe’s long distance runner Mike Fokorani. Fokorani won several accolades and represented his school (Kuhondo Secondary) at various levels until he became a provincial pride when he succeeded at national athletics level.
Fokorani and Faifi Maera were in the same age group. Fokorani trained on the same dust road along which I regularly saw Faifi Maera “just running for five miles”.
The last time I met Five Maera, he was no longer running. He was conspicuous by his dreadlocks and white vapostori garments. Fokorani now represents the country at international athletics tournaments.
I was reminded of these two contrasting characters as I followed Energy Mutodi’s unfolding story in the music industry, especially after listening to his latest album Sekawo Mbichana.
When Mutodi took Real Sounds of Africa to back him, it was clear, considering the size of the band, that he had resources to finance any band in the country. He went on to release two rhumba albums, Simbi Yamudhara and Kumasese, which got rave reviews. Somehow, Mutodi attracted media attention but he did not strike me as a musician who could make it up the local music ladder.
What I saw in Mutodi those days was a musician who could provide an important missing link in our industry — good remuneration of band members yet chances of making it big in mainstream music were very slim because of the genre he was pursuing vis-à-vis local fans’ changing music tastes.
Inasmuch as he put effort to market his music, he did not manage to attract many fans. So here was a musician who had resources and like, Faifi Maera, was doing it for passion without much attention to material returns.
But unlike Faifi Maera, Mutodi did not let passion for music carry him away till he got exhausted with nothing much to show for the passion.
He moved with time and crossed over to sungura music. At some point I subscribed to his critics’ notion that “money does not buy talent” but after listening to his latest sungura album, especially tracks Tinofanana Pakuona, Rumbi and Kuteerera, I realised there is something in Mutodi that is beyond the media frenzy around him, his flamboyance and passion for music.
His change-over was a sign of versatility while the way he managed to assemble a sungura band — after much investment — were signs of his penchant for success in music. I then realised that, like Fokorani, Mutodi has a vision.
This album titled Sekawo Mbichana might not immediately attract much attention because Mutodi is still unknown in the heavily-congested sungura territory but in the not-so-far future heads will begin to turn.
In his Mutodi Express, the musician is leading a winning team featuring the likes of Spencer Khumulani, Gift “Shiga Shiga” Katulika, Gaison Sixpence and Innocent Mjintu. He is unlikely to go wrong with such a team and, given his lyrical prowess, Mutodi will soon make a difference. This album shows he is good at composing songs.
Had Mutodi kept pursuing rhumba, I would hardly find kind words for his career except commending his good videos but he has started a new promising journey. What I saw at his recent performance with the new team was a ripe bud just awaiting sunrise to blossom.
By Godwin Muzari