By Fred Zindi
In 2016, during the former Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Augustine Chihuri’s notorious and high profile national police road blocks, I was stopped in Rusape on my way to Mutare where a female police officer by the name of Constable Chikwinji from Highway Patrol took my identity card because I had refused to pay $20 fine.
She accused me of not having reflectors on my car despite my arguing that there were built-in reflectors in the lights of the car. She did not understand this. She told me to wait for her at Rusape Police Station which I did for almost two hours, but she did not turn up.
It was during this period that I decided to go to Vhengere township to see if I could find an old music friend, Patrick Mukwamba, to know more about why he had relocated to Rusape and what had gone wrong between him and the Four Brothers. The other reason I had wanted to see Mukwamba was to find out how his latest release at that time, Please Call Me Back was faring on the market.
However as someone who did not know his address, I thought I could use his ‘popularity’ to find him just like anybody who went into Norton to find where Oliver Mtukudzi lived would do.
To my surprise, many people in Rusape did not know him. The first person I asked said to me: “Patrick who? Never heard of him”. I thought that was a joke until I stumbled into the second and third person, only to realise that they gave the same answers.
Out of about a dozen or so people I asked, only one said he knew him but did not know where he lived.
He also said that he had not seen him for several months and that I should look for him at the vendors’ market. At that juncture, I gave up the search and proceeded to Mutare.
Patrick Mukwamba gained popularity during his short stint with the Four Brothers between 1983 and 1984 when he released the classical hit, Jonasi (Wapenga Nayo Bonus). This song was a Christmas hit as it described how Jonasi foolishly spent his bonus earned from work.
Another of his compositions, Tonosangana Ikoko made the Four Brothers a very popular band. Other hits which Mukwamba wrote, included Ramba Murume, Usambonyara Kusekwa, Zuva Rekufa Kwangu, Nhamo Yekufambira Chikwereti, Amai Nyembezi and Vambozha Vauya.
In one newspaper report, Mukwamba said he gave the Four Brothers a breakthrough through his compositions although he claims he never received a penny from the songs he wrote.
Starting from the late ’60s with the Carnations Band, Mukwamba has been a nomadic artiste, linking up with several groups over the years. He moved from the Pop Settlers band based in Mutare in the late 1960’s to Tanganda Tycoons, then Rollicking Band based in Victoria Falls before leaving for Mhangura Mine to replace Thomas Mapfumo as the lead vocalist for Hallelujah Chicken Run Band.
He later joined the Seasons Band before leaving his Chitungwiza house to settle in Rusape where his last known group was Silver Sinde.
However, it was during his stint with the Four Brothers that Mukwamba made his biggest impact.
He wrote many songs during this time. Unfortunately, Marshall Munhumumwe, the drummer in the Four Brothers could also sing and whenever the band was invited overseas, they would leave Mukwamba behind and got Marshall to sing Mukwamba’s songs. Mukwamba was very bitter about this as he claims Four Brothers travelled overseas on the popularity of his songs.
According to Mukwamba in an earlier interview, “Marshall told the promoters that he could sing each and every one of my compositions and hence there was no need for me to be part of the travelling team,” he said.
But this is not to say the Four Brothers did not have their own compositions. Their well-known composition Makorokoto was written by Marshall Munhumumwe in celebration of Zimbabwe’s independence. It was the hit during their debut European tour in 1986 together with a string of recordings such as Sara Ugarike, Adiwa Usamuzvonde and Rugare.
The name Four Brothers was a coincidence. The four musicians, Alex Chipaika-Phiri who played guitar, Marshall Munhumumwe (who was the nephew of exiled Zimbabwean musician, Thomas Mapfumo, played drums and did the vocals), Edward Matigasi-Ulaya, another guitarist, and bassist Never Mutare who formed the band in 1977, were not related at all.
They are all deceased now.
The history of their coming together is an interesting one. After leaving their individual bands in 1977, these four unemployed musicians joined together to do one song Mandega at Shed Studios.
The producer, the late Chrispen Matema, who worked for Teal Record Company then, asked the four musicians to provide him with the label information at the end of the recording. They failed to come up with a name for the group.
Chris then decided to call them the Four Brothers arguing that he could not release the record unless he had a collective name for the musicians who had recorded it. That was meant to be a temporary name but when the record came out, it made such a great impact that the four musicians decided to form a permanent band and, naturally, the name Four Brothers stuck.
When Mukwamba joined them in 1983, they became known as Patrick Mukwamba and the Four Brothers. Together, they toured the whole country. They resorted to their original name when they started their overseas trips without Mukwamba.
After their European tour, equipped with new equipment from their overseas earnings, they wrote Rudo Imoto as Four Brothers. The song was a massive hit throughout the country and music fans, wherever they went, would always demand that song.
It was at this point that the band with this new hit, realised they did not need Mukwamba any more as Marshall sang it beautifully. This is the stage at which Mukwamba’s fortunes began to slip away, and he is still bitter about this.
In Chinhoyi, at Cooksey Hall, during the Four Brothers’ performance one evening, Marshall suddenly announced that they had finished playing. There was a near riot after the audience called for an encore. The crowd refused to leave the hall until the band played Rudo Imoto once more. They did and the crowd was appeased.
One fan was overheard saying at the end of the show; “If they had not played that tune again, I would have smashed their new instruments. I don’t care if I had ended up in jail.” That is how passionate their fans were.
It was during Mukwamba’s stay in Rusape that he wrote the song Usanyare Basa Raunoita to explain his present situation when he had gone into the sculpture industry in order to make ends meet.
In the twenty-six years that he has been off-stage since his last gig at the 1994 Jenaguru Festival, Mukwamba has tried his hand at the sculpture industry and other means of earning a living.
As shown above, not many people in Rusape know that he was once a very popular star.
His estranged wife, whom he had left behind in Chitungwiza, died in 2004 and Mukwamba has continued to live a rather lonely life in Rusape.
When he heard that I was looking for him in Rusape, he immediately phoned me and suggested that he would come to Harare for an interview.
We met at Meikles Hotel where we had drinks and he told me his whole story about why he was bitter with Marshall for ‘stealing’ his songs. He did not come out with the reason why he had left Chitungwiza. Although he claimed that he never received a penny in royalties for his songs, I did not get to understand how he had raised enough money to buy his house in Chitungwiza.
In my opinion, Mukwamba should move back to Harare where opportunities are greater than in Rusape. Here he would try to exploit and revive his old songs as they are still popular even though many people do not know who the singer behind those old tunes is.