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Love for 'dresses' inspired Jonah Moyo

Legendary musician Jonah Moyo, who fronts Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, has revealed the pushing factor at the beginning of his musical career.

Some musicians are driven by the love of money and fame, but for Moyo, it was the desire to win girls’ hearts which prompted him to learn how to play a makeshift guitar.

“When we were growing up, there was this good friend of mine called John Tagwira, who used to play a makeshift guitar surrounded by girls,” Moyo told Standard Style in an exclusive interview.

“I felt green with envy and eventually, I asked him to teach me to play. He agreed.

“Two weeks down the line, I was playing much better than him.”

The Tsavatsava musician as he prefers his music to be called although classified in the genre of sungura, kick-started his career in the late 1970s when the country had no such type of music.

“In 1979, I recorded my first single called Devera Ngwena Zhimozhi by Teal Recording Company (now Gramma Records) producer Tony Rivett (late now). He told me that they have never recorded this type of music in the country (Rhodesia), thus, making me the first musician to record sungura,” the Devera Ngwena Jazz Band frontman recalled.

Through music, the 66-year-old Moyo has managed to transform his life from rags to riches despite him ending his educational career at primary level.

“Poverty and being unable to go further with my education made me to turn to full-time music,” Moyo said.

“When growing up I wanted to be a doctor, but all that went in vain because my mother couldn’t afford to do so.

“I was so good at school and it really pained me. I know that my mother worked so hard to put food on the table although we were so many.

“Through music, I have achieved a lot. In Zimbabwe alone, I have 44 gold records and five trophies.

“I was the first musician to buy a house in 1983 in a white community dominated area in Rhodene, Masvingo town with the music royalties.

“I managed to send my children to universities.

“They are all doing well and three are working in South Africa and my last born is working in Japan for the past five years.

“He came back to Zimbabwe last week for a visit to see his dad.”

Moyo added: “I have no regrets at all. I know that I have achieved beyond my expectations. For example, I am now teaching music at Great Zimbabwe University. What more can one wish for?”

Moyo and his Devera Ngwena Jazz Band became the first group in Zimbabwe to sell music across the borders in countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi and Swaziland.

At the peak of his musical career, Moyo in May 1987 went on three-month tours twice to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Scotland where he held more than 40 shows.

Devera Ngwena Jazz Band at their peak shared the stage with international artiste Curtis Mayfield and also took the late Leonard Dembo on a one year tour countrywide as their curtain-raiser.

During that time, Dembo had no instruments of his own before the release of his hit song Chitekete.

Some of Moyo’s hit songs include Solo naMutsai, Gremah Wepamoyo, Barbra, Ruva Remoyo Wangu, Anoshaina NemaBabie, Wangu P, Second Hand, Ndichakutiza, Chiredzi, Too Cheap and Nyakuzvida.

Although the Solo naMutsai hitmaker has achieved numerous successes in the music industry, his history cannot be complete without mentioning the struggles he encountered.

“Musically, I encountered a lot of challenges, especially when the situation here in Zimbabwe changed to the worst,” Moyo said.

“Our currency was now useless; fuel was scarce for us to do shows.

“I could not fend for my children to go to school and their well-being. Somehow I had to quickly find a solution.

“This was the time I thought of going to Thohoyandou in Limpopo province, South Africa.

“I knew my music was very popular there as I was the first artiste in Zimbabwe to sell my music there as well. The rest is history.”

Moyo is set to release a new seven track album.

“We want to launch the album first before we release it, but I don’t have the date yet,” he said.

The songs include Linda, Nhengure, Kwandakabva, Masvingo Yotinhira, Ndozvandiri and Wangu Tee.

 “It goes way back to the old Devera Ngwena; I have tried to keep it very original,” Moyo said.

“I have also added two songs which are different but with that Tsavatsava feel, which you cannot miss from my songs.

“All my fans will be happy about my new offering including those in Malawi I do have something for you a song called Chikondi, which means love.”

Moyo further added that: “As usual, the new album is all about love with a bit of this and that. This will be Volume 43.”

At some point Moyo was employed at Gaths Mine as a senior head clerk in Mashava, just a few kilometres outside Masvingo town.

He also worked as a domestic worker when he first arrived in Kwekwe and his passion for music drove him to play at train stations with one of his friends.

Moyo played at the railway stations for some time until another friend introduced him to a band which used to play at Garandichauya Beerhall in Kwekwe’s Mbizo suburb.

Tagwira could not be located.

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