By: Tafadzwa Gora (Gora Zowa Machoronga)
Sungura is the sound that me and my peers grew up listening to. It was not unusual for comparisons to be made between Leonard Zhakata and Simon Chimbetu, and even outside Sungura between Dr Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi. Hence, it did not come as a surprise when at one point during the Sungura battles, Dendera fans created the legend that the ZORA legend’s song Mugove was a song that had been written by the master of song, Simon Chimbetu. Later on, when Leonard Zhakata penned the song Batai Mazwi, some fans were of the view that the opening verse,
“Kana ndichishaura batai mazwi kuitira mangwana. Vamwe vanozodudzira nepasipo, vamwe ndevanofamba vachiti hazvisi zvake”, was a subtle rebuttal of the fable that the song Mugove belonged to Simon Chimbetu.
A few years later, another fierce Sungura battle emerged between the King of Sungura, Alick Macheso’s and Tongai Moyo’s fans. There were again various myths around how the rivalry between the two legends who were said to be erstwhile friends began. Whether these real or imagined battles and rivalries made sense or not, it is a story for another day.
What made sense and kept the Sungura genre a force to reckon with, was an assortment of sounds among them.
Sungura is what it is today thanks to a variety and distinct sounds that these legends created. Thus, in this day and age, it is less important and foolhardy to discuss the future of Sungura music, in reference to these living legends, Nicholas Zakaria, Leonard Zhakata, Jonah Moyo, Mitchell Jambo, Alick Macheso, Job Mashanda, (or the departed yesteryear greats whose list is long), Daiton Somanje, Josphat Somanje, Admire Kasenga, and many others, except off course, if the discussion is about the living Sungura greats playing an advisory role. Indeed, they are over the hill. Entertaining such a discussion is akin to discussing the future of boxing or soccer in reference to Floyd Mayweather or Cristiano Ronaldo separately. These athletes are past their prime.
The yesteryear sungura greats I have mentioned above are the Hall Famers of sungura music.
They entered the music scene when the majority of the current crop of sungura musicians were not yet born or were still in their baby napkins, and some in diapers. These living legends have done it all and have seen it all. They have saved Sungura from extinction in the face of stiff competition from within and from outside. They should be applauded for this feat. Admittedly, the message in some of the songs from the current crop of sungura musicians is at times quite new, profound, deep and sometimes amusing.
However, it is incumbent on the leading young generation of sungura musicians such as Mark Ngwazi, D.T Bio Mudimba, Tongai Moyo (Jnr), Aleck Musuki, Tedious Matsito (Jnr), Tendai Ngwazi, Esau Macheso, Tatenda Macheso, Romeo Gasa, Obert Chari, Simon Mutambi, Elephas Mashamba, the Chibadura Boys and many others, to improve the sungura sound from where the elders left off or even develop unique sounds that will guarantee longevity for the genre and the artists themselves.
Sungura fans are yearning for a variety of unique sounds that will sustain, not only one artist, but all sungura artists and the genre. Indeed, one swallow does not make a summer.
The current crop of Sungura musicians must not sit on their laurels and be content with little gains. They are yet to cross the bridge and need to seek counsel from the elders, and be given the keys to longevity in the industry!