The Song That Won’t Go Away: The Many Incarnations of Handiende.

Earlier this week, it was announced that songstress Cindy Munyavi would celebrate her birthday by releasing a Kae Chaps-assisted single, Handiende. I was conflicted. On one hand, the Queen of Urban Soul and the contemporary King of Heartbreaks were hopping on a track together; what’s not to like? On the other hand, I mused, we need another cover of the classic song like I need a hole in my head or the exchange rate needs another zero at the end of it.

By Shingi Mavima

I need not have worried. The song is as good as it is an evolved heir of the original—I’ll get back to that shortly.

Released in 1994, the original Handiende was penned and emotively penned by the legendary Steve Makoni. It tells the gut-wrenching story of a woman who, as her husband of many years decides that he doesn’t want her anymore, pleads with him as he refuses to go. 

Since its release, it has been reimagined and rendered dozens of times. I recently saw somewhere that it is the most covered song (church and traditional songs notwithstanding) in Zimbabwean history. While this is difficult to verify, a quick scan would suggest that, perhaps together with Furuwa, it’s up there.

So in celebration of Cindy and Kae Chaps’ latest release, and in honor of the classic, we thought it may be interesting to look at ten reincarnations—whether they be renditions, remixes, or reimaginings of Handiende.

Cindy Munyavi and Kae Chaps- Handiende

Handiende-Cindy Munyavi feat Kae Chaps Visualizer

Might as well start with the song that inspired this list.

“Nyangwe ukandivharira panze, handiende

Ukauya uchindipomera zvipande, handiende…”

This song epitomizes how a reimagined Zimbabwean classic ought to sound. Rooted in Chimurenga-Reggae rhythms, themselves a deviation from the Blues emphasis of the original, Cindy and Kae re-write the story without sacrificing the profundity of the original song. Furthermore, in having both the male and female perspective, this version goes from being the lament of the sole aggrieved party.

It holds up nicely.

Steve Makoni

Steve Makoni – Handiende.

“Nhasi wandisakadza, mhuri ndayarutsa newe…”

The godfather. The song upon whose shoulders many a hit has been crafted. 

I have said in previous works that the near-erasure of Steve Makoni from even the periphery of the GOAT conversation is sad. Granted, most of this is due to his self-imposed reticence, which has resulted in a much smaller body of work than his peers. Nevertheless, ‘Dhongi’ is straight class, and Handiende found him in vintage form. Crooned effortlessly to the blues twang of his guitar, the song is able to blend the pain and banality of the situation the two erstwhile lovers find themselves in with the levity for which Makoni is synonymous.

It is, again, worth remembering that this is the original. So the oft-repeated ingenuity of ‘chaipo ipo ipo ipo…” and “wondiudza kumusha, ah!” is all from the mind of the great one.

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi Handiende

“Musha wandinoziva ndepano apa,
Dikita, misodzi zvakaerera…”

If Steve Makoni made us shed a tear with the original, Tuku made us weep. Lyrically identical to the original, Tuku’s signature somber tone and instrumentation replaced Makoni’s folksy vibe, thus making the song sound more solemn. The “ah” and “chaipo ipo”s move from being remarks of confrontational protest to those of desperation. “Ndogarira vana vangu, ndofira vana vangu” is no longer stubborn defiance, it’s a plea in this version. All this to say, this is a powerful rendition.

That arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest ever artist, with an unrivaled catalog of his own and not especially known for covering the works of others, took time to render this song (which had already been a hit not too long before then) speaks to the original’s excellence.

Selmor Mtukudzi

Handiende

“Kana vari mainini, vanouya tinogara tese,
Inga vakuru vakataura kuwanda huuya…”

Of falling fruits and proximity to trees.

For a song written extensively in the voice of an aggrieved woman, Handiende has been overwhelmingly performed by men. While this may be odd in other musical cultures,it is well in line with Shona music tradition (See Pengaudzoke’s Seiko Kuonda, Terry Afrika’s Chitima, Freeman’s Chitsike for reference.) 

It was, however, refreshing to hear Selmor Mtukudzi take a stab at it. While the funked-up beat takes away some of the melancholy of the original, her stellar vocal performance transports us into a world of hurt. The idea of also having a younger and more contemporary female artist render the classic signifies how pervasive the social dysfunction embodied by the song across the generations and socio-economic status

Zubz- Handiende

Handiende

“I wish that you’d understand me and feel my pain

The love I have for her is different but still the same

When I make love to you, it’s thoughts of you that feel my brain

When I’m with her, you’re on my mind, it’s real insane”

Okay, be honest: who remembers this one? Dropped in 2004 at the height of the Urban Grooves moment, this hip-hop remix of the Handiende finds Zubz in vintage form. The very existence of this version is audacious for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 20 years ago, the idea of reworking a classic record into the urban genre (especially) complete with exclusively English rap lyrics, was seldom heard. While the emergence of ZimDancehall and the renaissance on Zimbabwean hip hop in recent years has made this more commonplace, at the time you could count on one hand the number of people who had attempted iit successfully (#RIPConradNduna) 

But perhaps even more audaciously, Zubz endeavors to make the listener empathize with the man telling his wife that he is in love with someone else. It flips the script. All of a sudden, the cries of ‘Handiende’ by the woman are no longer the pleas of someone desperately trying to keep their family together, but of somebody selfishly holding a yester-lover hostage.

And for four minutes and thirty-two seconds, he actually sells that premise. 

Just brilliant.

(SN: anybody know what happened to Zubz? Let us know in the comments.)

Shingi Mavima and Simba Ci- Handiende.

Handiende

“She has to leave to live, but if she leaves,
She leaves behind her only reason for leaving…”

Well, might as well do it.

In this version, Handiende serves as a refrain, breaking up a six-stanza poem into three parts. While the poem on which the song was based (Scars of Love) had been around for the better part of a decade, it took a fortuitous trip from the USA to South Africa in 2016, where the poet met crooner Simba Ci. They talked shop for a few moments, and decided to combine not only the poem with the classic song, but also blend in a reference to Eminem and Rihanna’s domestic violence anthem, ‘Love the Way you Lie.”

One afternoon later, this version was born and, as of right now, is the most streamed song in either artist’s spotify catalog.

(SN: the song was recorded in the apartment of, and produced by, a pre-fame Mr. Brown.)

(SSN: Just in case you are wondering, yes, that Shingi Mavima 😉 )

Noble Stylz et al- Handiende

Handiende – Steve Makoni ft Noble Stylz, Eden, MyCole, Zarae,

“Ndozvisimbisa nekublama mimhanzi,

Ndogara ndakadhakwa kuti ndivhare nyadzi

Ndombofunga kuti dai zvaiitirwa yangu hanzvadzi

Dai maiziva hupenyu hwevanhukadzi!”

In this hip-hop reimagining, Noble Stylz does not pretend that his character (as the husband) is a victim at all. With several small houses and possibly having given his wife the virus, he is far from the good guy; but we see him come to terms with his decisions and, for a moment, laments the hell he has put his wife through.

This is a beautiful rendition, although it seems it only exists in videos of his life performances. Such as the recent one above.

Motion Chidikano- Handiende

Handiende

“Vana vangani tirise tese? Makore mangani tiri tese?”

The first in a trilogy of Handiendes I had admittedly not heard before writing this piece, this particular version stays true to the original musically and lyrically. 

It is a well-sung, if unspectacular, rendition. The backing vocalists, in particular, add some well-appreciated seasoning to the chorus and other parts of the song.

(SN. I was not able to find much on the artist except the 2014 album which includes this song. But in addition to covering ‘Kanyama Karipi’, he bears the same surname as the late lead singer of Assegai Crew. Does anybody know definitively if there is any connection?)

PBoi ft Mako- Handiende

Pboi ft Mako -Handiende (Official music video)

“Wakazochinja, ndaisaziva waive shumba
Nhasi uno ndaakuchema, semukaka, ndazokomba”

While Zubz tried to Jedi mind-trick us into rooting for him, and Noble owned up to his transgressions, this hip hop rendition represents the oft-silent victims in marital relationships: abused husbands.

PBoi is nice with the storytelling, but the featured vocalist, Mako, arguably steals the show, channeling the gruff voice of Steve Makoni before transitioning into falsettos synonymous with 90s RnB. Very well done.

Dr Smith, Dj Oxygen, and BrickCity- Handiende

Handiende-Dr Smith x Dj Oxygen x BrickCity Produced By Rox

“Muntu wami, mina ngageta wena
Mina ngagethwa nguwe, mina ngathanda wena…”

An honest moment that reveals internalized bias: when I first came across the song, I almost expected it to be a chopped-up, house version of the classic that would be devoid of any of its original soul. After all, that’s what people with Dr. and DJ in their names do, right? Wrong.

This is up there with the best, most heartfelt renditions of Handiende on this list. Not only do they introduce English and Ndebele into the mix, some of the original lyrics are rearranged just enough to give it a new feel. The music is also great.

Any other versions of Handiende we left out? Which one of these is your favorite?

(We’ve created a YouTube playlist of the Handiende version listed here:

2 Comments

  1. What an interesting read. I had no idea of the many versions of this song. Wow amazing, quite insightful. Thank you for this.

    Like

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