Reflections of Alick Macheso
HARARE – Alick Macheso is arguably Zimbabwe’s all-time highest selling musician.
He has become a master of songs whose passion for his trade is expressed via his guitar prowess and romantic lyrics — often sending glowing tributes to women.
I love his music but despite being boss at the entertainment desk, I never had an opportunity to meet this dude or interview him.
But God delivered him to my path on Oliver Mtukudzi’s 60th birthday — on the day celebrated musicians such as Dorothy Masuka and Ringo Madlingozi graced the occasion.
I had the previous experience of talking to Macheso on the phone and arranging meetings that never materialised.
It was with this in mind that I approached Macheso with caution wondering whether he was sober since he was about to go on stage.
I noticed he was holding a can and on approaching I saw it was a soft drink (Fanta).
I put on my most charming journalistic face that says friendly and at the same time work.
The obvious opening line was to find out which was Macheso’s favourite song from Tuku’s vast collection.
He said Wenge Mambo without hesitation.
“I love most of Mudhara Tuku’s works but Wenge Mambo is my favourite as it talks about not associating with bad people.
“That one should not give his child to a witch, that way one will do away with trouble and so on.”
Macheso spoke highly of Tuku and how he provided him with inspiration.
From that ice-breaker, I saw that Macheso was relaxed and in a very good mood and this is when I decided to lengthen my meeting into an on spot interview.
I have always liked Macheso’s music and that he expressed depth in his lyrics.
The song Makandidana from his album Vapupuri Pupurai quickly came to my mind.
The song used to put tears in my brother’s voice whenever he called from the diaspora, trying to explain that he was out of money to call home all the time and to send groceries.
This was in year 2008.
I asked Macheso about this song and his facial features became cloudy as if remembering something unpleasant.
“I played that song in London once and one guy afterwards told me that it took him back to his parent’s house in Mbare and he wondered what his family was surviving on because he did not have enough to send home.
‘The diaspora was not what it was believed to be financially.”
Macheso has produced many hits with lyrics that have become “viral” in Zimbabwe.
He is credited with bringing new dances and slogans.
“I was born in 1968 and started singing in 1983. My mother said the radio used to be stopped from playing to give me rest. I loved music and dancing and it was part of me.
There is no place that is full of good dances such as Mashonaland Central.
“People there can dance so most of these dances were performed some time ago.
“I take time with my music and I do all the arrangements to my music,” he told the Daily News On Sunday.
But Macheso’s musical journey was not rosy.
“When I started, we used to perform in farming communities and growth points because sungura was not accepted in towns.
“I remember moving around in Chiredzi for 31 days on a tour.
We did not have reliable transport and adults would pay 50 cents to enter our shows and children 25 cents.
It was gruesome; we would move around and get so little to show of our work.”
With time, sungura started receiving appreciation and Macheso began receiving a better pay cheque.
He described his musical life during his stint with Nicholas Zakaria and later the formation of his backing group — Orchestra Mberikwazvo.
Macheso is rumoured to be charmed by sangomas but chuckled when I asked him about this assertion.
“People say I have a very strong n’anga or that the person who gave me the charm died after giving me too much luck.
“But really, there is nothing like that. I believe in God who looks after me and those that went into the spiritual world before us.
“I am inspired by my mother. She looked after me and also my grandmother was very supportive.
“I built her a house in Musana, near Bindura, just to thank her.”
The indefatigable musician has a father too.
“My Father is in Malawi. I do not talk to him but I guess he hears about me,” said Macheso in a warm face that did not seem troubled.
We spoke briefly about his two wives, Nyadzisai and Tafadzwa. He said he is happy in his polygamous marriage.
From Petunia, Sara, Madhuve and later Chimoko Changu, Macheso has revealed an unparalleled prowess of talking to women.
“Nyaya yezvimoko inondinakidza, kunyatso describha zvandinonzwa.
“I get my inspiration from my mother and I respect women so much, that’s why I sing about them in a loving manner,” he explained.
In August, Macheso outperformed himself at the Defence Forces Day and he was called to the podium by the presidium.
Something curious happened when Macheso presented himself to President Robert Mugabe.
Macheso told the Daily News on Sunday that he indeed cried.
Why? He said his life came rushing to his eyes; how he struggled with his mother, growing up in Shamva’s mining community, later starting serious music and not getting paid enough from it and finally hitting the jackpot in his career.
“They were tears of joy. The culmination of sweat and hardwork…Zvakaoma kudaro, I was recognised by the country’s top brass.”