Friday, May 2, 2008
For the last three years I have spend most of my time listening and writing about Afro Beat and Afro Funk related music and I have to admit that listening to more traditional African Music by the Green Arrows (and Orchestre Poly-Rythmo) recently has been an incredible breath of fresh air. Their music is deeply anchored in my soul and I´ve come to realize how much that band means to me.
I´ve discovered their music 10 years ago in Harare and I still cant hold my jaw dropping when listening to the way the instruments interact.....it´s absolutely impressive.
I believe it has to be one of the tightest African bands I´ve ever had the chance to hear. (this might sound like a promotional post for the Green Arrows compilation but I have been out of stock for months now and I do not think the demand would justify manufacturing some more....less then 800 copies sold in Europe mind you)
I travelled to Benin in 2005 to met the musician of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo and one of the first thing I did was to offer them my Green Arrows compilation so that they can have an idea of what I was planning to do. Lohento Eskill & Melome clement whom I met again few days later, had spend a whole evening listening to the compilation at Bentho Gustave house and they were astonished by the way the Bass guitar was handled. I heard the same comments from Mulatu Astatke and Roger Damawuzan.
This might be the first time you ever heard of Zexie Manatsa but in Zimbabwe Zexie was a Legend and one of Africa´s most amazing bass player, an instrument he had learned to play on an acoustic guitar. Self taught, Zexie played his instrument in a way I rarely heard before. Some of my friends who study Jazz music at the university of Mainz were saying that he was actually Zig-Zaging between the other instruments notes (Whatever that means) and they couldn´t figure out how he was doing it. After 10 years composing amazing tunes, including some revolutionary tracks for which the band was emprisoned and tortured, Zexie became such an icon that when he decided to get married to Stella, the woman who has been by his side for more then a decade, they though of celebrating the event at Harare´s Rufaro stadium on August 29th, 1979.
In the liners notes for the Green Arrows release I wrote:
"It was one of the most memorable events ever to take place in Salisbury. The festivities took place at the national Rufaro Stadium where a huge concert took place, with some of the most important bands in the country performing in honour of one of the legends of Zimbabwean music. A crowd of people 60.000 (!!?) packed the stadium. As soon as Stella and Zexie made their entrance, Thomas Mapfumo started performing one of his most popular tunes "Africa". Later that afternoon, things started to get out of hand when Tineyi Chikupo & the Mother Band (Picture Below) started playing the song "Sirivia" (Listen Below....a monster hit in Zimbabwe). The crowd became really wild and started tearing fences apart to get closer to the stage. Two people were hospitalised as a result.
Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was at that time prime minister of Zimbabwe / Rhodesia, and who was campaigning for the forthcoming elections, had made the mistake of organising a political rally on the same day. Muzorewa later blamed Manatsa for the poor attendance. The Daily Mail had a screaming headline on their front page the following day: “Zexie’s Wedding Spoils Muzorewa’s Rally”.
While writing this I wished I could find some picture to document what was going to be published as my first though was that few would believe this story in the first place. Despite trying hard I couldn´t find any (I manage to find a poster advertising the event though).
When the Green Arrows compilation was released in Zimbabwe I´ve organized a Party at Zexie´s place in Glen Norah. Friends as well as people working for the record industry and few journalist were invited. On that day I offered Zexie the wah-wah (Fuzz) pedal he had been asking for (for the last two years) and I very clearly remember the moment I hand it to him.
It had started raining so all the guests were now sitting in the living room, Zexie had passed my present to Stella to Open it, When she realized what it was she started jumping and shouting wah wah wah wah wah wah!!!.....everybody was steering at her not really understanding what was going on. To make explanation easier she just played the track "Bambo Makwatila" (Listen Below) that when things became clear to everyone. Zexie was literally speechless, it was the first time I saw him close to tears and also the first time I saw him kissing his wife (...I might even have a picture of that)
Zexie´s wish was to re-create the typical sound of the Green Arrows mastered by Stanley Manatsa, his late young brother and without doubt Zimbabwe craziest guitarist. Now Stanley´s blood and Talent was running in Tendai´s veins, Zexie Son, who at the age of 21 was already considered one of the best. (few month later he was already doing some amazing stuff with the wah-wah....I had connected him to Chains, Legendary Guitar player and founder of The Acid Band, who showed him how to handle it)
Anyway at the end of the Party Zexie asked me to follow him into his bedroom (sacred place) Stella was sitting on the bed with a picture Catalog on her knees. "There is something we would like to show you" she said. I sat between the two. When she opened the book I could hardly believe my eyes: Pictures of Zexie and Stella in their wedding dresses, walking as if it was the most natural thing in front of a crowd of 60.000 fans........so the whole legend was real, I thought.
TINEYI CHIKUPO & THE MOTHER BAND - Sirivia......LISTEN HERE (Recorded from the original master tape)
THE GREEN ARROWS - Bambo Makwatila..................LISTEN HERE