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ELEPHANTS NEVER USED TO SING…

SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
THE husky voice on the other end of the line was a very familiar one — deep, authoritative, rich, commanding, hoarse but enchanting, rough but beautiful and raspy but captivating.

There was a touch of emotion to the conversation, at times I could hear the voice cracking under the weight of the message it was carrying and, for about five or so minutes, we just kept on talking.

Talking about the handsome son he had tragically lost, six years earlier, in a road accident just a month before his 22nd birthday, robbing the family of a jewel in their crown.

And the nation of one of its most promising musicians.

Talking about the beautiful daughter I had also somehow lost that week, six months before her 22nd birthday, robbing my small family of a jewel in its crown and leaving us to deal with the devastating consequences of such a monumental loss.

That was the reason the legend had picked up the phone to call that day.

Just for the two of us to share our agony, carry our burden and discuss, as intimately as possible, how fate had dealt us such a very cruel blow whose immense pain could only be understood by those who have suffered at its hands.

That such a legend, celebrated all over the world as one of Africa’s finest musicians, could even dare to call me was itself a powerful tale of the humility of this great man.

A superstar who, despite his status as a global music icon, the closest thing to such immortals like Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Youssou Ndour, King Sunny Sde and Lucky Dube we could produce in this country, still remained rooted to the values of humility.

Still humble enough to feel the pain of a common man like me, to pick up the phone and give me a very personal call and spare five priceless minutes consoling me, comforting me, and providing me with words — some which flowed like lyrics of a song — to try and ease my pain.

Telling me, like former United States President Richard Nixon, that only after you have been to the deepest valley can you be able to appreciate the magnificent view at the top of the mountain.

Oliver Mtukudzi was someone I knew, but certainly not someone I could claim to know very well.

The music promoter, Josh Hozheri, had brought us together at his old joint Jazz 105 but the superstar was apparently closer to my workmate, Collin Matiza, a bond they had shared for years.

And, for him, to pick up the phone and ring my number, spend five or so minutes telling me I needed was to be strong, was something quite extraordinary.

MUSIC, MUSICIANS AND A ROMANCE WITH FOOTBALL

When World War II ended in 1945, leaving the scarred globe to deal with the wreckage of its madness and examine its conscience with 70 to 80 million people dead, a powerful song was released that year.

“When you walk through a storm, Hold your head high, and do not be afraid of the dark….Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, walk on, with hope in your heart.

“And You Will never Walk Alone.”

It is the most powerful football song ever.

Zexie Manatsa also produced a gem, “ukadyiwa neSaints, wadyiwa nebhobho,’’ as a tribute to the great Saints team of the past before greed, among those tasked to lead this club, produced the perfect storm that destroyed what used to be a powerful franchise.

Manatsa also came up with another gem, “Makepekepe, Shaisa Mufaro,’’ which can still be heard in the stands whenever the Green Machine are doing well.

The Glamour Boys were also given their classic, with Manatsa asking whether the great Moses Chunga had scored, goalkeeper Leo Ntawatawa had saved, while there was also a song for Bosso, a sing-along-classic, even for those who found it difficult to speak Ndebele.

But, if there is a real song that captures the romance between domestic football and music, then it has to be Lovemore Majaivana’s all-time classic “Badlala Njani,’’ a celebration of Bosso, their history, their success, the men who shaped their story and everything this great club represents.

During the wild days of the ‘’Dream Team’’, it was common to hear the voice of Tanga Wekwa Sando singing his hit song “Vakomana Vekwedu,” a tribute to those gritty Warriors, back in the days when they would regularly attract 60 000 at the National Sports Stadium.

I’m not sure whether the Singing Elephant had any special attachment to football.

But the legend developed a very strong personal link with our national game when one of the special players, who have the distinction of being part of the first group of Warriors to feature at the AFCON finals, came into his life.

THE SINGING ELEPHANT, THE FLYING ELEPHANT AND THE BOY WHO BECAME A GENERAL

Tinashe Nengomasha was just a kid, a few months short of his 22nd birthday, when he made the starting XI of the Warriors line-up against Egypt on January 25, 2004, in our first match at the AFCON finals in the Tunisian city of Sfax.

This grand old newspaper, just like that iconic Rolex watch advert, has recorded football moments that last for a second and recorded moments that last forever.

It has recorded the promise of a new season, narrated the story of the game’s brightest stars going head-to-head with challenges that have destroyed some, like poor Denver Mukamba, and shaped others into immortals.

But, as they say in that Rolex advert, it’s not until we look back that we understand that at those very moments we were standing on the edge of Zimbabwean football history.

We don’t just chronicle the events but we are a priceless vault that has kept the history of this country’s national sport since football started being played here more than 100 years ago.

Like reminding the country that yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the day our Warriors came of age by featuring in their first AFCON finals game.

Mtukudzi, the Singing Elephant from Dande, would later provide one of those Warriors, the AFCON pioneers of 2004, led by the Flying Elephant from Binga, with a beautiful wife, Samantha, to possibly give this country the next generation of its football stars.

Today, being a weekend, just a day after the pioneers of 2004 plunged into the first AFCON finals battle against the Pharaohs, was supposed to be one of grand celebrations.

But, sadly, it’s a weekend of tears, as they join the fellow who was a boy in their pioneering platoon, in mourning the passing on of his father-in-law.

The Singing Elephant, whose powerful lyrics of a journey back into a time of his innocence in his rural Dande provoked a grand wave of nostalgia throughout this country, passed away on Wednesday.

Just two days before his son-in-law and his elite group teamed up to mark the 15th anniversary of their historic AFCON adventure.

Just two days before the Flying Elephant from Binga, himself as much an icon in football as the Singing Elephant from Dande was in music, marked that precise minute — 15 years ago — when he became the first Warrior to score a goal at the AFCON finals.

I was there in Sfax, that day, and I can still see all our boys running to their skipper to celebrate this remarkable piece of great ambassadorial work in sport, which this fine bunch of Warriors represented.

Somehow, the immortal Singing Elephant also had to die a day before Scottish writer, Hugh McIlvanney, one of the greatest sportswriters of all-time, died aged 84, after spending 60 years in his trade.

And, somehow, the great Singing Elephant had to die at 66 and, going through all the social media feeds, there was no doubt it was a very sad day when the music stopped.

Ironically, 66 is the number — 11 X 6 — which one gets when you count the number of Warriors who were on the field on the six occasions Nengomasha fought for his country in the AFCON finals games.

Sixty six is also a landmark number in domestic football for it was in ‘66 that St Paul’s Musami powered their way into the game’s history books as the only club from a rural setting in this country to ever be crowned champions.

It’s a record that still stands proud and tall to this day, six years after the death of Father Anthony Davis, the pioneering missionary whose love for football left a lasting legacy.

A powerful reminder that no matter the odds, a light can still be found in the darkness if there is a relentless commitment to the cause – something that fired those St Paul’s Musami boys into legends.

Something that fired the Flying Elephant and his troops, including a boy called Nengomasha, to refuse to be burdened by a history of failure and find the inspiration to become the first generation of Warriors to sing their national anthem at the AFCON finals 15 years ago.

And something that inspired the Singing Elephant to rise from being just another boy from Dande, another boy from the tough streets of Highfield, to become the greatest singer in the history of this country.

Too bad, I can’t speak to you today, because I really wanted to, just for a chat, just to hear your beautiful husky voice again, the one that propelled you into immortality.

Oh, by the way, you didn’t sing for me during that phone conversation that day but l will try to do so for you today and I have chosen a classic, “Dance With My Father,’’ from Luther Vandros.

“If I could get another chance

“Another walk, another dance with you

“I’d play a song that would never, ever end

“How I’d love, love, love

“To dance with my Singing Elephant again

“If I could steal, one final glance

“One final step, one final dance with him

“I’d play a song that would never, ever end

“Cause I’d love, love, love

“To dance with my Singing Elephant again.’’

To God Be The Glory!

Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Khamaldinhoooooooooooooooooooo!

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Email —robsharuko@gmail.com; robson.sharuko@zimpapers.co.zw

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Source : The Herald

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