By Mirirai Nsingo
Sekuru Chiwanza Makore (90) still has vivid memories of Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo’s first bira staged under a big Muhacha tree (mubola plum/hissing tree) in his home area of Guruve.
Held in the early 1980s, sekuru Chiwanza remembers the day like it was yesterday. He can almost hear the sweet sounds of the haunting mbira as they fell off the fingers of the talented entranced gwenyambira — the artistes, like it was yesterday.
It was significant that he held the bira, a traditional ceremony, under the Muhacha tree, which is a tree for supplication known as the domicile of the ancestors or muti wevadzimu — the tree of the ancestors. The ancestors are believed to reside in the tree which has a religious significance to people who worship Mwari from the days of old!
Mukanya, as Thomas Mapfumo is affectionately known, was raised by his mother and stepfather, and went on to use his stepfather’s surname according to sekuru Chiwanza, who is Mukanya’s uncle.
The bira was meant to reconnect him with his kith and kin; fellow Mukanyas, with whom he had never met.
The Chimurenga godfather’s homecoming visit back then was the first time most villagers from Chipuriro Village set sight on a petrol-powered electricity generator, Sekuru Chiwanza recounts.
“The bira will forever be in our memories, it put Guruve on the map. The bira brought technology in our remote village for the first time.
“It is a day we will never forget, that Muchacha tree is of great significance to us. It is the spot where the welcome show was held,” says sekuru Chiwanza.
Thirty years later, the 90-year-old sekuru Chiwanza looks back on this day with profound nostalgia.
He wishes he could turn the hands of time. It seems time might have heard his plea, his dearly loved mwanawe Guruve is coming home this April after being in self-imposed exile for the past 11 years.
And the people of Guruve expect another Bira paMuhacha to reconnect with him after his long sabbatical.
Born of a Korekore father from Guruve, which lies in the heart of rural Dande valley but raised partly in Marondera before joining his mother and stepfather in Harare, sekuru Chiwanza says for Thomas Mapfumo the Guruve Bira was surely a homecoming one as he has kept in touch with them even after he left Zimbabwe.
“Ndichirikurangarira paakaridza paMuhacha apo, Guruve yakatinhira gore iroro. Akazenge ogara achiridza kuHarare asi kupera kwemwedzi woga woga ayiuya kumusha.
“Zvino iyezvi, akachaya phone akandiwudza kuti baba ndirikuwuya kumusha,” sekuru Chiwanza told Saturday Lifestyle from his home in Chipuriro village, Guruve. (I still remember that Bira when he played at that Muhacha tree, Guruve reverberated with the sound that day. He would then hold shows in Harare and would make it a point to visit us every month end. Now that he was preparing to come home, he phoned inform me).
The 90-year-old, who says Mukanya has kept in touch with him could not hide the excitement noting how he had been missed before going on to chronicle the brief history of the Chimurenga music legend
“I have missed him, we have all missed him,” he said, his voice oozing of an almost palpable nostalgia.
“Mukanya mwana wemukoma wangu asi vese vakapera kufa saka ndini baba vasara. (He is my brother’s son and I’m his surviving father now that all my brothers died).
“He was raised by his stepfather and Mapfumo is his stepfather’s surname. He is a Soko, Wafawanaka ana Makore.
“Phone aindichaira chaizvo kana pane zvaarikuda kutaura neni uye iniwo kana ndichida kutaura naye ndinokumbira mukomana womufonera.” (He has kept in touch after leaving the country and I have also communicated with him whenever I needed to talk to him).
“His home coming means so much to us, I have missed him. Although we have always talked over the phone, I miss him and look forward to being with him. His father (Tapfumaneyi) was my brother.
“I thought I would never see him again, although I have partially lost my sight due to old age, I’m still happy that he is finally coming home and we will get to sit down and talk man to man,” he adds.
Sekuru Chiwanza says as soon as he sets foot in Zimbabwe, he should head to Guruve first so they can let the spiritual realm know that he is back home.
“Chekutanga achingosvika munyika, tinofanira kuenda kuDzimbahwe tonopira kuti mukomana adzoka. Akange akaenda kunovhima kumasango asi adzoka.
“Kana zvinenge zvataurwa neDzimbahwe ndizvo zvatinoita. Saka kana awuya anotanga kusvikira pano toita chivanu chedu.” (The first thing he should do as soon as he lands as to come so that we can inform our spiritual realm that the boy is back. We will be guided by the spirit for the way forward).
Dzimbahwe refers to their spiritual realm and the rituals are usually done at a sacred place located in a village called Kamuchanyu in Guruve.
“That’s where the Mhondoro used to live and we also go there to ask for the rains, that is why you see the area always has a good yield. We never starve, we believe in that and that’s us,” he said.
“There is nothing peculiar about going to Dzimbahwe, we do that all the time as I told you that we even ask for the rains from Mhondoro,” adds the Chimurenga guru’s nephew, Kurai Makore.
Sekuru Chiwanza says they are likely to have another bira back in Guruve where they will then venerate the home coming as per their tradition.
Not only sekuru Chiwanza is excited about the “second home-coming” of Thomas as Mukanya’s aunt, Anna Chipengo, 95, who was present during the first bira held at the sacred muhacha concurred that this meant a lot to the family and the people of Guruve before reminiscing how she gyrated during the bira back then.
“Mwana weGuruve huya hako kumusha takakumirira. PaMuhacha takatamba, tanga tichivasikanazve. Ndinovimba uchaita rimwe bira kuno kumusha nekuti handingagoni kuenda Harare.” (Son of Guruve come home we are waiting. We danced under the muhacha tree when we were still young. I hope he will hold another bira here as I cannot travel to Harare).
Her hips have seen 95 years pass by and almost certainly cannot gyrate as fluidly as they used to, but her heart certainly will be dancing to the music of the legend! Cometh the day cometh the time!
Mukanya’s cousin, Anna Makore who is now based in the United Kingdom but had visited her father sekuru Chiwanza during the Easter holidays says she will miss Mukanya’s home coming as she would have returned to her base. The visit meant a lot to her and she is excited that he was finally coming home.
“Sadly, I will not meet him during the visit because I would have gone back but I’m so happy that he is finally coming home. I always meet him when he visits the UK and he had always expressed his wish to come home and I’m glad he is finally coming home.”
Kurai who says he has been in touch with his uncle and will soon send him his itinerary of the Guruve visit could also not hide the joy of meeting his father’s brother after all these years.
“His music is all that I have known. I remember my father used to take me to Mukanya’s shows at Mushandirapamwe in Highfield at a very tender age.
“He left Zimbabwe when I was in Form 3 but we have kept in touch especially after my father’s death.”
“Gandanga rakudzoka,” he bellowed.
The euphoria in Guruve is so huge that even those who have never met Mukanya in person but have been connected to him through his music like one 30-year-old teacher at Mupinyuri Primary School, Chipuriro Village, say they cannot wait to see Guruve’s hero.
“I have listened to his music more than any musician thus I feel connected to him just like the older generation. He is our hero and one of the greatest to have emerged from Guruve.
“I’m really looking forward to his visit and I hope I can travel to Harare for his show.”
Mukanya last performed in Zimbabwe 14 years ago and has since described his homecoming gig set for Glamis Arena as a dream come true. The 72-year-old, who is celebrated for his culturally rich and hard-hitting lyrics, has been based in Oregon in the United States.