The name Nicholas Zakaria, for many, is associated with mostly sungura music for the farm and rural folk.
One of the few remaining veterans of sungura, Zakaria, has maintained his genre, playing a standard sungura beat, with a bit of some innovations here and there.
Except for his song, Mazano, which is played in a number of nightclubs around the country, Zakaria’s music has remained largely underplayed, although it has not faded. He, like many other sungura musicians of old — both the late and the living — has over the years cultivated a loyal fan base that remains up to date with these veterans’ music, online and offline.
A former member of an apostolic sect, Zakaria has remained an epitome of humility and simplicity, and his music has reflected such, with most of the messages centred on social commentary and Christian values, earning him the moniker, Senior Lecturer.
By being the Senior Lecturer, Zakaria portrayed a somewhat father figure, and naturally, the youth, especially those from urban areas, shied away from his music and preferred other genres that have messages on relationships, fashion, sex, alcohol and drugs.
Zakaria, who groomed sungura stars Alick Macheso and the late System Tazvida, was already doing music in the years when Leonard Dembo, John Chibadura, Simon and Naison Chimbetu, Thomas Makion, Leonard Zhakata and many other sungura bands were all competing for the top post.
With many of the veterans now late, Zakaria has remained in the game, consistently conducting shows in small, low-class venues, unlike during the golden age of sungura in the 1990s, when the music genre was at its peak.
To date, it is Zakaria, Zhakata and Macheso who remain the three pillars of sungura, with Macheso carving his own version of sungura that is characterised by a heavy, rugged bassline, while Zhakata has almost abandoned his old style, preferring slower tempo beats and gospel messages consistent with his recently assumed pastoral role at a local pentecostal church.
So, with all this in place, and with Zakaria being regarded as the godfather of traditional sungura, one who would not cross the line to sing anything, it came as a huge surprise when he made two unexpected collaborations within two months.
In August last year, Zakaria was roped together with urban grooves artiste Roki, into a song done by upcoming artiste, DJ Shugeta.
The song, Amen (Denga Dzvene), which has a contemporary beat borrowed from house music, is something that Zakaria would not be expected to be a part of, given his musical profile. But surprisingly, he blends well with his vocals and guitar lines.
The song was somehow quietly released together with a great video, where Zakaria is not putting on his usual simple fashion, but dons some classy police shades and a designer jacket as he strums his guitar.
Over the months, it has been gaining traction and has now hit 70 000 views on YouTube, with most of the comments praising Zakaria for blending in so well with the youngsters. YouTube user Utinta Mconquer commented: “How Madzibaba (Zakaria) sang his part is oddly pleasing,” while Joe Marsh said: “I have renewed respect for Madzibaba…. the way he has blended in this …gold…” There were over 180 largely positive comments on the video.
Seemingly not stopping from pulling surprises, Zakaria, in November, was once again, part of a song with Jah Signal, a dancehall artiste. In the track Unovashungurudza, Jah Signal and Zakaria go back in time and lift some lyrics and melodies from Zakaria’s 1999 hit, Mazano.
The result is a unique dancehall song that also has some sharp lead guitar sounds out of Zakaria’s veteran hand. Once again, the YouTube comments on Unovashungurudza are largely positive, praising Zakaria for blending in well.
For a man who has remained a godfather of music, perhaps it is time to come out of that shell and help young musicians who greatly need an experienced hand.
Far from helping the upcoming musicians, as shown in the two collabos, it could be an opportunity for the reinvention of one of the most conservative sungura artistes of our time.