Zimbabwe: "Golden age" music revisited
Friday 28 September 2012
Listening to Mariah Carey's version of "I want to know what love is", one would be forgiven
to think this is the blonde Hispanic singer's best composition yet ever. Mariah's version
of the song, that has now become an all time classic, carries the weight surpassing records
set by the original composer, the group Foreigner, in 1984. Described as a powerful ballad
ever recorded by a British-American rock band, "I want to know what love is" topped the No.1
slot in both the UK and the US in 1984 and remains the Foreigner's biggest hit.
It also remains one of the band's best known songs and most enduring radio hits, charting
in the top 25 in 2000, 2001 and 2002 on the Billboard hot adult contemporary chart. In Zimbabwe
the song also reached No. 1 on the local "Hit Pick" charts on Radio 3 and was a regular video
clip on ZBC's former TV programme, Sounds on Saturday.
Closer home, South African reggae icon, the late Lucky Dube, released the album Serious
Reggae Business in 1996 in which a reggae version of the song was a chart topper. Dube's
version of "I wanna know what love is" has an Afro-reggae backing to it, something that has
earned Lucky the accolade of one of South Africa's best-selling artists and one of its most
outspoken performers before he was tragically shot outside his home by some unknown
assailants in 2009.
Although there has not been any Zimbabwean group that recorded a version of this song, there
are some groups who would do a cover version during live performances. These are groups such
as Rusike Brothers, Pied Pipers, Eye-Q, Elisha Josam and the New Tutankhamen, from Harare
and Wells Fargo, Eye of Liberty and Echoes from Bulawayo among many others.
In the period 1960s to the early 1980s, pop music in Zimbabwe was very much influenced by
music from the international scene, the period that is now termed the "golden era". Music was
largely composed of rock and roll, hard rock, blues, jazz and soul from the United Kingdom
and the USA. In fact, Rusike Brothers recorded their own version of Paul Simon's Cecilia
in the late 1980s that topped the local and international charts. Cecilia was first recorded
by Simon and Garfunkel for their 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. Rusike Brothers'
version was infused with disco music, influenced by that unavoidable African beat.
With this in mind, an ardent Harare music fan, Jonathan Jiri has come up with an idea to
revisit the memories of yesteryear chart-busters through a series of articles under the banner
of "Golden Age". "Golden Age describes the era in which we all grew up while in the urban
townships of Zimbabwe. I am talking about the 1960s, 70s and the 80s when we listened to
rock and pop music. Despite the ravaging war of independence and political problems taking
place then, people always found pastime in this music that became popular, especially among
the youths," says Jiri.
The 56 year-old music collector says he has kept singles and albums on vinyl from this era
up to this day, and would like to share his experiences with the readers and listeners, given
any chance. He vividly remembers his teenage years way back then in Makokoba township,
Bulawayo when "we ate, drank and slept music".
Groups that come to his mind include The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Jerry Rafferty & Steelers
Wheel, Billy Joel, Errol Brown and Hot Chocolate, Chicory Tip and Paul Simon and Art Gulfankel,
among others. While at Luveve Secondary School, Jiri was influenced to a lot of local and South
African music. Among the local musicians that inspired him at the time were Fanyana Dube,
Lovemore Majaivana, Paul Lunga, Eye of Liberty, Wells Fargo, Echoes, Harare Mambos and
"Golden Age reviews and profiles provide a mirror upon which one can sample some of the hottest
names in reggae, soul, pop music and rock and roll of the by-gone era, as we look exclusively
at what transpired in showbiz between 1960s and 1980s,"says Jiri.
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