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Leonard Zhakata's story

by Staff Reporter
05 Jan 2014 at 07:51hrs | Views
Leonard Zhakata's story is not exactly your rags-to-riches-back-to-rags one, but somehow you feel for him when he talks of the years when thousands used to come for his live shows at any venue in the country and he would play for them till the early hours of the morning.

And things have since changed a lot and he would be happy at the moment if a couple of hundreds bother to come.

"It is not my music, my music is not bad at all. In fact, my music has not changed at all," he contends.

"There was a time when there was a concerted effort to destroy my person and my music and it seemed like it was a well-orchestrated plan. Stories would fly all over the place that Zhakata is finished and, to an extent, I am to blame because I did not bother to dispute those claims, for I just carried on with my work.

"Maybe if I had raised my concerns the picture would be different, but I thought it wiser to keep quiet and concentrated on releasing music, but I think I am now paying the price for keeping quiet."

And if his family show at Mushandirapamwe Hotel on New Year's Day, in spite of it having been attended by less than a hundred fans, was any measure of the intents that Zhakata has of the brand new year, then it might as well be his re-birth. But it was not only his electric performance that Wednesday afternoon that should be cause for optimism.

About a fortnight ago he released Zvangu Zvaita, a seven-track album that has the potential to unleash at least four hits into the market, given how the small audience reacted to his new songs that Wednesday.

"Dhonza Makomborero, from the look of it all, is likely to be the hit song from the album, that is if it isn't already.

Zhakata, who does not mask that he is now a member of Prophet Makandiwa's flock, says the album has been deliberately done to cater for both Christians and non-believers.

"I made my name in the nightclubs and bars around the country and for me to abandon them today because I am a Christian would be wrong.

"As much as it would be wrong to sing in church only, as it would be like fishing in the fridge at home.

"I would rather minister to those who are in the nightclubs and bars for they need salvation more than those who are in the church."

Zhakata, probably one of the finest songwriters the country has produced, who has enjoyed an almost squeaky clean career, both in private and public life, since coming on the scene with his late uncle Thomas Makion in the 90s, is somehow bitter at how his image and music have been at the centre of battering over the years.

"It started around the Mugove days, that I wasn't the one who wrote the song, that it was written by Simon Chimbetu before he went into prison and in the coming years that rumour somehow died down.

"But later on the war was to pick up and I watched in disbelief as week-in and week-out I was hit left, right and centre.

"Naturally I am a reserved person and I thought it better to keep quiet. If only I had known that my silence was to cost me this way.

"I used to play before thousands of fans and if you listen to my music you cannot say that it has lost any of its touch."

Further to that, Zhakata fears for sungura music, and not just his music's future.

"Sungura is a truly local brand and if you look at the way genres like dancehall are taking over, we are going to be left without an identity. We need to keep sungura alive as it is our own. We can't be celebrating foreign music as our own."

But if there is any newly-found spring in his step, Zhakata says it should be coming from Zvangu Zvaita.

"The response to this album has been tremendous, it is very rare these days for an album to be sold out, but this one is selling out. It might be at church or at any of our shows, we seem not to be carrying enough copies.

"Even when we were performing around the country after the release of the album, the response that we have been getting has been positive. For example, we were in Mhangura just around Christmas and it was encouraging that our fans were singing along to some of the new songs, most of which we had performed at live shows."

It might be opportune that at about the time that Zhakata is re-launching his efforts to climb back to the top of the musical ladder, he has joined one of the most influential churches in the land today, Prophet Makandiwa's United Family International Church.

"There has been a shift of audiences.

"The people that we used to sing and play for in the 90s, most of them have now matured and some are born again.

"In a way that could explain the low attendances at our shows, whereas the youngsters are identifying with the new genres."

Could it the reason why he has followed them into church, his past fans? "I have always been a Christian. I used to be a member of AFM, then went to Upper Room Ministries and am now with UFIC.

"There is always a growing in the teaching of the word of God and very now and then you find God sends different people to preach His word in a different way, which in most cases would be in an advanced state.

"That is what is happening now, and I am happy to be part of that crusade."

Source - Sunday Mail