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Catching up with Lovemore Majaivana

21 Mar 2021 at 08:32hrs | Views
IT was quite refreshing to be able to speak to Lovemore Majaivana again after 13 years. False rumours had begun to do the rounds that he was dead.

In 2008, we boarded the same flight from Harare. I was going to England while he and his children were on their way to the United States. Although I went to Philadelphia the following year and to New York in 2013, despite my concerted effort to search for him, I could not locate Majaivana. I was frustrated. It is only after all these years that I managed to speak to him last week.

The conversation started with him consoling me over Bunny Wailer's death. "I am sorry about Bunny Wailer's death. I know that you knew him well. How are you? I sometimes read your articles", he said.

During the conversation, I asked him whether he is continuing with music in the US as we have not heard any new material from him for quite a long period now. He informed me that he has not done anything musically for a while as he has had many disappointments from fellow brothers who are always at their best when they are drunk.

"They are not supportive of my music career at all. Once a sailor will always be a sailor. The smell of the sea might lure me back into music. Maybe, one day I might do something with Albert Nyathi as he is keen to do collaborations with me. We have been toying with the idea for some time now," he said.

The last question I asked him before we got cut off was how he is managing to keep the wolf from the door. He told me that he is working in a bank and that was giving him enough money to avert hunger and to keep him clothed and sheltered.

Majaivana is contemplating coming to Zimbabwe to give a performance once the Covid-19 pandemic is over. We shall wait and see whether he has still got it. Many young people born in the 1990s and after do not know who Majaivana is. I will tell you.

"Majaivana" means "a great dancer". Majaivana earned his name because of his agility and dazzling act while on stage.

Majaivana was born Lovemore Tshuma on December 14, 1952 in Mambo township, Gweru, where his father was a priest while his mother led the church choir.

The family later moved to Bulawayo in the 1960s where Majavaina continued with his primary education.

Because his upbringing was now in a Ndebele environment, he found it only natural to sing Ndebele traditional songs at school.

This singing later developed into a career after leaving school.

According to Lovemore, both his mother and grandmother used to sing to him some Ndebele folk songs which he in turn translated into pop music, better known as inquzu in the southern region of Zimbabwe.

Like many youths of his time, Lovemore became a singer without the approval of his parents.

Most parents thought that music could never be a career for anyone.

As a result, Lovemore used to sneak out in the evenings to rehearse with groups such as The High Chords and the Echoes in Bulawayo.

It was only after he had won the best vocalist slot at the Trade Fair in 1977 that his parents became aware of the fact that Lovemore was now taking music seriously.

Because of his thick baritone voice and his excellent choreography on stage, a lot of musicians became interested in working with him.

This led to stints at places such as Honde Valley Hotel and Marisha Nightclub where Majaivana became a local hero.

He also made an attempt at playing the guitar and drums. After the death of his father, he joined the Elbow Band which only lasted for a short period.

In 1980, after playing in Bulawayo for four years, he went to Harare and formed his own band, The Job's Combination (named after Job's Nightclub, which was owned by then businessman Job Kadengu, now late) where the group was the resident band.

It was not until 1983 that Lovemore started churning out albums with his backing band, The Job's Combination. Memorable tracks from some of his best albums include Okwabanye (some people only take but never give), Mama Ngivulele (Mother please give me your blessing), Isitimela (a lover blaming the train for going with his girlfriend), Ukhozi (the hawk taking away a child) and Salanini Zinini (farewell to all my friends). Maybe the latter song is what propelled him to leave for the States.

Majaivana had the opportunity to share the stage with Bob Marley during Independence Day celebrations in Zimbabwe in 1980 and later with musical giants such as Dorothy Masuka and Hugh Masekela.

The Job's Combination was also involved in teaming up with the blind singer Fanyana Dube, performing various popular musical idioms including Ndebele songs.

They had several successful singles early on, and their debut album, Isitimela, was a big seller.

After some misunderstandings while playing with The Job's Combination at Job's Nightclub in Harare, Majaivana was forced to leave the band and worked as a Dairibord milk salesman for a short while.

However, his passion for music was still very strong and despite his ambition to get rich and buy all the luxuries he desired, he went on to team up with the Real Sounds for about two months. He left the band over money issues and was angry and disillusioned for a while. This is how he put it: "By now I should be driving a big car, wearing a suit and doing a fine job that society respects such as doctor, lawyer, accountant and so forth, but instead, I have spent 15 years of my life lining other people's pockets. Sure, they didn't force me to, but now I want to get out. Playing at a nightclub is never satisfactory because people come firstly to drink and to talk to their friends, whereas on the road they come for the show. "

The turning point in his career came when he joined the Zulus, a band from Victoria Falls which featured two of his brothers.

Having a stable base from which to work from saw Majaivana and his band releasing an album of traditional folk songs titled Salanini Zinini, which he and his brothers had learned from their mother in 1984.

From then, popularity steadily grew especially in Harare where he had bought a house along Bannister Road in Braeside.

In 1985, he travelled back to Bulawayo to team up with his brother Anderson Tshuma (vocals) and several other musicians who included Frank Mapfumo (trombone), Bhikiza Mapfumo (drums), Yutah Dube (bass), Bee Sithole (guitar) and Paddle Ndlovu (keyboards).

They called themselves the Zulu Band. Without wasting time, an album was recorded. This put Majaivana back on the music scene.

With the strength of this album, I facilitated a tour of the United Kingdom for him and his Zulu Band.

In 1987 while touring England, he recorded the album Jiri with the Zulu Band which was dedicated to the late Jairos Jiri, a man who had been responsible for establishing a charitable organisation which looked after people with disabilities.

The album sold very well during the UK tour and it was during this period that I interacted with multitudes of Ndebele and Zulu-speaking people based in Britain who came to support Majaivana's concerts.

In 1993 after the death of his bass guitarist, Dube, Majaivana decided to quit music. By 1995 he still had not staged a show and was now concentrating on his private business of buying and selling furniture items.

A few years later, Majaivana left Zimbabwe for the US.

Since then, he has kept a tight lid on what he is up to over there and although news came out that he had recorded an album in the US, that album has not yet reached these shores.

We are not sure whether Majaivana has quit music forever or will make a comeback. It is a question of wait-andsee. What we know for sure is the fact that Majaivana has been a great inspiration for most of the musicians that have come from Matabeleland such as Jeys Marabini, Solomon Skuza, Sandra Ndebele, Afrika Revenge, Willis Watafi, Busi Ncube and Albert Nyathi.

We are all anxiously looking forward to his next musical venture.

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