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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Andy Brown the magical guitarist

By Blessing Vava
Andy Brown strumming his guitar at the Mannerberg
Last week the nation was robbed of a fine lead guitarist who was arguably amongst the best Zimbabwe has produced so far, Andy Brown, who succumbed to pneumonia. Coincidentally,  on Monday last week during  a discussion with a colleague we talked about Andy’s guitar strumming prowess which we all agreed that he was in the class of other legendary lead guitarists namely former Blacks Unlimited lead guitarists  Jonah Sithole, Ashton Sugar Chiweshe, Leonard Dembo and Mono Mukundu. This was the class Andy belonged to and untimely his loss is not only to Zimbabwe, but the rest of the world.

Music legends-the late Simon Chimbetu, Andy Brown,
Thomas Mapfumo and young Bryn Mteki
A true music ambassador who during his peak  carried  the banner of Zimbabwe high. I remember the last personal interaction I had with him was at the Mannernberg (now closed) where he was slotted to play every Sunday night at the popular joint. I rarely missed his Sunday shows for the man’s hands were just a marvel to watch on the lead guitar. He played the lead guitar like a possessed man with much passion and seriousness. So  I bumped into him one Sunday evening at the Mannernberg in July last year, he was seated right at the counter with his bottle of Viceroy and a 1 litre coke he was using as dilution. Already he was drunk but he kept on gulping the holy waters, while I was also listening to him taking my mineral water. The venue had  few people mostly resident artists  about 10 and his band was playing already. The controversial musician  told me about his hatred for homosexuals, describing the act as taboo.


We discussed  a lot, but mostly I was listening as he was lecturing, talking about his hatred for Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC  and how the media had destroyed his career and marriage. How he wished for exiled Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo to return to Zimbabwe and teach the youngsters how to play traditional music, and later announced it on stage. I asked him why he was  no longer playing some of his old songs during shows and he responded by saying he was still teaching the now youthful Storm band how to play the songs he recorded years back.  The man went on and on, talking about his kids, wife Nadine, and his pain on the loss of Adam Chisvo, a former member of his band. ‘’Adam, Adam ndarwadziwa wakomana,’’ said Andy referring to Chisvo. Above all during the whole discussion his tone sounded that he was a frustrated man for he admitted that his career had waned but his thrust was now to assist upcoming musicians.  The charismatic guitarist  assisted many young musicians notably Alexio Kawara and Brown’s guitar skills can be felt on the hit song Shaina. I just concluded that maybe the frustrations were mainly attributed to the way his ‘beloved’ party ZANU PF seemed to have dumped him. The frustrations  are also felt in his last album Chiwoko/Silent hand the title track denounces corruption especially from the police. When the time had come for him to go on stage he was now heavily drunk only performing two songs before he left the stage marking his last Sunday show at Mannernberg.


Here was a man whose shining career had waned mainly because of his involvement in ZANU PF propaganda machinery during the unpopular land reform. ZANU PF capitalised on his popularity  and talent and they used him before they dumped him leaving  him to live the life of a scavenger. Shockingly and surprisingly ZANU PF is now all over unashamedly hijacking his funeral for their own selfish agendas. Many of the senior party leaders  are describing  the late Andy Brown as a true patriot, hero of the land reform and yet they did not give him even an inch of land. Hypocrites!  The truth is they left him at the hour of need. Had Brown not involved himself in the ZANU PF propaganda bandwagon he could have been somewhere. He was immensely talented no doubt, but the ZANU PF tag he put on himself had serious consequences on his career. The case of Brown should be a lesson to musicians to avoid involving themselves in party politics, for the consequences are there for everyone to see. 


 How sad, apart from his immense talent many were now avoiding his shows because he was no longer being seen as a musician but a  ZANU PF political commissar. Many popular and talented musicians destroyed their promising careers because of associating themselves with party politics, Bryn Mteki, Sister Flame, Tambaoga, Cde Chinx are good examples. Had they not involved themselves in party politics their careers would have been flourishing. And that is where this departed legendary guitarist missed the plot. It’s sad we lost him after he was on the path of reviving his career. We will always remember you through your works that will keep entertaining us. The man who used to be part of a galaxy of stars, the now defunct Ilanga Band comprising Don Gumbo, Munya Brown, Kelly Rusike, Adam Chisvo, Busi Ncube, Keith Farquharson, Charles Mangena and Cde Chinx. Go well great guitarist, great musician and entertainer! Zindoga waenda woga. Rest in Peace!  


Blessing Vava is from Chipinge and can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com

*Please acknowledge that this article was sourced from www.blevava.blogspot.com