Madzishe: Cape Town’s unmistakeable sound of Zimbabwe

Hearing Madzishe for the first time was one of those defining moments which proves sound is right up there with sight and smell when it comes to triggering memories of home.

Musa Banda (vocals, mbira, founder)
Musa Banda (vocals, mbira, founder)

We first heard the band on one those sublime summer Saturdays that persuades you to forgive Cape Town for the unspeakable weather she likes to throw up now and then. From somewhere in the City Bowl rose the sound of drum, bass, guitar and mbira in perfect harmony. The unmistakable sound of Zimbabwe.

Drawn by the siren sounds, we eventually tracked the source down to the playing fields at Cape Town’s German School in Tamboerskloof, which was moonlighting that day as the venue for a local fundraising event.

On a low stage set apart from the beer tent, face painting stall and bouncy castle, five unassuming guys were gently winning the audience over with a succession of beautifully layered melodies that would make the kings of Zimbabwean music proud. Fitting, since Madzishe means kings.

Next day, the four-piece was playing at another fundraiser in a local park. I persuaded a group of Zimbabweans to come along and reassure me that my ears hadn’t been deceiving me. They hadn’t. Once again, the band – a case study in modesty throughout – won over a new crowd with the hauntingly poignant yet upbeat sound that defines Zimbabwean music at its best.

Simba Ndowa (drums, percussion, vocals)
Simba Ndowa (drums, percussion, vocals)

The facts behind Madzishe read as follows: Fronted by founder Musa Antonio Banda (lead vocals and mbira), band members include Brian Nkhafa (bass and vocals), Ashley Chiweshe (lead guitar) and Simba Ndowa (drums, percussion, vocals), while UCT student Adrian Muparutsa also steps in as lead guitarist as and when. Although each member had played in bands back home in Zimbabwe, they first came together in Cape Town and performed their debut gig at the Ikhaya club in 2007.

A couple of years and numerous shows down the line, they met Cape Town producer Marcus Hounsell at the Fynbos Music Festival outside the Mother City. The meeting led to the release of Madzishe’s first album, Tangai Mafunga, later that year.

“They’ve got something special,” says Hounsell, who runs FSharpMusic in downtown Woodstock. “I connected well with them at the festival and felt the passion and enthusiasm to take things further. We discussed doing some recordings, demo style really, and agreed on an eight-track recording without any particular expectations.

Once into the process, we found things fell into place easily and the live takes of most instruments played simultaneously were all we needed. We can now look back on an album which is sure to be first of many.“

Living miles from home, the members of Madzishe remain proudly Zimbabwean. “I dream of going home to play my music,” comments Banda, who was bought up in Manicaland and counts Thomas Mapfumo’s Mukadzi Wamukoma as his favourite song. “This band is my heart beat and like my heart, it belongs in Zimbabwe.”

With another Cape Town summer approaching, Madzishe’s growing fan base is looking forward to hearing their unmistakeably Zimbabwean sound echoing around the City Bowl again. Better still: some day soon, we might hear them at home.

To find out more about Madzishe’s upcoming gigs, contact Musa Banda on <span tabindex="-1" dir="ltr" class="skype_pnh_container <span class="skype_pnh_mark </span></span> or [email protected] You can also search for their music on www.amazon.com

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