HomeStandard PeopleHow egos killed the band Ilanga

How egos killed the band Ilanga

BY FRED ZINDI

Ego is just a small three-letter word, which can destroy a big and long 12-letter word called relationship.

When you have a bunch of six or seven all-talented musicians, none of them will allow the other to tell them what to do.

Their egos don’t allow it. This is what happened to the band Ilanga [IsiNdebele word meaning The Sun].

Ilanga was formed in 1986. Initially, it was made up of Comrade Chinx, Busi Ncube, Adam Chisvo, Keith Farquharson, Charles Mangena, Munya Brown, Andy Brown and Don Gumbo.

The band was formed by musicians who had grouped together after leaving their various groups.

Munya Brown, who had initially come to Zimbabwe from London with Misty in Roots in 1982, met a beautiful Zimbabwean girl called Anna and was enticed back to the country by her.

She later became Mrs Anna Brown. It was during the period of their romance that Munya decided to play drums for Ilanga.

Munya’s ego would not let him continue to play in Ilanga as he did not like the non-reggae Afro-jazz fusion direction Ilanga was taking. He soon left to form his own band, Transit Crew.

Another Ilanga musician, Andy Brown, born on March 15, 1962, who hailed from Mberengwa and did secondary education at Founders High School in Bulawayo, played the lead guitar.

Gumbo was in a way the band leader and every now and again he would tell Andy how to behave and present himself on stage. Andy did not like being told what to do.

He soon left Ilanga after a misunderstanding with Gumbo. Andy literally walked off the stage at a Barbourfields Stadium show in Bulawayo. He later formed his own band, The Storm.

The Bulawayo-born Gumbo played the bass guitar and also supplied most of Ilanga’s vocals and many of the band’s hits are attributed to him.

Gumbo was an incredible and unusual performer who could easily be equated to the likes of Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles’ fame. Singing and at the same time playing the bass guitar, which supplies most of the band’s rhythm, is not an easy feat given the amount of bass-playing dexterity and intricacies involved.

However, his attitude and behaviour towards other members of the band left a lot to be desired.

According to Ncube, after their United Kingdom tour, the band went to Gumbo’s house in Mabelreign to discuss how they were to share the money earned.

Gumbo literally threw all of them out of his house saying: “You left the money in Ireland. Go there and get it.” He was often seen quarrelling particularly with two other egotistical musicians, Munya and Brown.

In 1987, the album Visions Foretold was recorded and its release put Ilanga on the music map. One track, Shosholoza, became almost everyone’s party song.

Gumbo, who did the vocals on the song, became more conceited and arrogant as he began to think that he was the man behind Ilanga’s success. His behaviour and attitude towards his band mates changed.

He started to bully others. He would turn up late for rehearsals and sometimes would not show up at all.

For the record, Munya, who had had enough of the band, did not record with the band. Ilanga had to use a drum machine to record Visions Foretold.

I asked Gumbo why he thought Shosholoza had done so well in Zimbabwe. This is what he had to say: “In fact, it was a blessing in disguise that Munya had left the band because we programmed the drum machine to do the drums. It played 120 beats to a minute and that was the magic formula as I understand this is what makes dancing easy.”

Ilanga was later joined by a new drummer, Gibson Nyoni. Their next massive release, True Love, came with the melodious voice of Ncube on lead vocals. This was followed by the recording of their next album Silver and Gold.

It was immediately after the release of Silver and Gold that Andy decided to leave Ilanga after a dispute with Gumbo. The band was later joined by a second keyboard player, Vigilio.

After the group split, Andy went to South Africa where he played as a session musician for various artistes, including Ringo Madlingozi.

When he came back to Zimbabwe, he formed the group, The Storm. The band recorded many albums, which included Feed Me, Gondwanaland, Tiger and Hondo Yesadza. The band went on to release many hits such as Many Cows, Mawere Kongonya, Tichangoshaina, Zindoga and Mapurisa.

Ncube was the only female member of Ilanga. She at times found it hard working with men, but was determined to make a name for herself. The song True Love did it for her.

From a very young age, Ncube was playing percussion and ngoma. She later went on to perform with her twin sister Pathie (Sipathisiwe) and their elder sister Doreen in the group Ebony Sheik.

After leaving Ilanga, she formed her own band, Rain, which lasted a good 12 years.

Ncube, now aged 58, has been living in Oslo, Norway, where she was working at the Oslo Music Academy in the Pedagogisk. She is now in Zimbabwe and is working on future music plans.

I am not sure why all three past Ilanga members chose to name their bands after something to do with the weather as in The Sun (Ilanga), The Storm and Rain. This calibre of musicianship goes to show how intricate the band Ilanga was as it accommodated skilled artistes from all walks of life.

Mangena and the late Chisvo were Ilanga’s percussionists. They gave the band the extra sound that made it possible for the public to easily identify the band Ilanga.

Farquharson, born on December 8, 1973 in Harare to a German mother, played keyboards for the band for a period of three years. It was through him that the image of the band added extra attraction. Farquharson was aware of that added attraction he gave the band.

The youths in the townships such as Highfield, Mabvuku and Mufakose where Ilanga performed regularly were fascinated to see a white man playing in a band of blacks in their neighbourhoods.

Farquharson left Ilanga in 1990 and is now working with Freshly Ground based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Another part-time member of Ilanga was Cde Chinx, born Dickson Chingaira, who was born in Rusape on September 27, 1955.

His interest in music began when his primary school headmaster, Martin Dhlamini, encouraged him to sing and join the school choir.

On completion of secondary school, Cde Chinx got a place to study medicine overseas, but he failed to get travel documents and the whole plan failed to materialise.

In 1974, after a hard search, he managed to secure a job at an engineering plant in Msasa, Harare, where he was very unhappy due to ill-treatment by his white South African superior.

Towards the end of 1975, Cde Chinx joined the guerillas in Mozambique with the sole aim of liberating Zimbabwe.

However, while in Mozambique, he found himself the leader of the People’s Choir, which acted as a morale booster for the fighting cadres.

Chinx proved to be a gallant fighter in his own right, but his love for music made him a full-time organiser of the Zanu People’s Choir. His musical skills were later realised by the majority of Zimbabweans at Independence in 1980 when he returned to Zimbabwe.

He soon teamed up with Bennie Miller and Farquharson to record his early Chimurenga hits Ngorimba, Zvikomborero, Vapambi Vepfumi and Nerudo.

Although Cde Chinx joined Ilanga after this, he did it because he could not find a suitable band to do live gigs with. He, like Munya, was not comfortable with the direction of the band’s music. He preferred what he termed revolutionary Chimurenga songs to the music Gumbo was passionate about.

Cde Chinx also went on to become his own man. After a short stint with Ilanga, he moved on to team up with the then Mazana Black Spirits (later called Mazana Movement Band).

Cde Chinx and the band went on to release smash hits with the most notable being Roger Confirm.

The latter topped the charts and stayed on the then Radio 3’s (now Power FM) Hit Pick charts for 25 weeks in 1989 and early 1990s.

It was a combination of these rare talents that made up Ilanga, but unfortunately when you get such talents together, the relationships are bound to die sooner or later as they become hard to maintain.

Don Gumbo died in 1998. Andy died on March 15, 2012 and Cde Chinx died on June 12, 2017.

Remember, relationships never die a natural death. They are always murdered by attitude, behaviour, ego and ignorance. So, if you join a band like Ilanga, be the bigger person and skip the “E” in the word ego and just let it GO.

  •  Feedback: frezindi@gmail.com

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