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Zindi goes down memory lane

A cademic, author, musician and journalist Fred Zindi says he is able to juggle his many interests by “refusing to go to bed”.

Zindi (FZ), a veteran music critic, who contributes to StandardStyle, spoke about his journey in the industry in an interview with Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube on the platform In Conversation with Trevor.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Well, we are sitting outside in the garden and it is a bit windy, so hopefully that is not going to mess our conversation. When you said yes to the invitation, Fred, I was so excited.

FZ: Thank you very much.

TN: This is because of your life. You have lived two lives, if not more than that. You are an educationist, psychologist, you are a musician.

FZ: That is right.



TN: You are an author, you are a journalist. You have lived a full life, and I said to myself, Zimbabwe and the world need to know more about this man.

The more I read into your profile, your profile took me back to the good old days, if there’s anything like that.

FZ: The good old days when the country was still a country.

TN: You know? I said to myself, this man is an academic, accomplished academic, accomplished author.

You have written seven books at least on music, you have written about 10 books in academia.

You have referred publications, and I asked myself at the end of the day: what drives Fred to be so prolific in all that he does? Where does this energy come from?

FZ: By refusing to go to bed, to sleep, hahahahaha.

TN: Right.

FZ: Basically that is what it is all about.

TN: So you are not giving yourself enough sleep?

FZ: Not giving myself enough sleep.

I was interviewed once by somebody saying to me: what are your dreams for the future?

I said dreams are for people who go to sleep, you know. If you do not sleep, then you do not dream.

TN: Tell me, when you look at your life, do you consider yourself an educationist, a psychologist, a musician? What do you call yourself?

FZ: I consider myself all those aspects.

TN: Right.

FZ: I play a role in each and every one of them, so I do not consider myself anything.

TN: I must be honest, Fred, reading your profile and biography, I was like: how does a man manage to pack in so much work and be so prolific and be so productive?

Talk to me about your music? When did you first realise you had a passion for music?

FZ: Well,  from when I was born actually, because my father used to be a drummer and he played in a band.

So music was always in the house and I grew up loving the kind of music.

When The Beatles — I do not even know if these young people know about The Beatles, it was a very prominent English group — when it came about, I listened to almost all their songs and wrote song books on them, and knew every word they sang, although my English was not very good, but I knew every word they sang and understood what they were talking about.

I thought this is the kind of life I would like to follow.

TN: Wow.

FZ: Then I teamed up with people like Jethro Shasha, and a guy called Newton Kanengoni. We formed a band and  we used to perform at school every Friday.

TN: You were 10 years old?

FZ: I was 10 years old, that’s right.

TN: Talk to me about that experience? What was the group called? Was it The Dot?

FZ: No, that was the Falcons in the 1970s. We actually used to play at assemblies, school assemblies every Friday, and everybody at school attended.

There were no dropouts on that particular day because they loved to hear this group that was coming up and singing for them.

TN: So who were the members of The Falcons apart from yourself?

FZ: It was a guy called Mabin Pilly, he was from Zambia, but he was at the same school as us. Jethro Shasha, Newton Kanengoni and there was another guy called Lazarus Munetsi, and that was it and myself.

TN: What kind of music did you play?

FZ: We just did copyright music. Copied.

TN: They’re called covers?

FZ: Covers. Yes, we copyrighted all the music from especially The Beatles and we became popular, to the extent that we used to get hired.

We were in Mutare at the time, by rural schools in Chipinge, Mount Selinda, Chikore school and all those rural schools.

They loved to hear us.

TN: They paid you?

FZ: They paid us.

TN: How much were you paid? Do you remember?

FZ: I do not remember, but I remember buying suits. We were the only boy-band which wore suits.

TN: Wow.

FZ: You know I think it was $80 at the time, a week.

TN: Then you formed The Dot? And The Two Sounds.

FZ: That’s right.

TN: Who walked into that group with you?

FZ: The 2D Sounds were a creation of a man called Morton Malianga.

TN: Oh, alright.

FZ: That’s right.

TN: Fungai Malianga’s brother?

FZ: That’s right. He actually brought equipment from the United States, he had just returned to Zimbabwe.

He started building his own amplifiers, he called them 2D sound amplifiers.

So we adapted the name of the band from his creation.

It was Quinton Malianga sorry, who played bass in the band, the younger brother.

Fungai Malianga became the vocalist and they incorporated us from The Falcons, myself, Mabin Pilly, Jethro Shasha and Newton Kanengoni.

TN: Jethro Shasha, what a talented human being!

FZ: He was very great, he was good.

TN: Were you still doing covers then or you were now composing your own music?

FZ: We started doing compositions, which are very limited, but based on American soul music because Quinton had just come from the United States.

Again, it was a different direction, it was more like black soul music that we started creating.

We used to cover James Brown, Otis Redding, Arthur Conley and stuff like that.

TN: Then you had to travel to London?

FZ: That’s right.

TN: To study Mathematics. Then when you got to London you formed another group again? Stars of Liberty. Talk to me about that experience and who joined you there?

FZ: It was now during the Zimbabwean revolution and we became politically conscious, and we decided to call ourselves Stars of Liberty.

We were making songs that we hoped people would listen to and create freedom in Zimbabwe.

It was Fungai Malianga and myself.

We did not have enough Zimbabweans at the time so we incorporated guys from the West Indies.

There was Roy McLean, who used to be the drummer of the band.

He played with a band led by Desmond Dekker, I do not know if you have ever heard of them?

TN: Yes, I remember Desmond Dekker.

FZ: He was Desmond Dekker’s drummer who left Jamaica and decided to come to London.

We saw him, he was looking for a group, he joined us, and we had some two white guys in the band, one of them was called Nick Robinson and we became Stars of Liberty.

TN: Were you not later joined by Louis Mhlanga and then you changed the name of the group to Shaka? Yes?

FZ: We later found out that there was another Zimbabwean in London who was also looking for some musicians to play with, and we discovered that his name was Louis Mhlanga.

TN: Wow. What a man! What a talented musician!

FZ: He replaced Fungai Malianga who was playing the lead guitar and we just asked Fungai to become the vocalist in the band and Louis Mhlanga played the lead guitar and I went on the bass.

TN: What’s interesting for me is that you are already pursuing your studies as a mathematician.

FZ: That’s right.

TN: But you decide that you’re going to study how to read music? Tell me about that decision and that journey?

FZ: It was actually Louis’ influence.

He was passionate about his music. In fact, he lived with me in my flat and he would get up at six in the morning doing copyright of mostly American jazz artistes, George Benson and stuff like that.

Then he would finish rehearsing at six in the evening.

“Six to Six” we used to call him, 12 hours a day.

I was going to college at the time and then he said to me: does your college teach anybody to read and write music?

I said no but I know a place in Piccadilly where the ABRSM, we call it, Associated Board of Royal School of Music, where they teach to read and write music.

He said why don’t we go there and I said we can only go there in the evenings after my studies in the day.

So we would go there from five to seven every evening.

I went up to grade five in guitar and piano, and he did the same thing.

We could read and write music and read to each other and write with each other that kind of thing for a while.

 “In Conversation with Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.

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