Cyclone Idai has devastated southern Africa’s most vulnerable region

Cyclone Idai: Death toll passes 500 in southern Africa

Cyclone Idai has devastated the Mozambican city of Beira and turned it into an inland lake. The city of 500,000 people is at the epicenter of one of the worst natural disasters to hit southern Africa in decades.

By Lynsey ChutelMarch 22, 2019

Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe are still coming to terms with the immediate impact and aftermath of the storm, a week after it made landfall on southeast Africa’s coast, ripping through the region at speeds of up to 194 km (120 miles) an hour. An estimated 1,6 million people are believed to be affected, towns and villages remain submerged, and the death toll in the three countries has surpassed 500.

Idai’s timing and target could not have been worse, hitting already vulnerable communities in some of the continent’s poorest countries just before harvesting season.

The extent of the inland flooding from Beira.

Floodwaters spilling out from the region’s Pungue and Buzi rivers now cover a massive 2,165 sq km-area (834 square miles), according to the UN, far exceeding the width of the initial storm. The water levels created inland islands, marooning hundreds of people across the region, and stretching rescue operations.

Flooding from Idai has almost completely submerged Beira, cutting it off from the rest of the country. The emergency wing of its central hospital is non-operational, a major grain terminal has been damaged, and dam has collapsed outside of the city, according to the UN’s Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

“Beira is pretty much paralyzed, with many…going hungry, and without food and shelter,” resident Samuel Fenis told the UN Environment agency. At least 242 people have died in Mozambique alone. As the extent of the damage unfolds, it’s becoming clear that president Filipe Nyusi’s estimate that as many as 1,000 people are dead could be confirmed.

Cut off in Mozambique.
Destruction in Beira.

After making landfall in Mozambique, Idai travelled more than 300 km (186 miles) to Zimbabwe, killing at least 139 people, with dozens more still missing. It travelled across Sofala and Manica provinces, leaving behind flooding so severe that entire villages have been wiped out. The area remains inaccessible, with an estimated 100,000 people stranded, according to the UN, making it difficult to ascertain the true extent of the damage. As rescue workers wade through the disaster zone, there are reports of people still huddling on rooftops, waiting to be rescued. Families have resorted to digging through mudslides to find their relatives still trapped.

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared two days of national mourning. Already facing a protracted economic crisisand food shortages, Zimbabwe has issued desperate calls for aid and assistance in rescue missions.

“Whatever crops that were being grown despite the drought have now been destroyed in the floods, and these districts will need the help of the international community now more than ever,” Paolo Cernuschi, Zimbabwe country director at the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.

The cyclone did not cross into Malawi, but the resulting floods killed at least 56 people, and displaced 82,700.

A family dig for their son in Zimbabwe.
Rescuers in Zimbabwe.

Aid agencies have made desperate appeals for funding, revealing the extent of the devastation. The World Food Programme says it needs $121 million to help those affected in Mozambique alone. The UN aid agency’s operations in Malawi will require $10.3 million for just two months of assistance. In Zimbabwe, $5 million will be needed to provide food, logistical support and a response in the affected districts where 90% of property has been damaged.

UNFPA and Unicef have also dispatched teams to the region to assist women and children, whose vulnerability is exacerbated in disasters such as this.

Most vulnerable.

The storm’s impact shows the need for better preparedness and warning systems, the UN environment agency has said. As the extent of the damage wreaked by Idai is revealed, state and non-governmental agencies are flocking to the affected region to help, and discovering that Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe will need far more than expected.

Source: Quartz Africa Weekly Brief x

see also Cabaret at The Moçambique

see also Lost Dreams; Grande Hotel Beira, Mozambique

see also João Tudella canta musica de Artur Fonseca-Uma Casa Portuguesa w/ the Dan Hill Quintet

Legendary singer Dorothy Masuka dies at 83

Dorothy Masuka at 60

Dorothy Masuka was one of the great South African jazz singers of the 1950s. Together with Dolly Rathebe and Miriam Makeba she became an iconic singer and writer of memorable tunes like Pata Pata, Kwawuleza and Into Yam. Many of her songs were recorded by artists like Makeba.

“ Her music was the soundtrack of some our most joyful moments, the light of or souls during our darkest hours” said Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa’s Arts & Culture minister following her death.

Masuka had been suffering from complications related to hypertension, after having a mild stroke in 2018. One of her last stage performances was at Winnie Mandela’s funeral in that same year.

Go Go Suffering

Dorothy Masuka was born in 1935 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Her parents migrated to South Africa when she was 12 years old. Despite her parents’ disapproval, Masuka dropped out of school at 16 to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer.

She signed a deal to record with Troubadour Records and after a spell with the African Ink Spots she left for Zimbabwe to join The Golden Rhythm Crooners. But she was soon on her way back to Johannesburg and in the train she penned ‘Hamba Hamba Nontsokolo’ loosely translated as ‘go, go suffering’.

The song became her biggest hit and one of the most popular songs of the 1950s. It is regarded as an African classic and remains her signature tune to this day. By 1953, when she was 18, Masuka was already a fully fledged professional musician and, along with Makeba and Hugh Masekela, she toured with Alf Herbert’s African Jazz & Variety Show and with the musical King Kong.

She also performed with the Harlem Swingsters in the mid-1950s and endeared herself to a wide audience with her provocative compositions that riled the apartheid regime. In 1961, the Special Branch seized the master recordings of her composition ‘Lumumba’ which paid tribute to Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo. She also dared to write a political song about the then Prime Minister Dr Malan and was exiled for over 30 years. In Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and the UK Masuka campaigned for the liberation of SA through her music.

After many years working as a flight attendant for Zambian Airways, she returned to South Africa at the beginning of the 1990’s. A few years later she was a recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga Silver from the SA government. Dorothy Masuka was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in the US in 2002.

source; The Sowetan/The Herald -Kyle Zeeman

see also

Dorothy Masuka -60 years and counting

South African Soul Divas pt 2 Dorothy Masuka, Mahotella Queens, Irene & The Sweet Melodians

South African Soul Divas pt 3 Dolly Rathebe, Mabel Mafuya, Nancy Jacobs, Eva Madison

African Jazz & Variety -Alfred Herbert 1952

Machanic Manyeruke And The Puritans -Zimbabwe Gospel

Machanic Manyeruke And The Puritans pic -bewerkt

it doesn’t take much to make great music; a guitar, a synth and above all powerful voices praising the greatness of God…that is exactly that is on offer on this remarkable record coming out of Zimbabwe. Recorded in Harare and produced by Bothwell Nyamhondera. File under Gospel.


Machanic Manyeruke label A

Machanic Manyeruke label B

Machanic Manyeruke And The Puritans (Cook 025)

Released in 1989 by Gramma Records/Cooking Vinyl London UK

buy the album on Discogs

Ephat Mujuru‎–The Spirit Of The People. Mbira music from Zimbabwe

Now that the new year lays ahead like a blank canvas, I find inspiration in a record by Ephat Mujuru, a Zimbabwean musician who excelled at playing the mbira. Nobody knows what 2014 will bring, but let this music guide the listener like a traveler on a long journey.

see also Stella Chiweshe -Zimbabwe’s Queen of the Mbira

Ephat Mujuru (1950–2001), was a Zimbabwean musician, one of the 20th century’s finest players of the mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona ethnic group of Zimbabwe.

ephat mujuru plays the mbira
Ephat Mujuru plays the mbira dzavadzumi within the calabash resonator

The mbira dzavadzimu (the mbira of ancestral spirits) is a symbol of the traditional culture of Zimbabwe. The music of the mbira forms a link between the real and the spirit worlds, and the mbira player holds an important position within traditional society, being called upon through his music at ceremonies to evoke the particular spirit or ‘Sviriko’ to be called.

Ephat Mujuru came from a renowned mbira-playing family which can be traced back to the time of Monomatapa. Through playing at the family’s ‘bira’spirit ceremonies, the young Ephat was initiated into the secrets of the instrument by his grandfather, Sekuru Muchatera Mujuru, a great mbira player whom he wished as a boy to emulate. He tells of the conflict he found at school, where the mission teaching at the time denounced music as being a sin against God. This did not stop him from playing the music of his poeple, given by the great creator God Mwari, as a means of communicating with Him through ancestrial spirits.

Ephat Mujuru was a quiet, poetic man whose understanding and love of the music he played is matched only by his ability as a musician. His reputation was such that he was invited in 1980 for a lecture tour of the United States where he gave lectures/demonstrations at many of America’s leading universities.

The influence of mission school education and Western musical idiom had a negative effect for some time on traditional music, but in recent years this has given way to a renaissance of the mbira and its value as a link with the ancestry and culture of the Shona people.

The pieces posted here today are played on the mbira dzavadzimu (or in some instances the njari mbira) are accompanied by a second mbira, rattles (hosho), drums (ngoma), clapping (makwa) and singing (kuimba). The voice patterns are as important as the music and are divided into the mahongera, the deep, low voice; the huro, the high, yodelling voice; the kupurudza, the ululating voice (a woman’s part) and the kudeketera , the poetic narrative.

Both player and singer may intuitively modify music or lyrics and the interpretation of the traditional song may vary amongst musicians, but the ancient version known to all players will still be recognisable.

The leading vocalist of the group is Charles Gushungo whose exceptional voice and command of all three traditional song patterns is widely acknowledged and evidenced here.

ephat mujuru ensemble cover

Chipembere (Dzavadzimu)

This song tells the story of Chipembere, the rhinoceros, feared for his powerful turn of speed. It is sung for a traveller embarking on a long journey, and the music imparts to him the speed and strength of the rhino, that he may accomplish his journey with ease.


Marenje (Dzavadzimu)

A travelling song, sung whilst journeying across the desert. The words and music strengthen the traveller’s spirit, giving him the courage needed for his long journey.

ephat mujuru ensemble
Ephat Mujuru and his group ‘The Spirit of the People’

Guru Uswa (Dzavadzimu)

The eternal myth of paradise, as old as man himself, is retold here in the song Guru Uswa. It tells the story of the Africa of mythical times, a land of milk and honey, yet at the same time it sings of Zimbabwe, the realisation of the promised land.

Ndoziwa Ripi (Dzavadzimu)

A story of misfortune and the power of the music of the spirits to intervene. A man wanders lost and alone, calling out “Ndoziwa Ripi- what shall I do? My family is dead and I am alone”. As he wanders he plays a plaintive song on his mbira. The chapungu eagle, bird of the spirits, appears in the sky and guides him to a settlement of people. Hearing the notes of the mbira, the people welcome him with singing and dancing. He is accepted into their community and revered for his ability to play the mbira.

ephat mujuru ensemble cover back

text from the liner notes of The Spirit of the People -Ephat Mujuru Ensemble plays Mbira music from Zimbabwe 

The African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia

Over the weekend I spent quite a happy moment going back to the contents of my Karoo-box. A few original 78’s have been on my turntable ever since. Here is a true classic that I like to share; ‘Skokiaan’. Among the artists who recorded the song are Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley, Herb Alpert, Brave Combo, and Hugh Masekela. See also 16 skokiaan versions

The African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia

A-side –Skokiaan

B-side –In the Mood

Recorded in 1947

Writer August Musarurwa

Genre Tsaba-Tsaba

released as DECCA FM 6142 South Africa, year unknown.

“Skokiaan” was first recorded as a sax and trumpet instrumental by the African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) under leadership of Musarurwa, possibly in 1947. The band comprised two saxophones, two banjos, traps, and a bass. Several tunes played by the Cold Storage Band were recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in June 1951. On Tracey’s recording, Musarurwa also apparently played for the Chaminuka Band. Musarurwa copyrighted “Skokiaan”, probably in 1952.

Within a year of its 1954 release in South Africa, at least 19 cover versions of “Skokiaan” appeared. The Rhodesian version reached No 17 in the United States, while a cover version by Ralph Marterie climbed to No 3. All versions combined propelled the tune to No 2 on the Cash Box charts that year. Its popularity extended outside of music, with several urban areas in the United States taking its name.

the full wiki-story of the origins of the song + charts here

Kum-A-Kye; The Band Of The British South African Police

The title of the British South Africa Police, the police force of Rhodesia, stems from that of its predecessor, the British South Africa Company Police.

Almost immediately upon the granting by Queen Victoria in 1889 of a Royal Charter to Cecil John Rhodes’s British South Africa Company to open up Mashonaland, recruiting began in Kimberley in the Cape Colony (now the Cape Province of South Africa) for a police force to accompany and protect the pioneer column which was to occupy the new territory.

The first African members of the Force were recruited from the remnants of Lobengula’s scattered Matabele regiments after the war of 1893, but were disbanded on the outbreak of the Matabele Rebellion of 1896.

Although no complete records remain to tell us the full story of the early Police Bands in Rhodesia, it is known that in 1887 the force was able to provide a band to play at the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in both Salisbury and Bulawayo (now Zimbabwe).

The history of Police Bands continues well into the 1960’s.

Here is a selection of African styled fanfare tracks from the album ‘Kum-A-Kye’ recorded probably around 1955.  The record contains a 15 minutes version of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ by Gershwin, but unfortunately the condition of that song is too bad for reproduction on these pages.

The Band Of The British South African Police -The Regimental March Of The B.S.A. Police

The Band Of The British South African Police -Rufaro                                                

excerpts from the original liner notes of “Kum-A-Kye”

 The Band Of The British South African Police

Brigadiers Records BR/R4 South Africa

Stella Chiweshe -Zimbabwe’s Queen of the Mbira

When I recorded  ‘Coral Reef’ in Grahamstown, South Africa, a young white musician James Foerie played kalimba on this song. On another recording he joined in with a strange instrument that looked like a tiny toy piano, he called it an  mbira dza vadzimu (notes of the ancestral spirits). It is is very significant instrument in Shona religion and culture, considered a sacred instrument by natives.

He said it had cost him years to learn to play the instrument since it is very hard for the player to pluck the metal strips that form the keyboard. James played it in a hollow calabash to amplify the sound. Normally mbira music is not amplified but for the recording he used the empty calabash. The sound became stronger and warmer in tones.


I got so intrigued by this instrument that I wanted to hear more. Luckily I found an album by Stella Chiweshe in my collection. Our friends over at Freedomblues have already highlighted this album earlier but I thought it would be a good idea to bring it back to your attention since it has  such a powerful sound and the music is timeless. And above all, the original songs have been reworked by London producer Ben Mandelson of 3Mustaphas3, a British World music band formed in 1982.

The text is taken from the original liner notes of the album featured here today;

Stella Chiweshe –“Ambuya”

Traditionally only men are encouraged to become mbira musicians, but in spite of the fact that Stella Chiweshe had counted her fingers and found that she had as many fingers as any man to pluck the mbira with, she had to suffer some years before her seriousness impressed an uncle sufficiently and led him to teach her the basic songs of mbira music.

“I first learned in 1966, in Harare and Mhondoro. I was taught by my uncle. But he doesn’t play any more because his fingers have become stiff. I last saw him in 1974. He was a full-time player, a very old man who just sits at home and plays. He saw I very much wanted to learn. Saw me trying to find someone to teach me. He said come and sit next to me and I willl show you how to do it. He was very kind. Other people thought they can’t teach a woman how to play., because mbira’s not a woman’s instrument, it’s meant to played only by men. They say if you play mbira you’ll not be able to do women’s work, you’ll always be on the men’s side. It’s very painful to play mbira. Maybe they feel sorry for a woman to do such a painful thing.

Women are also not meant to play the drum because it’s a man’s instrument. If a woman is playing it it shows no respect for tradition, but I play it because I want to. When my uncle showed me how to play I had a burning lump in my chest –a pain like when a close person dies. But when he said ‘come learn’ the pain started to go and I felt good. It didn’t take a long time to learn which keys to play. What takes a long time to learn is how to play for a long time. It is like the wheel goes, round and round. At a ceremony you must be able to play for the whole night. You get blisters on the fingers. But you must care and feel for the music, you must play hard for people to hear because mbira is not amplified. “

Stella Chiweshe & The Earthquake with 3Mustaphas3 -Kashawa


Stella Chiweshe w/ The Earthquake & 3Mustaphas3


Stella Chiweshe & The Earthquake with 3Mustaphas3  -Chachimurenga

Once able to master the instrument she was accepted professionally. Since then she works like all other maridzambira, not only for the spirits, but also at weddings, funerals, all kinds of dances, ceremonies, chief’s courts, processions, business inaugurations, political gatherings, parties and concerts. These latter jobs happen mainly in the city and the former mainly in the rural areas.

Her career as a recording artist has given her over 20 singles to her credit, including one “Kashawa” which went gold in Zimbabwe. During her way of life as a mbira musician she was a member of the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe where she played the role of national heroine Mbuya Nehanda using her skills as both actress and dancer. With the company she toured Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. She was special guest on the first European tour of Thomas Mapfumo enabling her to spread the art of mbira music even further. In spring 1987, with the line-up of this album, she took part in the ‘Beat! Apartheid’ Road Festival throughout West Germany to great acclaim.

This album is based upon the rich variety of Stella Chiweshe’s experience. She decided to open up mbira music to a wider, international audience by reforming her Earthquake band with the innovative use of marimbas, and by including the bass ‘n drum section of polyglobal music partisani 3Mustaphas3. Using these instruments alongside the mbira and hosho displays the universal character of mbira music, without losing contact with the lively roots of the Zimbabwean mbira music tradition.

Liner notes by Florian Hetze from the album by Stella Chiweshe –“Ambuya” ORB 029 1987 Piranha Musik. Globestyle Records, London.

The album “Ambuya” on vinyl is long out of print, second hand copies can be found here

CD versions can be found here

See also Stella Chiweshe’s official website

Bad Omen –Freshlyground’s concert in Harare on October 1st cancelled. Read more

The South African band Freshlyground, well known since they delivered “Waka Waka”, the official song for the last FIFA World Cup in South Africa, is banned from Zimbabwe and can not enter the country.

The authorities have withdrawn the work permits of the band, for a concert they would give this coming October 1st in the capital Harare, because of the just-released song “Chicken To Change” in which the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is being ridiculed.

Especially the music video for the song went down the wrong way with the Zimbabwean authorities according to manager Sarah Barnett.  The clip was made by the people behind SA News, a South African variant of the political puppet show Spitting Image.

In the videoclip  a latex doll reads the “Bob’s Times” while being escorted in a limousine through the ruined streets of Harare…clearly Old Bob was not amused.

Lyrics  ‘Zvingashure’ (Bad Omen)  by James Chimombe and the O.K. Success

Fellows, you have let me down

You have seen and allowed me

To spend all my money on women

Now the cold has come

I have no jacket, no jersey, no blanket

My friend, buy a blanket

But how can I buy one?

I have no more money left

I am unemployed, there is no way out

Had I known I can help

The married are wise

They have somebody to advise them

That is true

James Chimombe & The O.K. Success -Zvingashure

Probably this reportage on street children in Harare, Zimbabwe was banned by Robert Mugabe as well.

Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children

From BAFTA-winning director Jezza Neumann and BAFTA-winning producer, Xoliswa Sithole, a powerful tale unfolds of the gaping chasm between what these children hope for and what their country can currently provide.

A loss of opportunity.