My birth is a metaphor of bullet-traces and the ironic verse of Leninist style-songs for black liberation thatreverberated the grey-mist clad red-mountains of home – Zimbabwe.
My birthing was a stitch between the thud of war-time guns and a heave of pungwe jives. Young women of mymother’s age were volunteer maids during the traumatic but zeal-oiled Chimurenga times, cooking and washing forthe cadres of liberation. Chimurenga songs sung by these war-ironed peasant mothers and bullet-toughenedcollaborators in the red-hills of Wedza. These Mother- guerrillas endured the hard throbs of grenades and the thrash ofmidnight-rains in those village hills alongside bushy male combatants. They learnt the soprano of the gun and the tenorof death. These were heaven-echoing struggle hymns.
On the day of my birth, heavy rains rattled the winter-crusted red-earth. Rivers sobbed with
heaven’s tears and sorrows of war. That gruelling night, swarms of collaborators were moved from one base toanother, my earthly goddess was among those pilgrims of war.
…her heartbeat thrilled my tender ears and her blood-ripples lulled my faint soul to sleep. And so, my foetus spirit rodealong with waves of echo and beat of verse. Ingenuity.
I am the blessing of the trip, the child of war song and rain. A mystery.
I am a child of song. I was birthed during the exodus.
That rebel’s war was characterized by death, wailing, stampede, bravery, shallow-graves, song and continuouswalking. A trailblazing Africa reality show.
My earthly goddess was a dedicated collaborator, volunteer and songstress. She carried freedom in the sacred cave ofher womb.
After their strange overnight long walk to freedom base of Mbirashava – rains ceased fire, war- drums paused andtheir echoes got trapped into the blankets of early day mist. Then came my birth cry they say like an exclamation engraved on the yellow-disc of the smoke-bruised African sun.
Claws of dawn caressed the sorrow-soaked red-hills. My goddess wriggled in a thick volcano of red- clay mud, ochre-red blood and dead grass. Her womb groaned from labour pangs and suddenly the wind was cold. June dared the earthand everything in it. Cold-winds whined ferociously to
disobedient flora and delinquent vultures. Winter, fast clicking a pause button to the jungle’s daily
festivals. I was born.
Cadres and collaborators dribbled a liberation jive for my homecoming. They called me Gandanga. I was initiated into this earth by the alto of howling winter-winds, baritones of barking-baboons and the ease soprano of hooting-owls. Achild of song.
I was introduced to the festival of sounds, loud and low, good and bad, discordant and beautiful. Upon arriving at the village homestead, the earth trembled, the air got electric with ululations. My paternal grandmother ferventlyrecited a traditional totemic praise poem.
“Chirasha, Chikandamina, Weshanu uri pauta, Mavsingo a Govere, Vari Zimuto,Mukwasha waMambo,
Vakafura bwe rikabuda ropa”
A lone drum thrilled them into the audience into another dancing routine. The echo of the tinkling drum resonated withthe beat of my grandmother’s recitations. They said that my eyes winked in response to their merriment. Even up to this day, I beat my chest with pride to that ceremonial reception performed by an elder qualified to be my ancestor.
My old singer-grandmother usually bundled me behind her old but steely back. Lullabies caressed me into dreamlanduntil my goddess returned from her daily errands. I was raised by extraordinary songs, sweet and mellow to everyinfant’s senses.
I enjoyed the ear-tickling ancient poetry. They say I slept to the rhythm of that beautiful lullaby. My grandmother wasGogo in African – she would fall asleep too. Mother returned from the red-clay fields to find us under the watch ofspirits and snores.
After some weeks my umbilical cord wilted and fell. They buried it under the hearth near the main fireplace. Thus howwe are bonded by our departed clan spirits.
And so I grew up in a highly strict African traditional clan. My father and fellow clansmen brewed ceremonial beerfor traditional rites. They supplicated to ancestral gods to end life-tormenting ailments, ravaging hunger, abjectpoverty and bad omen. Their usual incarnations, totemic praise’s performances cultivated the griot in me. Praise andprotest poetry became my official language. After my umbilical cord rites, my father gave me a name. He named meafter the most powerful battalion
of Tshaka Zulu, a battalion that never lost even a single battle – Imbizo. Yes, the names define us and names resonatewith our identity. They are strings of belonging.
Time roasted seasons into years. I began drawing meaning from events at home, from school and the village. Thethrobbing of drums persisted. Traditional ceremonies energized the villages. August
was a hive of rituals, in our village Ancestral spirits were raised and cleansing ceremonies were performed. The beat of drums conquered the winds, and their echo was engraved in the chambers of my heart. I rode along with these waves of praise poetry. My father – always dedicated – introduced me to African history, the African kings, the kingdoms, tribesand dialects in Southern Africa. He was passionate about Nguni, about Zulu and Ndebele histories. I was a quicklearner and most fascinated by Zulu and Ndebele war cries –
Bathe wena we Zulu, SenzangakhonaKaJama Tshaka Zulu
Dingane Zulu Dinizulu
Bayethe ngwalo ngwalo, Langa
Lemulandulo, Sombangela, MangeleKumalo, Ngugulu Kumalo
Bayethe ,Bayethe , Bayethe !!!
That mix of African history, the traditional songs, drumbeats and totemic praises continued to weave a griot in me.
Zimbabwe attained political freedom in the 1980s. Myself and other children of war were introduced to the classroom,the flag and national Anthem. Before Zimbabwe’s late poet laureate Solomon Mutsvairo wrote our own nationalanthem, we sang the African Anthem. It was pregnant with meaning and its rhythm was beautiful.
“Ishe Komberera Africa Ngaisimudzire zita rayo Inzwai miteruro yedu Nkosi yesikeleleAfrica…”
Classroom cultivated my literary consciousness. My best Writer-Poet is Modekai A. Hamutyinei. Most of his poemswere sanguaged inside the Shona textbook pages for us to imbibe the rich and deep Karanga verses coated withthought-provoking imagery about identity and morality. His poems christened me into a village griot. My admirersequated my poetry recitations with literary prowess. Our assembly time was electric with poetry recitations. I cherishthose childhood moments. I would hurry in front of the whole school with no microphone but armed with a megaphonic
voice, Hamutyinei’s deep Karanga creamed verses,raw artistic gestures and a confident breath. I exploded verses like agushing river after a heavy storm.
“Ndainge ndiri ishe zvangu muzvinanyika Ndirindoga chikara kubva kudoro Chainge chakandikiya kuti shwe ..e
Hwahwa hwamamuchikuye chipanda Ndaingunotsika matama enzirakudzadzarika, Svikeyi ,mugoto susururu
Rupasa rwangu che-ee
Gumbeze pamusoro wazviona………………………. ”
Hamutyineyi was a great poet of Shona Karanga origin. I became intimatewith his writings. I armed myself with acalabash full of spring-water to wash down the delicacies of his literary showcase into my craving DNA. I sang hisverses in pastures and valleys. His verses were heavy with emotion and hefty with affection.
Back into the red-hills after smoking wisdom rolled in book pages. Those red-hills taught me a festival of sounds,beautiful whistles of honey-birds, the pied piping of mother doves, cackling of wild-hens, the baritone of barking-baboons, gushing of rivers, bellowing of bovine of bulls
“A village without sounds lacks rhythm. It is a dead village. A village is a festival of sounds.”
punctuated by throbs and thuds of drums echoing from one hill to the other. That festival of sounds serenaded me. A village without sounds lacks rhythm. It is dead village. A village is a festival of sounds.
I want you to know this April is harvesting time.
April is my beloved month with its soul-pricking dew announcing autumn’s lost virginity into cough- ridden winter.Earth’s green-jacket is suddenly pulled out and replaced by a monkey hat of brown-
grass. Bees are happy, goats are fat, and butterflies are enjoying their last supper as they slowly disappear into thetemporary cemetery of seasons.
Fields weep with abundance.
Food is plenty, especially after the rain season’s pleasant fart
Villagers thrash sorghum for brew and other rituals. Our household invited the headman and other villagers for acollective thrashing of grain crops. Drums of brew frothed to the brim and the brew was sweet. Calabashes of non-alcoholic millet brew were non-drinkers. We all salivated from the pleasant smell of goat meat wafting from big pots.Young women and tussling girls scurried in all directions like at a beehive, roasting and making stews. Insults andscorn were to each other amid gulps of sorgum brew. Village delinquents and drinking imbecilic were the centre ofattraction. A village standup comedy, everyone was equal at such gathering.Humour filled songs were sung one after another. I was raised by this vibe. I loved the rhythm.
“Hoto inorira heya ……..he heya ……..a hoto Inoririreyi ko?
Cherechedza mukadzi woumwe uchasungwa Mangwana padare
Cherechedza mukadzi woumwe uchasunga.
Hoto inorira heya……………..he, heya………….. a”
Such humorous poetic hymn was magnified into a fat-song and jive. The verses were well-knit to reach the intendedaudience. Songs were always pregnant with meaning, exposing the rot of adultery
and how such sins fail the community. April entertainment was not short of both wisdom and knowledge.
Puberty liberated me and I carried my bag of consciousness, carried totemic praises, drumbeats
sound, traditional songs, Zulu war chants and praises … and African history to the city.
A Euphoria of car horns, musical cafes, rowdy and busy streets, political chants, motorcade wails, media wizards,streetwise consciousness further carved my consciousness into reality.
I Am Griot – a descendant of Rhythm and beat of ancient song.