Ndaa! Greetings and salutations. The intention has always been to make this a regular missive, but one gets caught up in the toils of day to day life and instead of doing what you’d love to do, you end up doing what you have to do. That’s just life. Anyway, it’s been an eventful few weeks, with its ups and downs. For me the one major down was the sad passing of Zim music legend, Andy Brown, (real name Cadia Shoko). Here was one helluva guitarist. What most people in the West probably do not know about guys like Andy and other great African musicians is that most of them cannot ‘read music’. They play ‘by ear’, which means they listen to something and then they play it. They also come up with their own tunes and have to remember them, without writing anything down. While he wrote a couple of good numbers, I think his skills on the guitar were far superior to the song-writing abilities. I found his musical arrangement to be excellent especially when he ventured into production and helped his ex-wife Chiwoniso on her debut album ‘Ancient Voices’. To me that was probably his best work. I also liked the way he brought to life old folksongs from his Karanga upbringing in rural Mberengwa. ‘Mawere Kongonya’ comes to mind, and those from southern Zim might know this song as one that was sung at beer partied (Ndhari) and folks would dance to the sound of ‘ngoma yeShangara’ into the early evening. Andy brought it all out when he recorded the song in a studio with all those electric gizmos. The distinct ‘ngoma yeShangara’ could still be heard. Probably the best compliment paid to Andy came from award winning South African singer Ringo, who said ‘Andy Brown is the best guitarist in the world’.
Last week was the Cheltenham Festival, which is like the FA Cup of horse jump racing. The whole of the UK was abuzz with a huge betting frenzy. Like many horse racing meets around the world (with the exception of the OK Grand Challenge), Cheltenham is also social event where the who’s-who of British celebrity and in some years, royalty, come out to play. Besides the fact that it is a week-long festival, Cheltenham attracts a lot of attention obviously because of the betting. I can classify myself as a betting man as on the odd occasion I have placed football bets with my mates, but the way the British public is gaga about betting is amazing. Anything that does not have a certain outcome, bookmakers (bookies) will put odds on it and people will bet on it. I am sure at the moment, odds are out on who is going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. In the High Street close to our lodgings, there are as many bookies as there are convenience shops. Every corner has a bookie. Without noticing it, it is probably one of Britain’s biggest addiction, gambling. The media also do very well to promote it, and Cheltenham was no different. They had a stable-guy who placed a £50 bet and won £1m and boy did the media not milk this story. Sensibly the lad has decided to keep his job as a stable hand.
The one obvious difference between the UK and Africa is the way service stations work. Here you fill our own tank and use the card machine to pay. A few weeks ago I was wondering whether this system would work, where I come from. I went through a thought process where I imagined my own people and how they would almost view this as free fuel because they would unashamedly drive off without paying, because there is no one to police them. I also realise that even in church, if you want to buy the weekly church newspaper, you just drop your £1 in the box above the stack of newspapers and take your copy. I wondered whether this would work in my local parish back home and also thought that it wouldn’t, even given the fact that the transaction is happening in the church precinct. I felt ashamed and began to mentally beat myself up, about how we as Africans had seemingly no conscience and could never observe any rules if someone is not wielding a big stick at us to make us do the right thing. Luckily for me, that very same night, the headline story on prime time news was how there was an increase in the number of people driving off without paying for fuel at service stations. Phew! It’s not just us! While this is not valid consolation, the question I kept asking myself is, if it works in other countries, this being an exception, why does it not work in ours? What’s wrong with us?
The weekend ended on another low for the football family with the collapsing of Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba. The African connection obviously makes it so much closer to home, he is one of our own. It is mindboggling to think that such fit and athletic young man had cardiac arrest, something normally expected in overweight people and senior citizens. I was reminded though of two other high profile related incidents one which ended up being fatal. The first was that of Nwanko Kanu, who was diagnosed, luckily, before he actually had cardiac arrest. The second was of Cameroonian Marc Vivian Foe, who lost his life at the Confed Cup in France. I am hoping that football clubs will put players through more rigorous tests to ensure that they are healthy enough to play professionally. We wish Fabrice a speedy recovery.