Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THEIR high-octane mass displays, the choreographic precision and well-polished vocal renditions coupled with instrumental interludes of classic recipe indubitably wowed multitudes of people at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo during the historic 42nd Independence Anniversary celebrations on Monday.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) band has lately become a sight of interest in the country’s arts and creative industries through their scintillating performances at national events.
Their musical uniformity has, however, not been matched in other art disciplines.
The police band also prides itself in that one of its former members, Retired Superintendent Fredy Lecture Changundega, composed the current National Anthem. The late celebrated Zimbabwean novelist, Solomon Mutsvairo wrote the lyrics with Changundega doing the actual composition.
Through their dazzling performances, the police band captures the imagination of the audience at any given time.
Clad in their traditional navy and gold uniform, the men and women of law captivated people at the just ended Independence Day main celebrations, held for the first time since 1980, outside Harare.
This year’s Independence celebrations together with the Children’s Party were held under the theme: “[email protected] 42 — Leaving no one and no place behind” in line with the Second Republic’s thrust of devolution and decentralisation policy.
The police band has been in existence since the colonial era under the leadership of Bandmaster T Scout and Trumpet Sergeant-Major JF Mee.
Formed in 1897 for the purpose of performing at the celebrations of Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee in 1897 both in Salisbury and Bulawayo, the police band has over the years transformed from an outfit that solely promoted Western colonial music to an all-inclusive people centred band.
The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was officially celebrated on 22 June 1897 to mark the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession on 20 June 1837. It was the first Diamond Jubilee celebration of any British monarch in history.
ZRP director of music Chief Superintendent Taizivei Zinyandu said the whole idea of the police band is to promote public relations.
“The police band was formed initially for the purpose of performing at celebrations of Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee in 1897 both in Salisbury and Bulawayo. It became popular among the white community in Rhodesia through playing Western colonial music,” he said.
Chief Supt Zinyandu said when the country attained its Independence in 1980, the administration of the band changed with Superintendent Davis Masango taking over the leadership of the band, becoming the first black director of music.
“We then started playing traditional African and revolutionary songs because the whole idea was to promote local content. Today, the police band provides services to the entire nation as opposed to the period during the colonial era and everyone can now access our services,” he said.
“The Police Band is a section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police charged with the responsibility of providing musical services to the State, police and the general public in order to promote good police-public relations.”
The police band is based at Morris Depot, Harare but is available for performance nationwide.
They also perform during bilateral summits and international conferences.
The police band outfit comprises of the Brass Band, which mainly does processions and plays no-electrical instruments, the Dance Band, which plays electrical instruments like guitars and the Choral Group and this is a police choir, which usually sings during burials of national heroes and heroine and they are very popular with the rendition of the folk song Gwebede.
Gwebede is a gospel song derived from Ezekiel Chapter 38 and it speaks of the valley of dry bones. The song further prophesies on the dry bones and when the band sings, it will be singing about the House of Israel and in the prophecy the dry bones will rise with the coming of Jesus Christ.
Other outfits include Imbube Group, Marimba Band and Trumpeters section, which usually performs at funerals for national heroes and heroines.
“We render services to the State during national events such as the Independence Day celebrations, Heroes Day commemorations, State banquets, burials of heroes and heroines and opening of Parliament. For police functions, our band performs during crime awareness campaigns, graduation parades among others,” said Chief Supt Zinyandu.
“When it comes to private functions, we cater for both corporates and individuals like weddings, graduation parties, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and memorial services and funerals. Again, under private functions we offer services to corporates and non-governmental organisations such as processions, awareness campaigns, anniversary celebrations, fundraising shows among others.”
In terms of fees, for private individuals, they charge US$300 for the first four hours of every performance and thereafter US$75 per hour. For corporates and NGOs, the police band charge US$500 for the first four hours and subsequently US$75 per hour.
In terms of selection criteria, Chief Supt Zinyandu said they give first preference to officers who have a keen interest in music.
“We will then train them at our music school. Others join the police band at the initial recruitment already with the requisite skill and we then simply develop those skills once they graduate,” he said.
The entry requirements for those intending to train as police officers also applies to those wishing to join the police band.
“It is a single entry. We don’t recruit anyone specifically for the band since we use the same recruitment policy. We draw our personnel from the police,” said Chief Supt Zinyandu.
“After graduating from the basic police training, they undergo further training in music theory and practical which is normally12 months. Thereafter they are enrolled for further developmental courses at other music colleges and universities,”
The police band has 253 members and is permanently stationed at Morris Depot in Harare save for a base in Bulawayo which only provides the trumpeters section specifically for funerals of members who would have died throughout the country
“It is a small section with nine people that is based in Bulawayo to provide such services. We intend to decentralise the band sooner than later so that our services would be accessed by all and sundry,” said Supt Zinyandu.