Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
ON October 15, 2011, one of Zimbabwe’s best Sungura artistes, Tongai ‘Dhewa’ Moyo breathed his last after succumbing to cancer, leaving behind a trail of success stories.
His long battle with cancer, on its own, is a success story before we get into his music prowess that was led by his famed unmatched live show performances.
Famed for his love for immaculate dressing, stellar stage work and of course the trademark smile, Dhewa, upon his entrance on the music scene in the late 90s, did not only change the landscape of music in the country but also left behind a legacy that is not easy to surpass.
Dhewa joined Shirichena Jazz Band where he would play Leonard Dembo’s renditions with aplomb.
During his stint at the Shepherd Musekiwa led outfit, Dhewa would meet Ronnie Mudhindo and Musaope Jenitala who were the first members of Utakataka Express.
Following the death of Dembo, Tongai and his band released his first album ‘Vimbo’ in 1996 which was not well received because people loved Dembo so much that they would not tolerate any Dembo ’copycat’.
He however never looked back and was not deterred and went on to release more albums which led to people to appreciate his music.
His fierce battle with Alick Macheso would follow and led ‘Muchina Muhombe’ to look for ways to bolster his music in a bid to overcome the competition between him and ‘Extra Basso’.
In a quest to get to the bottom of how it all started, Chronicle got hold of Mudhindo from his South African base who divulged on the secret weapon behind Dhewa’s success.
Dhewa was unmatched in the way he staged his shows and Mudhindo shed more light.
“Tongai was a reserved person who would spend much of his time researching on music. He loved Rhumba music and that is where he got most of his secret weapons from. If you look at the way we set our stages, it was somehow Rhumba related so that was his secret weapon, he was inspired mostly by Rhumba,” revealed Mudhindo.
Not only did Dhewa dress like the Congolese musicians, but his dancers would also quickly remind you of the Rhumba artistes.
But it was his ability to fuse the Rhumba genre and Sungura music which left many wondering how did Mopao Mokonzi (one of many of Dhewa’s numerous monikers) do it.
Dhewa even went on to hire the services of chanter Gift ‘Shiga Shiga’ Kathulika, himself from Congo who went on to spice up, not only the stage but even Dhewa music itself with his energetic chants and stage work.
His combination with Shiga would send fans into a frenzy as they jelled like Oliver Mtukudzi and Piki Kasamba.
Dhewa loved his Utakataka outfit that he would do anything to protect the band.
Although he was a trained boxer, he was not a violent person, rather he was the opposite as he was quiet and reserved.
He took his music so serious that he could do anything to protect it.
“At one time, when I had already left the band, I heard drummer Gaison Sixpence was intoxicated and insisted on going on stage. This infuriated Tongai and he beat him up on stage. That is how Tongai took his music so seriously that he would not want anything even his band members to tamper around with it. Remember this is a man who had quit his clerical job for music,” said Mudhindo.
Mudhindo however said this was one rare incident and everyone was shocked when it happened and every band member fell into line.
On his leisure time, away from shows, Dhewa loved his social soccer and ‘gango’.
“We rarely could go out with him for braai or something like that because he dedicated most of his time to his music and his family. But he loved his football and gango,” he said.
On the song ‘Muchina Muhombe’ which most people said was written for him after he left the band, Mudhindo said it was a mere coincidence.
“It was a mere coincidence; I even played the song with Tongai before it was released. I had no hard feelings with Mdhara as I left the band amicably.”
He said Dhewa was the most paying band leaders as he would own up to his promises.
“Even if you agree a certain percentage, he was loyal to that as he would want his band to remain intact, So I can say Tongai put his family first, then the band then fans,” he said.
His love for his fans would be seen even when he was battling cancer, he would at times defy his doctor’s directives to play at shows.
Unfortunately, Murozvi Mukuru, would succumb to the deadly cancer after releasing 14 albums in 2011.
As we commemorate cancer month, we also celebrate the life of one of the greatest artistes ever in Zimbabwe, who was robbed from us by the deadly disease.
May His Soul Continue Resting in Peace.