November 30 in the Year of Our Lord 2016 was memorable for upcoming music jewel Mackenzie Mwase, aka Kendyman Kobiri. On this day Kendyman Kobiri launched kobiri music through his debut album ‘Punha,’ in a well-attended and successful event at Harare’s City Sports Bar. If you are wondering what kobiri music sounds like consider what a blend of Mapfumo and Mtukudzi top notch numbers would sound like. High praise perhaps, for someone new to the music scene, but deserved nevertheless.
Born of a Tanzanian father and a Zambian mother, the thirty-seven year old musician is truly a cosmopolitan. In his own words he reminisces:
“I grew up with a Tanzanian father and a Zambian mother. My own understanding of the word Punha is that it’s a person lowly regarded in society. Usually someone who has nothing and is despised by everyone,” he intones with an endearing depth of feeling.
“Punha is a story of one young person who was seen as such but became successful later on in life.”
In Punha, Kendyman pokes at those who, prior to the young lady’s change of fortune, were in the habit of ridiculing her. To quote him: “In this song, I’m calling upon those who ridiculed the young person to now come and see what this person has become, what they have achieved.”
The album was produced by Casper ‘Beatz’ Mpofu at Bazuka Studios in Harare.
Mwase’s band is The Kobiri Music Crew. On Punha, Casper plays the drums, keyboards and percussion. Nandi and Prosper ‘Uncle P’ are on backing vocals while Simba ‘Msoja’ plays lead guitar. The man himself, Kendyman does the lead vocals and also plays the mbira.
On how he got his nickname Kendyman explains that m.ost people he knew when he was a child had trouble pronouncing his name, ‘Mackenzie’. He didn’t like it when people mispronounced his name. In his college days, his friends began to call him Kendyman and the name stuck.
“If you were to arrive at college and ask for Mackenzie,” he laughs, “everyone would tell you that they didn’t know who that was, but if you asked for Kendyman then you’d find me. That’s just how much the nickname stuck.”
Apparently, Mwase is not the only Kendyman. There is another one, even though this other one spells his name differently. This then called for a surname which, again, his friends gladly gave him. ‘Kobiri,’ the title of his first single, became his second name and has also stuck.
Punha, the album, is a seven track album, and all the tracks on it were composed by Kendyman. The first track is the title track. It is followed by the song ‘Kobiri’, the etymology of which can be traced to a time in the past when Zimbabwe’s currency was pounds, shillings and pence. One penny in ChiShona was what people called the ‘kobiri’ and is often used to depict poverty. As one might guess, this song talks about money issues and about how life is just so very difficult because of the trying economic situation prevailing. ‘Rufu’ the third song is a gem in which Casper’s lilting lead guitar is unbelievable while the low, mournful bass is irresistible. Rufu is a perfect song in terms of melody and lyrics, harmonies, tone and instrumentation. The song is an ace. I think Kendyman Kobiri has arrived!
Other performers at the album launch
Fourth on the album is ‘Dzoka’. The track ‘Dzoka’ is a husband’s plea to his estranged wife to return home after she packed hers and left because of false rumours. Track five is ‘Mubaiwa’ a song with a distinctive mbira and Chimurenga aura. Hwahwa is a song about alcohol and the singer asks what it benefits a person to drink alcohol. In sync with prevailing trends on the music scene, the last piece is an instrumental version of ‘Dzoka’.
Kendyman says kobiri music is contemporary jazz fused with traditional musical instruments such as mbira, marimba and drums. His project is a loud announcement of his entry into the competitive music scene. Kendyman is going to get far.
All photos courtesy of Mackenzie Mwase