DANFORD TAFADZWA CHIBVONGODZE
Jonah Sithole’s Sabhuku
The year is 1977 and Jonah Sithole successfully imitates the mbira sound using his guitar. He says the idea of imitating the mbira with a guitar came from Thomas Mapfumo. In 1977, Jonah records Sabhuku (later remastered in the 90s) which becomes the first ever recorded song where a mbira sound is played with a guitar and, unknown to him, he invents the Chimurenga music sound. What are the odds that in 1975 Jonah and Thomas coincidentally meet for the first time at Jamaica Inn along Harare-Mutare highway and they talk of shifting the mbira sound to a guitar…
Jonah had played all African guitar sounds from Zairean Franco Luambo Makiadi’s infectious guitar to Marabi, to Kwela, to Mbaqanga/Mgqashiyo (with him having briefly played for the Soul Brothers group as a rhythm guitarist), and the ever influential Banjo guitar sound from the heart of Malawi… but Thomas Mapfumo thought Jonah could do more and develop another sound that was unique to those that he was already accustomed to and together they developed the Chimurenga music sound.
The sound gave rise to the likes of Andy Brown, Chiwoniso Maraire (her father was influential in translocating the mbira sound to Europe and North America), Farai Macheka (he adopted Mukanya’s sound and added his own flair), Oliver Mtukudzi (he later reworked the sound to create his own Tuku music), Simon Chimbetu and other talented musicians. This song Sabhuku recorded in 1977 forms the watershed of Chimurenga music and we owe the existence of this modernised sound to Jonah Sithole (the Shangani maestro from Chipinge) and Thomas Mapfumo (the politically consistent Mukanya).