The Bundu Boys was a group formed in April 1980 at Zimbabwe’s independence ,the name Bundu which means “jungle stermed” from the dedication of the young men and women who gave their lives during the Liberation struggle.The artists behind this band were Biggie Tembo who was their leading vocalist, Shakie Kangwena, David Mankaba , Shepherd Munyama and Rise Kagoma .
Started off playing in township beerhalls and they were spotted by one Steve Roskily who then began recording them at his studio in Harare.At the height of their career , American star Madonna personally requested that the band support her for the nights she played , to a total of an estimated number of 240 000 people at Wembley in 1987. Their journey to famous on the international stages began.Most people especially the new generation do not know that the Bundu Boys were the first African Boy Band to share a stage with Madonna , the pop American female singer from way back.
Coming back to this group”s journey,they went on to be signed by one of the world”s record labels to Warners(WEA), under the label the group toured North America , Australlia and Hong Kong .
lets tack it back a little , before the boys began touring western countries and probably started living in England , back home , their village inspired and rhythmic lyrics took people”s memories driving from the village life to the township lives and from the town ships back to the villages.
With hit songs like Hatisi tose ,Chekudya chose (1983),Hupenyu hwangu (1984), Shabini (1988) and Simbimbino, one can appreciate the poetry behind their lyrics.The Bundu boys infused poetry and oratory in song using a village jiti style, the guitar , marimba, hosho and drum . Their story telling was authentic , beautiful and simply Zimbabwean .They really sang about what was happening during that time which is why , many people could not afford to miss the the Bundu Boy’s shows .They sang music that talked about the real life issues in the urbanization era , were many people had an alienation feeling in an urban enviroment, especially the song “kuroja chete”.
As life in the music scene went on,there is a saying that goes “whenever there is a good thing , there is always a devil..”.Indeed the devil took his part,because out of a sudden during 1987 the group”s lead vocalist Biggie Tembo decided to quit due to what he called ,” irreconciliable differences ” then the Bundu Boys” fortunes were destroyed rapidly .The man really tried on his solo career but he could not make it through, when he tried to come back to the group , he was denied to rejoin by the group”s founding member Rise Kagona.
Moving on , when the then lead vocalist , faced a traumatic sitaution after when he found out that the man who he has being calling father all the years of his life , is not actually his biological father.It resulted in Biggie”s mental illness and also seeing the other group members Shakie Kangwena, David Mankaba and Shepherd Munyamo all loosing their lives to AIDS .Sadly the vocalist committed suicide in a mental hospital in Harare.Therefore the surviving band member up to date is non other than Rise Kagoma.
We quote his emotional opinion, ” … the sad thing … is that , for all the cities we visited, and all the friends and all the music we made , the Bundu Boys are mostly remembered for dying of AIDS..”, said Kagoma.
However, some blame the fall of the Bundu Boys towards their stay in England , and played too much with the English women , besides that they would have been there and moving the Zimbabwean sound of the old days to places .
We will never forget their music , it was innovative composition , liberating , unifying and celebratory. It was deeply rooted in our everyday life experiences soon after independence.
Otherwise they did exceptionally well by going overseas because they were ‘celebrities’ in England, Europe , Australia and many other places, they did Zimbabwe proud.No one would have performed at Madonna”s concert the way Bundu Boys did.