LEGENDARY musician Thomas Mapfumo today releases an eight-track album as a special homage to the late Benny Miller — the man who made music
but remained an unsung hero even in death.
Miller could have made it big as a musician himself, but he opted to make others famous as an engineer/producer behind the scenes where his brilliance remained unappreciated by ordinary Zimbabweans.
But when the “custodians” of music apparently snubbed Miller’s contributions to the industry and overlooked him for national awards, Mapfumo took it upon himself to honour the man who is a hero to many musicians with the new album — Tribute to Benny Miller.
The compilation is a magnum opus of cherry-picked tracks that Mapfumo had kept under wraps since recording them a few years ago.
The track Vamudhara, recorded in 2000, is likely to set tongues wagging for its warning about giving farmland to the “lazy” as much as it is set to be a hit among many traditional music aficionados for its trance-inducing, harmonious mbira beat.
The mbiras are also spellbindingly thumbed on Horomba, a folklore song in which Mukanya’s voice control is as usual amazing.
Both Vamudhara and Horomba are snippets off Mapfumo’s forthcoming Mbira Unplugged.
Mapfumo’s fans will be glad Nzara Yauya is finally out after its release was sabotaged two years ago. Mhoroi Mhoroi is the other track many will find tempting for its riveting horns.
Miller’s genius on the desk is best exhibited on four remixes of Titambire — a track plucked from Chimurenga ’98. Miller’s creativity and versatility are breathtaking when one takes time for the reverberating dancehall beats he produced in the remixes.
“Benny has been ignored by the people who ought to know best about music,” said Cuthbert Chiromo, Mapfumo’s replication manager. “This album is our own award to him for the dedicated work he did for many musicians.”
Chiromo added: “The likes of Bundu Boys, Paul Matavire, John Chibadura and many others have also been overlooked when it comes to national awards, and I hope musicians in this country will come together to honour these great colleagues.”
Born in Harare on October 11 1947, Benjamin Haim Miller died peacefully on September 2 2005 after suffering a suspected heart attack.
He played guitar for Otis Waygood Blues Band in the Rhodesian days and also fronted the hardcore rock band Klunk. Miller’s hit song Fever was a phenomenon in the 1970s.
Soon after Independence in 1980, Miller teamed up with partner Jane Bartlett to pioneer Zimbabwe’s first record label, One World Records, which was to give birth to well-known musicians such as Louis Mhlanga, Ilanga and Cde Chinx.