By Khumbulani Muleya
The first ever Zimbabwean hip hop biography is finally out. The book was successfully launched on Sunday at the spacious First Floor Gallery Harare in a hybrid event that featured a book reading session, live music performances and a mini-exhibition made up of antiquated photographs of the authors parents adorning the wallsof the gallery as if to introduce guests to a narration that symbolically opened up the lead to Tony Chihota’s story, a story birthed in post-revolution Zimbabwe.
The Beginning is a memoir about the life of Tony ‘Capone’Chihota also known as The Chief, a hip-hop artist and author of Zimbabwean and Russian descent and founder member of pioneering African rap group A Peace Of Ebony. The book edited by Penny Lumley is set to give readers a reflection on the urban culture of the 90s as it masterly narrates ordeals with dodgy record companies, shady promoters, unscrupulous sharks, as well as first generation experiences of being from a mixed race and growing up in a family that was active in the liberation war.
The launch opened up with a poetry recital from local female poet Khadija Finesse and developed into a full performance as Capone collaborated with long-time allyand fellow rapper Herbert Schwam born known as Metaphysics or Prince Qwela who instantly transformed from Master of Ceremony to performer as they both rekindled memories of their pioneering influences of the 90s with flowing rhymes and clever lyrics.
The duo also took the opportunity to celebrate Chiwoniso Maraire while marking their 30th year anniversary. As founding members of hip hop group A Piece of Ebony together with the lateMbira iconthey were influential in generating a Hip Hop wave during the 90s.
During the book reading session Capone took the audience through an emotive preview of passages from the book by reading extracts of his exploits at the height of fame and glamour in the murky depths of Johannesburg’s red-light district in an inspiring story of a man’s battle to overcome darkness and embrace the light. By the turn of each page the author’s no-holds-barred narration of his own story had the audience deeply absorbed in his story telling.
“I have managed to tell my story in a way that my kids can even be proud of one day and hopefully change some lives through the lessons that I have written in this book”said Chihota
The audience had the pleasure of also witnessing a combination of two artistic practices unfold in front of their very eyes as Capone and Metaphysics kept sampling songs including two new tracks ‘Harare’ and’ Temptation’ the latter is a collaboration with Dendera maestro Sulumani Chimbetu.
“The turnout was amazing, the response was awesome and the crowd loved it, it’s an honour to see my friend release his book and tell his story” stated Metaphysics
Through his recent publication which contains lessons applicable to anybody seeking self-improvement, Tony Caponeis on his way to earning himself solid literary credentials as he follows in step with his musical influences, his bold embrace of his personal struggles with addiction encourage self-reflection andwill inspireother artists to aspire to make their dreams a realitydespite the numerous obstacles along the way.
First Floor Gallery Harare co director Marcus Gora speaking after the event said “Art, music and literature is a big part of the gallery space as well as the developing of multiple connections between the artists themselves and exciting audiencesto follow both art and music while impressing on the development of a writing culture amongst artists as a genre and hope that it inspires more artists to do the same”.
The Beginning earmarks a celebration of the journey of local hip hop music through the life of one of the first movers in the local hip hop space.