ON June 17, Bulawayo’s music strongman Jeys Marabini graced the Alliance Francaise de Harare stage and gave a thrillingperformance. The show could have done with a few more people in view of the fact that entrance to the venue was free.
Although I was not part of the organising team, an irate Mr. Ncube (first name withheld) came to me and protested: “You Harare people are too much! You have no shame!.You want to snatch away all our Bulawayo artistes. It started with Lovemore Majaivana backed by his Zulu Band, the late Fanyana Dube and the Jobs Combination, Busi Ncube, Africa Revenge, Albert Nyathi, and the defunct Ilanga Band. We are going to tell Jeys Marabini to stay put in Bulawayoeven if you attract him with silver and gold. He is ours!”.
I said nothing, and I am still not sure why Mr Ncube chose to accuseme of artiste-theft out of all the people present.
Jeys himself has said that he will never leave Bulawayo, so there was no point in even discussing this matter any further.
Mr Ncube continued spewing his angry vitriol at me, but I still chose not to enter into a debate. I simply tried to explain to him that people are free to go wherever they choose if they feel there are advantages in doing so. I told him that anybody has freedom of choice to go wherever they want. I gave him an example of where this freedom of choice wasrecently exercised by our own African leaders who included South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, Azali Assoumani of Comoros and other presidents from Egypt, Zambia and Senegal when they chose to go to Ukraine and Russia to negotiate ending the war there during a time when war is raging right on their doorstep in Sudan which they chose to ignore.
I said to Mr. Ncube that this was perhaps where he should expend his energy instead of worrying about where Marabini should be located.
Marabini said opportunities to live elsewhere were showering on his door, but he preferred to live in Bulawayo.
However, all this is a digression. Let’s talk about Jeys Marabini’s live performance at the Alliance Francaise de Harare:
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The show kicked off with M.C. Filbert Marova introducing Thulani Zwana who was followed by Heavenly Praises Chorus, a choral group from Bulawayo after which came an all-female marimba ensemble called Tariro Trust. Next was Iyana, a Zimbabwe-based musical act founded by virtuoso guitarist and producer Trustworth Samende (of Mokoomba fame) and supreme vocalist Qeqeshiwe Mntambo.
They all did a sterling job as support acts much to the crowd’s appreciation.
After this, it was time for Josh Meck — a left-handed music artiste. He played three songs on his left-hand acoustic guitar before moving on to play the bass. He did his own thing. Josh is a bass guru that has managed to fuse Zimbabwean traditional rhythms with jazz elements to create his own hallmark in the regional and international music industry. He also conducted a remarkable session.
After Josh, the main act from the City of Kings (Bulawayo) came to the stage with his eight-piece band. He greeted everyone with: “Litshonile” before breaking into the first song. Like a possesed man, Jeys went straight into cultural dances as he started belting out tunes from his playlist which included Xola, Yamitha,Kanjani, Africa, Izenzo , Thula Sana, Wobuya and NkunzeMuyania.
He delivered all these songs with his sweet melodic and electrifyingvoice. Towards the end of his well-appreciated delivery, Marabini invited guitar maestro, Mono Mukundu to do his own thing with the band on stage. Later, left-handed Josh Meck also came and performed with the band much to the delight of everyone present.
Sitting next to me, was Clancy Mbirimi, a great bassist whom I thought should have also been invited to the stage to show off his skills, but I am not sure whether Marabini had noticed him in the crowd.
Some people ask: Who is Jeys Marabini?
I will give you a clue. He is a vastly talented musician who has mastered the art of making the most out of his adversities over the years. Today, he creates world-class music that appeals to a diverse range of fans around the world.
“The City of Kings” (as the city of Bulawayo is often called) has been known for its strong Ndebele cultural tradition. It is also a vibrant arts city which has been the iota of traditional dancing groups. The city’s culture, whose norms and dressing are largely influenced by South Africa, prides itself of its own music genres some of which can be mistaken for South African.
Jeys Marabini has steadily but surely risen to become a force to reckon with not only in Bulawayo, but Africa and the world over. I am not quite sure where the name ‘Marabini’ came from but there is a music genre called Marabi which is close to what Jeys plays. If that is the case, Jeys is a very creative person because his real name is nowhere closer to Jeys Marabini.
Born Majahawodwa Ndlovu, in Filabusi in 1971, and the seventh child in a family of nine boys, Jeys attended Dekezi Primary and Dekezi Secondary schools. His musical background can be traced from secondary school, but it was not until 1991 at the age of 20 that he decided to become a professional musician forming a band called Comforting Brothers, which later changed its name to Imbizo. It was at this time that he assumed the name ‘Jeys Marabini’.
Immediately after the establishment of Imbizo in Bulawayo, the gifted vocalist was soon approached by a representative of the group Sunduza Boys which had made a name in the City of Kings after they had seen his electrifying performance. Now as the lead vocalist of the group Jeys and the Sunduza Boys embarked on their Indian and United Kingdom tour which lasted for six months.
The tour saw Jeys performing at some of the world’s biggest festivals like WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), LAMATREE, Glastonbury and Edinburgh festivals just to mention a few. The tour took Jeys from Zimbabwe to United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, USA, and The Middle-East.
After the successful world tour, Jeys Marabini came back home to take a well-deserved break before the formation of an eight-member band called Kozekulunge in 2002. Although the line-up has changed from that of 2002, the original band comprised on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the main man himself Jeys Marabini, on bass guitar was Kevin Ndlovu, on lead guitar, MthabisiMoyo and on drums was Trevor Mnaphi. There were three vocalists namely Dumisani Nkomo, Faith Moyo and Fatwell Ncube while on the saxophone was Julius Ndoro. Some of these musicians have since left and were replaced by Nathaniel Chipunza on lead guitar, Ezekiel Chipunza on bass guitar, Hlelelani Moyo on the saxophone, Jasi the drummer and Nqabelo Sibandaon keyboards.
Jeys Marabini’s type of music is a fusion of Afro-Jazz, Traditional and Imbube music which are all a consolidation of sweet melodies from yester year Africa up until the present time, blended with modern instruments. He recorded his debut album ‘Emarabini’ in 2002 and the video ‘Emarabini’ was voted The Video of the Year at the Zimbabwe Music Awards (ZIMA) the same year.
The second album Thuthukani Ngothando (2005) did very well on the market with the video Umuzikababa nominated for ZIMA Awards. His third album titled Sounds of Today and Tomorrow (2005) contained the hit song Amalungelo.
The fourth album, Jeys Marabini One Time (2008) sold like hot cakes with a video Ezinangeni appearing on the Zimbabwe Television musical programme Ezomgido.
Jeys’ fifth album, ‘Izenzo’ (2010) was recorded at Khula Records in South Africa. Another album, Jeys@40 recorded in South Africa was released in June 2012 and it made waves in Zimbabwe.
Jeys Marabini, who comes from humble beginnings is also a philanthropist. He is doing community projects in the form of promoting and supporting the young and the old upcoming musicians like The Managers, Black Face, Ndatshi Mkhize and Thethelela Dube to record. The project seeks to promote global unity by communicating with the world through music.
In September, 2012, Jeys performed at Tuku@60, Oliver Mtukudzi’s birthday concert with some of Africa’s best musicians such as Ringo Madlingozi and Judith Sephuma.
Indeed the future of music in Bulawayo is guaranteed if people like Jeys Marabini remain there. He is currently the pride of Bulawayo in music circles. His latest offering Xola is doing very well.
What has happened in the past is that many Bulawayo musicians have fled the city to Harare, South Africa and overseas, thus depriving the City of Kings much deserved entertainment. Jeys has ensured that Bulawayo remains musically intact.
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