In the Groove: What a painful goodbye: Nyabinde

According to the minister, Bob was a successful and humble musician who proved to us all that one can be successful without the use of drugs.

Oh No! Oh Lord! What have we done to deserve such a fate?

 I have been asking myself this question all week after receiving the devastating news of Bob Nyabinde’s death.

Before hearing of his death, I woke up last Saturday with a feeling of nervous trepidation, fearing what it will bring. What was the meaning behind this anxiety?

 I was then confronted with reality when I received a call from Filbert Marova who informed me last Saturday, that Bob Nyabinde was no more. What a painful goodbye! I had last seen him at Avenues Clinic. He did not recognise me and I began to think that something was seriously up, but did not think for a minute that he would soon leave us.

For the past 12 months, my column in this publication has been filled with nothing but obituaries of prominent musicians from Stella Chiweshe in January, Kelly Rusike in May, Diva Mafunga in July, Gibson Mandishona in September, Garry Mapanzure in October, Joyous Celebration’s Eric Moyo in December, and now comes the death of prominent Afro-Jazz musician, Bob Nyabinde. Very sad!

His funeral service was held at 814 Old Canaan in Highfields, Harare and he was buried last Tuesday on Boxing Day, in Kwekwe. Hundreds of people who included music journalists, musicians, music promoters, church members and music fans all braved heavy rains to witness Bob Nyabinde’s burial. Public Service and Social Welfare, minister July Moyo, who represented Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa at the funeral described the late Bob Nyabinde as an exemplary figure whose life was worth emulating. According to the minister, Bob was a successful and humble musician who proved to us all that one can be successful without the use of drugs. All up-coming artistes should emulate this, he said.

The director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), Josiah Kusena who was also at the funeral said that had it not been for the Festive Holidays, Nyabinde could have been accorded a state assisted funeral. I hope that this will still be done retrospectively.

 Lord, give me a chance to write about more exciting news other than deaths and funerals. I pray that 2024 will be a different year.

Hundreds of tributes have been pouring in from friends, relatives and musicians alike. Artistes such as Jah Signal, Perego, Maselo Pa Beat, Assegai Crew, Caution Katundu, Tendai Maduwa, Cribert Munetsi, Filbert Marova, Tanga wekwa Sando, Dudu Manhenga-Muparutsa, Steve Chikoti and many more all gave their parting words and condolences to the late Bob Nyabinde.

 Due to space limitations, I will just quote one :

“We have lost a talented Jazz musician. Bob, thank you for being such a loving buddy. I hope you team up with Friday Mbirimi and Lovejoy Mbirimi plus all those musicians gone before you who are already there in the airs. Rest well in the arms of the Almighty.”

Bob Nyabinde  born in Sakubva, Mutare along with other prominent musicians from that area, the likes of Jethro Shasha, Sam Mataure, Peter Muparutsa, the late Assegai Crew’s Stobart Chidikano, was one of Zimbabwe’s most revered high-profile musicians.

 Bob aka ‘the Headmaster’ Nyabinde was diagnosed with diabetes in 2018 and consequently his eyesight began to fail.

To make matters worse, the multi award winning Afro Jazz crooner suffered a stroke in 2020. He spent three weeks at St. Giles Rehabilitation Centre where he received occupational therapy and physiotherapy, thus stalling his decades long music career. As if that was not enough, Bob had to go through hip-replacement surgery in October after an accident at home.

All these things incapacitated Bob from his beloved career of entertaining audiences through music.

A former headmaster at Redcliff school in Kwekwe in the country’s Midlands Province, Nyabinde who was  hospitalised before his death, extended a word of advice to his colleagues in the music industry to adhere to regular medical check-ups, claiming his own loss of sight came as a bolt from the blue.Although Nyabinde claimed that at one time a medical doctor fore-warned him about his unquenchable appetite for soft drinks, telling him that the carbonated drinks would one day trigger diabetes in him, he said he turned a deaf ear to the warning.

 It was not until one day when he fell off the stage during a performance at Leopard Rock Motel in Vumba near Mutare after his sight completely blacked out that he realised that those warnings he used to get were real. True to the warnings the doctors who attended to him at a clinic in Mutare pronounced that his eyes had been badly affected by diabetes, a disease he never knew he had.

After this diagnosis, Bob had this to say:

“I am responsible for what happened to my eyes because I never had the chance to visit a clinic or doctor to have diabetes and eyes checked for years mainly because I was too committed to my career as a musician.

“I am a widower after having lost my wife in 2007 so I am totally dependent on my sons, Agga and Albert, who are also musicians.”  

Bob Nyabinde, born on the 10th March, in 1955, grew up in Mutare where he learned to play the guitar and compose songs. After his tertiary education, he moved to Kwekwe where he was a headmaster at Redcliff primary school, hence the moniker ‘The Headmaster’ before he decided to leave that profession to become a full-time musician.

Nyabinde is one of the most celebrated musical talents in Zimbabwe, widely known mostly for his song Chabuda Hapana released in 2002 from his debut album Pane Nyaya which topped charts and made waves on local radio stations.

At the peak of his career, Bob Nyabinde churned out more chart-topping tracks such as Hapana, Zvipingaidzo, Rudo, Samanyika, Teerera, Wandikona, Kusiya Vana Vega, Zvinoreveiko and Ndiratidze Munwe Chete.

Bob  leaves behind a great legacy. Apart from his knowledge as an educationist and a great jazz artist, he had also written a book (an autobiography whose title has not yet been given) which will be launched by Josh Hozheri, who represents music promoters in Zimbabwe, on the 10th March 2024 (his birthday). After the book launch, plans are underway to launch a Bob Nyabinde Afro-Jazz Festival in memory of the late Bob.

We send our heartfelt condolences to the entire Nyabinde family, Aggabu and Albert Nyabinde, his grandchildren, his colleagues, friends and everyone who knew this iconic legendary musician. What a painful goodbye!

May his dear soul rest in perfect peace.

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