Band: The Bhundu Boys
Today's EarHead comes from a now-defunct group of musicians from Zimbabwe called The Bhundu Boys. The band formed in '83 but this album, Muchiyedza (Out of the Dark) came out in 1997, long after the band had enjoyed its greatest commercial successes. Kachembere was recorded in the UK, where some of the surviving members had eventually settled; apparently a number of other original members had died of AIDS over the years and there were the usual power struggles and personality disputes often seen in bands which experience success beyond their expectations. The song was also recorded without its former lead singer and controversial band leader Biggie Tembo, who, after a series of failed comeback attempts, had hung himself in a psychiatric hospital in 1995. For all that, this one band was responsible for an entire musical genre - jit, which is a mix of Zimbabwean chimurenga, with a western dose of rock, pop and funk thrown in.
I hadn’t heard of The Bhundu Boys until Out Of The Dark but I came away impressed by the band’s tightness and effervescent musicality: intricate interlocking guitars, crisp, rich percussion, fusillades of upbeat horns and energetic, hugely vital vocals. On a technical level too, it’s thrilling to hear the role of the multiple guitars over the propulsive polyrhythmic beat, and how joyously unstoppable it all could feel. Listening to Kachembere reminds me of why I was turned onto to African music in the first place: it embodies a refreshingly positive and genuine philosophy regarding music being instrumental to life.
Posted by Max MacDonald