for the group. and we didn‘t have one at that time. because we had just broken away from a band called The Great Sounds. He decided that since there were four of us. and we seemed to get on like brothers, we should be called The Four Brothers.‘
The Four Brothers came out of one ofthe most diverse musical contexts in Africa. Almost more than anywhere else on the continent. the Zimbabwean music scene was immersed in a multiplicity of inﬂuences. native and foreign. Singer Thomas Mapfumo. godfather of the re-assertion onimbabwean roots in the decade leading to Independence in 1980. whose own early style leaned heavily on Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. described the lack ofdirection in the music scene at the beginning of the 19705.
‘When I started. everyone was into simanje-manje (an imported South African dance). A lot of South African groups were coming in at that time. The Mahotella Queen‘s invaded our country. Some groups from the Congo got contracts to come and work here. There were bands from all over. It was confusion.‘
That ‘confusionl dated back
several decades in which no distinctive Zimbabwean sound had emerged. but the success of Mapfumo’s efforts to translate the traditional mbira (or thumb piano) music to guitar. and the pro-Independence support for lyrics in local languages. sparked offa new resurgence in interest in establishing indigenous styles. These took various shapes. including Mapfumo‘s protest-oriented Chimurenga (literally ‘struggle‘) style. much ofit still inevitably inﬂuenced by the various imports which crowded the music scene. including Western pop and rock as well as South African. Congolese and Zairean forms.
For Western ears. the most distinctive element ofthe sound has been the infectuous treble guitar lines which grew out of the South African influence. but have been developed and popularised over here by the likes of Mapfumo. The Real Sounds ofAfrica. The Bhundu Boys (working from a Scottish base much of the time) and The Four Brothers. The Brothers initial sound arose from a speeded-up version of Zairean rhumba known as sungara; as Zimbabwean pop developed in
the 19805. the rhumba fell away. but the trademark dancing guitar style remained.
Despite a huge following in Harare. where they replaced The Bhundu Boys in a punishing residency at the Saratoga Bar in Harare township, the band were largely unknown outside Zimbabwe until they signed to Cooking Vinyl in 1988, and went on tours of the UK and Canada. The tours liberated them, claims Marshall. in that ‘it enabled us to buy our own equipment for the first time. Musical equipment is scarce and very expensive in Zimbabwe. but now we are able to play and to tour with greater freedom.‘
The band - guitarists Aleck Chipaika and Frank Sibanda. bassman Never Mutare and drummer and lead singer Marshall Munhumumwe — are back for a single Scottish date. in support of their latest record. Bros (Cooking Vinyl). a spine-tingling collection of new songs which confirms the promise of their Makorokoto compilation from last year. Catch them while you can.
The Four Brothers, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 1 Nov. 8pm.
09 'IVOISSV'IO 62H!!!” ZZVI‘SQ X908
the pastiche. The risk is that he‘ll work himself into a rut. but ‘Shrewd‘ will do for now. (AM)
I The Kevin McDennott Orchestra: Healing atthe Harbour (Island) One thing that makes Kevin McDermott‘s music so enjoyable. and will no doubt hinder him greatly. is his lack of any strong image other than just being this guy who writes songs. then gets up and singsthem. ‘Healingatthe Ilarbour‘ is but one ofthe gems from the strong album Mother Nature '5 Kitchen. but if Kevin wore a headband. dropped loads of acid and spouted off on every subject under the sun. you‘d probably know that already. (AM) I Robinson Reid: Memorize (Virgin) A piece of ﬂuffy. studio-born pop from the 26-year-old Glaswegian who‘s worked with Roy Hay ofCulture Club. and conjured this one up with Tony (Bananarama. Spandau Ballet. Imagination) Swain. If I was a daytime DJ. I’d play it— but don‘t expect the earth to move. (AM)
I The Oyster Band: Love Vigilantes (Cooking Vinyl) In much the same way as they tackled ‘Human Fly". the Oysters turn their attention to the New Order track. replacing the electronics with a string-driven chatter. It even sounds quite natural in this style. Shame it tells such a crap Boy's Book of War Stories tale. Turn it over for asimilarly unconventional version of ‘I Fought the Law‘ and a cover of Billy Bragg's ‘Between the Wars'. (AM)
g i I Beautiful Pea Green
Boat: Maremma (Slaughterback/Third Mind) Formed five years ago in Edinburgh. the Boat may have found a song that could do for them what ‘Song to the Siren‘ did for This Mortal Coil. A lament of the women whose fiances might never return from their work in malaria-infested Maremme in 'I'uscany. it's been swathcd in string-sounds and set to a stately pace. A nice one. (AM)
The List 27 October - 9 November 1989 31