By Farai Chirimumimba
Although we may never know with complete certainty the exact day of the release of Maruva Enyika, the exact year of release is perfectly clear. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Leonard Zhakata’s Maruva Enyika, an album that’s been recognised by both Zhakata’s fans and music analysts in general as being not only one of Zhakata’s best album, but also one of the best album ever released in Zimbabwe.
Zhakata has blazed a unique path over the course of three decades in the entertainment business, achieving incredible success not only with Maruva Enyika, but also with several albums that followed during an era when CDs were on the cusp of outselling vinyl records.
In 1994 at the age of 26, Zhakata became the youngest Zimbabwean musician to sell more than 100 000 copies of an album when Maruva Enyika sold an estimated120 000 copies. For six years stretching from 1994 Zhakata churned out chart topping hits from albums that include “Nhamo Dzenyika”, “Mandishorei”, “Vagoni Vebasa”, “Ndingaite Se? and the best selling “Nzombe Huru”.
However, the most impressive narrative thread of 1994’s music scene was the strength and wealth of creativity exhibited in Maruva Enyika.
Therefore there’s no denying that Leonard Zhakata’s second album Maruva Enyika is one of the most celebrated high water marks for the mainstream golden age of Sungura. Genre-defining songs that include the title track, “Maruva Enyika,” “Mugove,” “Yeukai” and “Ndinyarewo” quickly vaulted Zhakata to prominence, both within Sungura circles and the music scene at large.
The album’s biggest single—”Mugove” – was so popular that it literally threatened to dispose the National Athem and not only helped to define Zhakata’s anthem sound, but also the decade itself in many different ways. Maruva Enyika transcended Sungura music in ways that allowed Zhakata to give voice and draw attention to a variety of important social and political issues, all while he toured the country.
If it was in the western world, Maruva Enyika would have been celebrated with a re-issue, exhibition and sale of merchandise. It’s unfortunate that our local artistes are failing to appreciate a simple world trend that is fast becoming a tradition or rather a technique to increase sales.
Maruva Enyika’s leading single “Mugove” would go on to win awards and by selling more than 100 000 copies the album joined an exclusive club, a feat that had only been accomplished by Dewera Ngwena Jazz Band early 80s album and Leonard Dembo’s iconic Chitekete.
However, despite being recognised multiple times as one of the best albums in Zimbabwe music history, Maruva Enyika has its critics. The most repeated criticism is the length of the songs that are beyond 10 minutes especially Mugove which is about 14 minutes long. However, Zhakata’s incredible gift carries the day despite the criticism.
I will be making a collection of original vinyl and tape records that still exists to celebrate and commemorate this fantastic album. Happy 25th anniversary Maruva Enyika!