By Harry Ruka Mazhindu
“A career decision is momentous. It’s not only a declaration of independence; a once off expression of one’s identity, but more importantly, an assertion of what one wants to be moving forward”- Julian Kimble. For IIanga, this moment came 31 years ago with the release of their first album “Visions Foretold” (one of their only three albums).
The album was both evolutionary and revolutionary ,has been recognised by both IIanga fans and music critics, in general, as being not only one of IIanga’s best album, but also one of the best afro-fusion albums ever released in Zimbabwe music scene as it had brilliant vocalists and instrumentalists effectively making the group a household name.
The album marked a critical professional and personal breakthrough for band members. However, not only was this IIanga’s maiden voyage artistic success had everything to do with the outsize genius of the band members, credit should also be given to album’s producers and recording company for giving birth to a novel sound in the process.
The band was made up of the late Don Gumbo (bass ), the late Andy Brown (guitar and vocals), Comrade Chinx (Vocals), Virgillio Ignacia, Charles Mangena, Keith Farquharson (keyboards) and Busi Ncube (vocals) , Munya Brown (was on didn’t record with IIanga was replaced by Gibson Nyoni on drums). Mangena (percussion) was later to be replaced by the late Adam Chisvo (percussion). The 3 years they were together resulted in countless tributes being been written about their short but unforgettable moments.
The norm worldwide is to celebrate anniversaries of iconic albums from the 25th year after release and every 5 years thereafter. However, some artistes choose to publicly celebrate their albums usually the 20th year after release or much early. Worldwide albums are accorded groundbreaking status through an assessment not limited to any one of the following, sales which may be record breaking, number of awards and personal breakthrough which may for example propel artiste to new markets that increases tickets sales without necessarily improving record sales.
A music album anniversary should not just be a mere black and white review. The surviving band members should curate a series of events to celebrate their album anniversary. For instance they may focus on reissuing the album, sale of endorsements and a tour for fans to relive the fond memories created by the album over the years. This will not only generate more money for the band; but also inspire the next generations to create music albums that that leave a distinctive footprint that refocus and spiral the growth of the music industry.
The music on Vision Foretold is uniformly strong and varied with songs that included “Shosholoza” (a Zimbabwean folk song popularised in South Africa) which propelled the band to fame. On Visions Foretold, IIanga had the courage to denounce apartheid South Africa through a track “Botha” (in apparent reference to the then South African president B.W Botha). Other songs on the album are “Kushanda”, “Umfanyana”, “Substitution”, “Somandhla”, and “Tshay’ikhuba”. Most revealing is the song “Visions Foretold” which establishes the title subject.
Visions Foretold was followed by the single “True Love” with the vocals of Andy Brown and Busi Ncube that arguably shifted the group from the apex of the ladder to a little world of their own. Sadly, the band was however, short lived as band members went solo. It was inevitable considering that the band was made up of stars in their own respect.