Nhlawenhle Ngwenya, Sunday Life Correspondent
IT’S ten years since talented musician Beatar Mangethe and her husband Lenny Gwata passed on, but a thirty minutes conversation with the Sungura maestro Alick Macheso brings afore fresh memories of the two as he barely makes conversation without mentioning them.
Despite it being winter time, in Hwange temperatures are high and it’s on a Friday morning where journalists are waiting to interview Macheso at a local lodge in Bagdad location.
As he steps out of the lodge spotting a vest and denim shorts, Macheso humble greets the waiting scribes and makes conversation with them highlighting about the show set for later on the day.
From a distance one would have assumed that Macheso and the scribes have known each other for quite a long time, but for most of the journalists it’s the first time to be up and close with the musician, as he comfortable narrates his adventurous musical journey.
In the middle of a sentence the Sungura king throws three or four Ndebele words as he slowly stares at the clear blue sky, it becomes visible that something like a far tangled memory has availed itself, that’s when he starts talking about Mangethe.
“I see you are surprised that I know a bit of Ndebele. It’s because of Beater and Lenny they used to teach me Ndebele whenever I was with them, thus I learnt a lot of from them,” he says with a distinctive tone as if trying to pick a few conversations they used to have back then.
Continuing to unravel his musical journey, Macheso further narrates how his performances across Limpopo used to be fully booked in Soweto and Tembisa. In some instances, adding a bit of humor, which makes the muso a good story teller, how some bands from Zimbabwe were robbed of all their night earnings soon after the performance.
Just a few minutes after mentioning Mangethe and Gwata, one would think that it was just in passing, but as he peruses through his music memory he tumbles on another story nugget which he passionately shares with journalists keen on getting as much information as possible.
“I remember back then when I walked into a studio and found Mangethe recording, she would insist that I look at her work. I would listen to her music and change a few things here and there, before you know it, we would have covered a lot of ground and her music will be ready for airplay. She wouldn’t let me just walk out like that, she would insist until I took to the recording booth,” he said.
Just from less than an hour’s conversation with Macheso, pausing here and there, taking a long puff from his cigarette it becomes clear that he misses the days he used to hang out with the two, its unavoidable it’s in his voice whenever he mentions Mangete and Gwata it assumes a nostalgic narrative form. Mangethe was an accomplished actor and musician hailing from Bulawayo’s oldest suburb of Makokoba, where her husband, a former Highlanders, Dynamos and Motor Action soccer star also hailed from.