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Devera Ngwena: Wine Gets Better With Age

By Stephen Ephraem

WHEN my parents migrated from Zambia in 1960 to settle in the sugar cane estate of Triangle about 25km south east of Chiredzi town in Masvingo Province, they left three siblings of mine back home.

Eight other offsprings including myself came to life here Zimbabwe when my father was heavily involved with sugar cane production in Triangle from the time of the Old Mill at Jatala to the time he passed on at Section 13 in 1993.

Since travel was easy among the former British colonies of Malawi (Nyasaland), Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia), two of our siblings migrated back to our roots in Chipata in Zambia.

Fast forward to independent Zimbabwe entertainment circles, television and bioscope was all about the late comic characters Mukadota and Tiki. Music’s top stars were chimurenga guru Thomas Mapfumo, the late Afro Jazz icon Dr Oliver Mtukudzi and seasoned Devera Ngwena Jazz Band.

Fronted by refined lead guitarist, Jonah Chiundura Moyo, the Mashava based youthful Devera Ngwena chunned danceable hit after hit which rocked the entire Southern Africa region.

Everytime my mother would check on her children back home, she would take all the latest releases on vinyl by Devera Ngwena since they demanded the stuff.

In turn she would bring us the politically minded Nashil Pishen Kazembe of Super Mazembe’s music from Zambia. Thus, we danced to Kazembe’s hits like Aphiri Anabwera, Vamahala Vinata, Kasongo and Shauri yako among others.

Devera Ngwena Jazz Band has been a household name in Southern Africa since then. Today, Jonah Moyo who calls his beat Tsava Tsava is happy to offer Devera Ngwena Volume 41 named Zimbabwe Remabwe which was produced by Great Zimbabwe University.
The six track album has ‘Great Zimbabwe’, ‘Owami Sikhulile’, ‘Kumusha Kwedu’, ‘Pedu paGZU’, ‘Corona’ and ‘Mucha’. How Devera Ngwena fused its bass line and brass leads one admit that wine gets better with age.

Jonah Moyo is now working at Great Zimbabwe University. Moyo who was on lead guitar, rhythm guitar and lead vocals incorporated university artists Cephus Mabara on bass and second rhythm, Simba Paridzira on drums of two songs and Aaron on drums of four other tracks.
GZU students Lonely Kambewa and Sarudzai Chipinda were on backing vocals as GZU staff Alois Maluleke and Fanwell Dzinduwa were on brass. A member of the Original Devera Ngwena in the late 1970s, Johnsai Machinya was on vocal as well.

In an interview with this writer, the Devera Ngwena guru indicated that he composed, arranged and produced all songs.

“I am now working at Great Zimbabwe University so the authority approved my students and workmates to be part of Devera Ngwena Vol 41. We are planning to launch the album at a date to be advised,” said Jonah Moyo.

“We shall produce videos of the album after its launch. I urge my fan to celebrate with this classic offering which can be rated with the taste of milk and honey,” added the Devera Ngwena guru.

Jonah Moyo whose music career spans for more than 40 years has toured countries like Belgium, United Kingdom, Holland and Germany.

Devera Ngwena was formed at Gaths Mine in Mashava when Jonah Moyo responded to an advert by the mine to have a band in 1977. The band had their first single named “Devera Ngwena Zhimozhi” released in 1979.

Several hits like “Barbra,” “Marondera,” “Solo naMutsai,” “Grema wepamoyo,” “Fundisa Umlomo wakho,” “Wangu P,” “Too Cheap,” “Svika Fair Fair” and others followed.
The original members who recorded Devera Ngwena Volume 1 were Jonah Moyo on lead guitar, the late Robson Banda on bass, Innocent Bitu on rhythm, the late Patrick Kabanda on drums and Johnsai Machinya on vocals.

When Robson Banda left Devera Ngwena, he was replaced by a man called Vhizhayi who also left before the late Jabulani Bitu joined them on rhythm on Volume 2.