Andy Brown Dumps Zanu (PF) Rhetoric

The album makes a scathing commentary on the state of corruption in the country. In the song Chiwoko, Brown bemoans the state of corruption in Zimbabwe, calling for redemption from the social evil.

For years, Brown, who is a vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and music producer, had been pushed to the fringes of the musical world of Zimbabwe in recent years, because his music was seen as a prop to the ruling Zanu (PF) party. Paying crowds to Brown’s live shows declined sharply, forcing him to go underground where he has been cooking beats as evidenced by his Chiwoko collection.

With Chiwoko, Brown was set to regain his crown back as Zimbabwe’s king of the rock-bass-drum guitar. Not only does his voice which has a husky resonance to magic on the album, the lyrics are so provocative they present Brown in a turnabout from lyrics that he has been associated with in the past.

“Now, I take my time…my music has much momentum and thought, and I can go back to the drawing board and change things at the click of my fingers due to new technology, hence the quality you see on Chiwoko,” he said.

Born in 1962 and raised in the remote village of Mudavanhu in the Midlands province, Brown said that his boyhood dream was to become a bus driver.

“I wanted to become a bus driver so that I could drive through my home area and carry my friends to Bulawayo and back because that was nearest big city to my village,” said Brown, chuckling.

Brown said that he grew up with uncles in Mberengwa who played an eclectic mix of musical instruments so it was very easy for him to catch the music bug.

“I grew up around instruments and used to attend all night long biras and ndaris which inspired songs like Mawere Kongonya and Shungu among others. A lot of my music is inspired by how I grew up,” he said. “I sing about what affects people’s lives. I sing sensible things. I do not imagine things, all that lovey-dovey stuff. I love to sing about serious things. It must have thought and meaning and make an eventual impact.”

At the height of the liberation war from colonial oppression with guns blazing in his home village, Brown was forced to relocate to continue with his schooling in Bulawayo where he got exposed to a lot of Western music.

In 1983, amid the euphoria of a people newly independent, Brown relocated to Harare strictly for musical purposes. In 1986, he joined the band Ilanga and performed together with musical greats such as Chinx Chingaira, Busi Ncube, and the late Don Gumbo.

Ilanga produced two high-flying albums, 1987’s Silver and Gold, and 1988’s Visions Untold. Their crowning achievement came when they graced the stage alongside Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, the Bhundu Boys, and Youssou N’Dour at the 1988 Human Rights Concert in Harare.

“Then, I had enough musical knowledge, especially the mastery of the guitar. I was highly knowledgeable, in fact, I knew more than three codes at that time, a true musician knows what that means,” said Brown. “In whatever you do, you need an education; it forms the basis of a great career.”

In spite of capturing the musical imagination of Zimbabwe, the Ilanga music project fell apart, and in retrospect, it was something to be expected in a band that was too full of individual musical talent and egos.

In 1988, Brown left Ilanga and formed Andy Brown and the Storm, and to date has produced more than 15 albums, producing a sound that is highly eclectic and utilizes a variety of instruments, from the standard guitar-bass-drums of a rock act, to horns, and the traditional mbira.

Brown said that he no longer sings for commercial reasons but to enhance his spiritual-self.

“As you grow older, it’s empty to go commercial it doesn’t get into people’s hearts. I want to sing things that affect people hearts,” he said.