When ‘Idya Banana’ shook showbiz scene

Joseph Garakara

Joseph Garakara

Godwin Muzari Memory Lane
On a Friday afternoon as Joseph Garakara sat in a commuter omnibus on his way from Mhondoro to Harare, he heard a young girl singing “Idya Banana”. According to the musician, the song was barely two weeks old and he still underestimated its impact. That was in 2006, the year “Idya Banana” shook the music industry. On that Friday afternoon, Garakara was just an ordinary teacher coming for weekend in Harare from his school, Makwavarara Primary in Mhondoro.

No one recognised him on the kombi. No music was playing on board, but the young girl had heard the song somewhere.

She kept singing and Garakara was surprised. He realised that the track was beginning to filter through the showbiz scene. He did not believe that his debut album could give him unexpected fame.

“We had gone to various studios with our demo tape that carried the song and had been turned away on several occasions. We had to redo the album more than three times before we could get a recording contract. We did not have much confidence when we left the studio, but on the day I heard the young girl singing ‘Idya Banana’, something jumped inside me. I was ready for more,” Garakara told Memory Lane this week.

The song was released in March and it dominated charts throughout 2006. Garakara became an instant celebrity. True to the title of the album “Tapinda Tapinda”, Garakara indeed made a grand entrance on the scene.

At his school children sang “Idya Banana”. In his neighbourhood people sang the song and saluted him. Throughout the country, the track became an anthem.

October of that year, Garakara scooped three Zimbabwe Music Awards accolades. He was voted Best Upcoming Artiste and Best Male Musician (Sungura) while the song became Best Song of the Year.

In December the song topped end-of-year charts on radio stations and its video was also voted the best of the year.

And talking about the video, many people should remember how dance group Mambokadzi nailed it in their yellow outfits. The dance group was on top of its game, the song was on top of charts and the combination made the video irresistible.

Garakara explained how the combination came about. “When the song began making waves Gramma Records proprietor Elias Musakwa told the guys at the studio to make a video. My younger brother Norman Tapambwa worked for the organisation as engineer and he was tasked to call me. I was in Mhondoro and he told me to come immediately. I had to excuse myself from school duties to rush for the urgent assignment because Norman had not told me why I was wanted in Harare. When I arrived he told me that the boss (Musakwa) had instructed that a video be done for ‘Idya Banana’. I told them I wanted female dancers that were gaining popularity those days to be on the video.

Mambokadzi was called and a contract was signed. We immediately began work. We went to that roundabout in Msasa where the first scenes were done.

We also went to Kopje and did some shots on top of the hill. We did more shots at the then Sports Diner nightclub. Within three days we were done and the producers were under pressure to have it on screens.

“It was included on video compilation that Gramma did that year and it automatically became the best video of the album that featured many other artistes.”

The success of the song meant Garakara had to hit the road for shows countrywide. It was an opportunity that had to be grabbed.

He did some shows with Mambokadzi and had some with upcoming musicians.

“The greatest show we had was in Checheche where 1 200 tickets were sold. I had a group of young musicians as supporting acts. For a musician who was just beginning his live shows, the event was a memorable outing.

“We also had good shows in Chipinge, Beitbridge, Kariba, Marondera and Macheke among other places. We also had shows in Harare where we competed with big guns. It was an exciting era.”

Despite the success of “Indya Banana” track from “Tapinda Tapinda”, the follow-up album from Garakara failed to meet the set standard. The musician says his second album “Kechi One Nezai” sold more copies than his debut release because people were looking forward to it. However, the album could not gain popularity to the level of “Tapinda Tapinda”.Although the song “Simbabwe” from the second release got good airplay, its popularity was below “Idya Banana”.

Garakara did other albums “Chamboko Chewaya” (2008), “Forever Mine” (2010), “Kuti Zvityise” (2012) and “Pfuti Yerudo” (2015), but his first release stands above them all. The muisician’s interest in music began when he was still young since he grew up in a musical family.

His father Mathias was a mbira and guitar player and his mother Lucia led the church choir. Garakara’s siblings and nephew made a mbira group called Mhuri YekwaGarakara that did shows around Mhondoro and surrounding areas.

When Garakara completed his O-Level, he began working as an untrained teacher and left the group. He later went to a teachers’ college and continued with his career in the education sector. After some years he thought of going back to music and enrolled at the Zimbabwe College of Music and got a certificate.

He joined a group called Detembera that saw him getting connected to other musicians until he recorded his demo tape that was rejected at studios on several occasions. When it was finally accepted at Gramma Records, Garakara became a popular name. 2006 was his year.

The musician’s passion for education also saw him studying for a degree in journalism with Zimbabwe Open University. Garakara said he will soon be a part-time journalist. Currently he is deputy headmaster at Domboramwari Primary School in Epworth. He is working on his next album that is likely to be released this year.

Article Source: The Herald