Bruce Ndlovu/Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondents
While for country music fans in Zimbabwe, 13 and 14 September 1997 are days that they remember with fondness as that is when the late musician Don Williams last performed in Zimbabwe, for Tafi Dube who has made a living through Williams’ music, the mention of those dates brings regret.
Dube does not need any introduction to anyone who has walked the bustling streets of Bulawayo for the past two decades.
Anyone who has passed near Pioneer House has heard Dube’s voice and guitar as his mastery of some of Don William’s ballads has brought beauty to some hardest days on the streets of the City of Kings.
Dube, who is blind, has never laid his eyes upon the country music icon but almost two decades ago, he came agonisingly close to meeting the man whose style he mimics so perfectly.
“When Don Williams came to Zimbabwe I desperately wanted to meet him. One white man told me he was coming and would take me to the show and to my uttermost disappointment he never came to pick me up. If anyone could give me Don Williams’ address I would be most grateful as he is an inspirational figure to me. Maybe I’ll never get to see him as I missed my chance,” said Dube at the time.
Now in the aftermath of the death of the 78-year-old Gentle Giant of country music, Dube’s worst fears have come true.
“Williams’ death for me was shocking. When I heard of his death I was at a loss for words.
His music was an inspiration and gave me peace of mind. Since the time he came to Zimbabwe, I had hoped that one day I would be able to see him. Now that he has passed on I can only remember him through his music,” said Dube.
It is perhaps ironic that Williams who toured the country 20 years ago for a show called Into Africa, died just a week shy of the 20th anniversary of his performance at a packed Harare International Conference Centre.
At the time of that momentous occasion, which Dube remembers with deep hurt, Williams revealed that he had been eager for a long time to perform in Zimbabwe.
“This was a huge ambition . . . coming to Zimbabwe. I’ve wanted this to happen for a good many years. And I’m very pleased that the opportunity finally availed itself that I can meet you people,” said Williams in an interview.
He was greeted with excitement on the streets of the capital as both young and old came together to welcome a titan in the country music genre.
Before social media catapulted even those of average talent to fame, the mighty Williams was given a grand welcome as a prison band, drum majorettes and individuals lined the streets of the Sunshine City to welcome him to a country where his voice and guitar are as famous as they are in Texas or any other state in the American south.
According to reports at the time, those who attended the shows had a magical two days as Williams magical guitar cast a spell that only wore off when his plane took off from Harare International Airport.
Hundreds of kilometres away in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, the forlorn figure of Dube was weaving a spell of his own outside Meikles Departmental store as he gave free renditions of Williams hits such as Gypsy Woman.
Two decades later, he is still loved by those that recognise the all too familiar voice of Don Williams on the streets of Bulawayo.
“I’ve often been called Don Williams by those who take their time to listen to me. I sing his songs from the bottom of my heart. They build my personality and remind me of my youthful days,” he said
Like all Williams fans, Dube has his favourites, with the tracks Amanda and Desperately ranking at the top of his list.
Due to the close relationship that he has with Williams’ music, Dube has been struggling to come to terms with the late star’s passing.
However, the bitterness he felt for not being able to watch him has passed. Death has brought an abrupt close to that whole sorry chapter.
A few years before that missed encounter, he recalls vividly how a white couple gave him a guitar, a gift that was to change his life. He also received a car battery from another well wisher while he bought a small radio and microphone.
Through sheer will and talent, he was able to mix these gadgets and come up with a sound that made him the first person many thought of when they heard Williams was coming.
Now he has ditched the guitar and is using the keyboard which he now wants replaced.
“I’ve been using this equipment for a long time. I was given the amplifier by the owners of Simpsons Electrics when they closed down. All this is now old and I plead with people to help me get something new,” said Tafi.
While Williams played in some of the biggest arenas around the globe, Tafi’s career has been modest. It is for this reason that he has found himself lacking key bits of equipment that he has repeatedly cried for. It is a cry that has been ignored for years.
With the sun finally set on Williams’ life, perhaps Bulawayo owes the man who is carrying his legacy on the streets more than a few coins for his passion, dedication and effort. — @Brucieye/ @bonganinkunzi
Article Source: The Chronicle