Extra Valembe: Zim’s Jackson Five

Prince Mushawevato
\nLOCAL sungura outfit, Extra Valembe, could as well be the Jackson Five – talented and smooth but without the fame and the fortune of the legendary American musical family. The core of Extra Valembe, which is fronted by Romeo Gasa (28), is made up of five brothers – Talent (26), Obey (25), Ronald (23) and Admire (21). And like the famous American band, which was created by Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson the father of the five boys, Extra Valembe also came into existence with the help of their dad, Webster “Weby” Gasa, a musician in his own right.

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But despite proving themselves not once but twice on grand stages that they are good at what they do by winning the Music Crossroads Zimbabwe and Chibuku Road to Fame finals in 2007, fame and fortune appears to be eluding the disciplined and dedicated boys.

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Of course, we have had the Rusike Brothers (Kelly, Collin, Philip, Tawanda and Abbie) and the Chimbetu Brothers (Simon, Naison, Briam and Allan) made up of talented siblings – the Gasa family still deserves special mention in the history of Zimbabwean music.

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The brothers have been resiliently navigating the bends of the demanding music industry for close to a decade yet the heavens are still to smile on them.

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Extra Valembe was formed in 2006 and were ushered into the mainstream music industry by the two aforementioned victories at national competitions. The group then embarked on their professional musical journey in 2008 after the release of their debut album, “Sungura Kompressor”.

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And a month or so ago, the group released their fifth studio album, “Mupedza Nyaya”, which is currently receiving favourable airplay on national radio stations.

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The title of the album and its content explicitly explain the pain the young band leader is going through. Nonetheless, Romeo credits the unity and achievements that they have registered so far to his father.

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“I started practising with my brothers in 2007 after my father instructed me to compose songs. It was then that we won the Chibuku Road to Fame, and the Music Crossroads Zimbabwe finals in September and May respectively,” he said.

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“My father got involved in music in the early 90’s. He led a group called Pride Germination that released two albums, ‘Kunzwisisana’ and ‘Hazvidi Hope’, and a number of singles namely ‘Ripa Chikwereti’ and ‘Tendekai Chose’. It is through him that we managed to participate in various competitions that have put us where we are.”

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In the group, Romeo doubles as the lead vocalist and bass guitarist, while Talent plays the lead guitar. Admire is on the drums, Ronald does the backing vocals while Obey is a chanter-cum dancer.

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Only two band members, Victor Zvanyanya and Misheck Peregu who plays the sub-rhythm and rhythm respectively, are not part of the Gasa family.

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History has, however, proven that bands made up of family members always have a sad ending especially after achieving stardom. And in most cases, it is over mistrust, greed and monetary issues.

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Examples that quickly come to mind include that of the late Daiton and his brother Josphat Somanje, or the late brothers Simon and Naison Chimbetu.

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Romeo, however, thinks their union is for life.
\n“They (brothers) all respect me. If they didn’t we would have long separated. Of course, I don’t know what the future holds but as it stands we are all happy. Just like in any other group we have our differences but we always find common ground. When they misbehave, I punish them accordingly and they understand the reason and need for that sort of action,” explained Romeo.

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The musician once had a nasty fallout with his recording company some two years back. He was forced to cancel shows after his instruments were seized by the company on allegations of a breach of contract.

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He was also immediately chucked out of the company house and had to endure several weeks of destitution, unable to fulfil shows and with no place to call home.

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“We have been through trying times, in fact, if we had been destined to split that would have happened a long time ago. Things got a bit tight but we stood by each other,” said Romeo.

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Talent, who is the second in charge, sings from the same hymn.
\n“We learnt from others the effects of greed and jealous. Lack of knowledge is usually the root problem in many groups and I’m glad to say we are okay in that regard,” said the young brother.

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“It is important for band members to understand that being a group leader is not just doing the lead vocals. You need to also have knowledge on how the day-to-day administration of a band is done and we all have confidence in Romeo.”

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William Shakespeare once remarked: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
\nThe aforesaid quote aptly captures the predicament that Romeo and his brothers find themselves in. His peers like Suluman Chimbetu, Peter Moyo and Tendai Dembo have had a jumpstart in their careers through inheriting established brands.

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But to date, Extra Valembe, Romeo’s band, struggles to fill even the smallest of venues in town. The fierce bass guitarist who draws comparison with revered bassist Alick Macheso, says apart from battling waning fortunes of sungura, they have had to also direct their energy to fighting detractors within the industry.

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“Senior musicians are always looking for ways to make our lives miserable. It’s either they come in with false promises just to distract you or they directly approach our promoters with counter offers,” complained Romeo.

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“Sungura is down at a time that we are yearning for recognition. Hence that means we have a double battle. At least if sungura was like Zim dancehall it would have been better. Zim dancehall fans do not rely on a single artiste like sungura fans do.”

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According to Romeo, they perform more at corporate functions than they do at regular shows. His new offering features fellow musicians Simon Mutambi and Energy Mutodi. It was recorded by veteran sungura producer Bothwell Nyamhondera.

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Some of the tracks on the new album include “Tinzweiwo”, “Dadi”, “Zvandauya Nerudo”, “Vakadzi Makaoma”, and “Mwari Rudo”.
\nHis other albums include “Mufaro Kwamuri” (2009), “Simbi Hombe” (2011) and “Pin Code” (2013).