Augustine Musarurwa and the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band
Musarurwa Village, Zvimba
|Relatives||Prince Musarurwa (grandson)|
Augustine Machina Musarurwa was a saxophonist and one of ZImbabwe's most accomplished musicians of the 20th century. Together with his band African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia , he recorded the now world-famous Skokiaan song which has been covered more than 80 times internationally by such artists as Louis Armstrong. His music was part of the Tsava Tsava genre, which is sometimes spelt Tsaba Tsaba. Internationally, Musarurwa's name is sometimes incorrectly referred to as August Musarurwa or Msarurgwa .
Augustine Musarurwa was born in Zvimba in 1920. As a teen, Augustine attended Marshall Hartley School before moving to Salisbury in search for work. He worked for a tobacco processing company for some years before joining the British South African Police a the age of 22. He was an interpreter and then later a member of the police band. Eventually, he left the police force to join Bulawayo Cold Storage Commission where he became the leader of the African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia. His grandson Prince Musarurwa is also a musician.
It is at the Cold Storage Commission that he composed and recorded the first version Skokiaan.
- In The Mood
Musarurwa and his band recorded the song Skokiaan in 1951. Other accounts have indicated the song was first recorded as an instrumental in 1947 and then later in 1954 with vocals. The name of the song is also written as Skokiyana or Skokian. Skokiyana itself is simply an illicit brew of beer still common among low income earning communities in Zimbabwe. Skokiaan became a huge worldwide hit and spawned many cover versions recorded in a variety of styles by many artists over the years. The original version reached No 17 on the Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart in the USA. 
From 1954 the song was covered by at least 19 artists around the world including Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley, Herb Alpert, Brave Combo, Hugh Masekela and Kermit Ruffins and Shadows (on their visit to Zimbabwe with Cliff Richard). Musarurwa's family indicated that they never received any royalties for the use of the song. Of not is Louis Armstrong's cover of the song which was recorded in 1954. Eventually, Armstrong visited Rhodesia in 1960 and was had the Sweet Rhythm band back him for a show. Some accounts have claim that Armstrong fell in love with “Skokiaan” and later, after returning to the United States, recorded the song in 1961 but records show that Armstrong's version was recorded in 1954.
To date, Skokiaan has been covered more than 80 times internationally. The Story of Skokiaan's success back then in 1954 is told in this New York Downbeat magazine article, dated September 8th:
You can download Skokiaan here
Augustine Musarurwa died in 1968.
- 78s fRom HeLL: The Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band - 'In The Mood' b/w 'Skokiaan' (1954)I'm learning to share, Published: 10 April 2007, Retrieved: 09 November 2015
- Music: New Pop Records, Sep. 13, 1954 Time Magazine, Retrieved: 9 November 2015
- Let’s protect our musical heritage The Herald. Published: 4 Mar 2013, Retrieved: 9 Nov 2015